1996 Six Hours of The Glen: Ask and You Shall Receive

Gianpiero Moretti's Request Becomes Reality as Six Hours Returns

Gianpiero Moretti

The Six Hours of The Glen was a mainstay on the schedule for Watkins Glen from the time it started in 1968 until the historic road course closed in 1981.  This was not the case when the facility was reopened as Watkins Glen International in 1984 and that remained the case for over 10 years.  In 1995, a simple request by a retiring driver caused everything to change and laid the groundwork for the return of the famed endurance race in 1996.

Popular driver Gianpiero Moretti was planning on retiring from racing following what was expected to be his final visit to WGI for the Glen Continental XII.  He was asked what it would take for him to return to The Glen to race again and his answer was very simple, “Bring back the Six Hours.”  John Saunders, president of Watkins Glen International at that time, heard those words loud and clear and the gears began to turn to renew the traditional Six Hours event.  The decision was made that the Six Hour race would return to the Watkins Glen International schedule in 1996 and Moretti was true to his word.  He brought back his famed red Momo Ferrari 333SP and took to the twists and turns of The Glen with the young phenom Max Papis in the First Union Six Hours to open the 1996 campaign in June.

Twice during the latter stage of the First Union Six Hours, “Mad Max” Papis was run off course, falling to fourth position before battling back into contention. An hour remained as he worked his way through a heated second-place battle between James Weaver and Wayne Taylor. Papis fell to third when the two cars touched and spun while Weaver remained in the lead.

Twenty-two minutes were on the clock when Papis fell 19 seconds off the pace following an on-track altercation with Wayne Taylor that sent the Momo Ferrari spinning. Papis charged back, passing Taylor and Weaver to put himself in contention for the win.

Papis passed Butch Leitzinger in Turn Two for the lead with a mere four minutes remaining, winning by four slim seconds and joining Gianpiero Moretti in Victory Lane.

The wild finish saw Leitzinger and Weaver take second in a Robert Dyson Riley & Scott Ford. Taylor and Pace coasted into third with a dead battery in their in a Riley & Scott Olds. The other Dyson R&S Ford driven by James Weaver and John Paul Jr. finished fourth.

Hurley Haywood became Watkins Glen’s all-time winner with nine victories, taking first in the GTS-2 class alongside Tom Hessert.

The track that saw Papis eliminate any doubt of his youthful capability and saw Haywood etch his name in the record books once again, was a different track in many ways. In 1992, Watkins Glen International received a bit of a facelift with the addition of the Inner Loop, increasing the length of the long course to 3.4 miles. The addition enhanced competition and has become one of the most popular viewing locations at WGI due to the tough passes and hard racing that often occur in it.

The Six Hours ran for the next two years before being left off the schedule in 1999, but the hiatus did not last for long.  In 2000, GRAND-AM brought the Six Hours back as part of the series’ inaugural season. Weaver and Leitzinger along with Andy Wallace won that event behind the wheel of Rob Dyson’s Riley & Scott Ford.  The event would be further solidified on the annual schedule as Sahlen’s became the title sponsor for the event and began a close partnership with WGI that continues to this day.

Tickets for the 2011 race season at Watkins Glen International are on sale Now! Fans may order their tickets or get more information about the 2011 race season at WGI by calling the ticket office at 866-461-RACE (7223) or logging on to the official website, www.TheGlen.com. Gift certificates and track merchandise may be purchased at The Shop located at 2 North Franklin Street in downtown Watkins Glen. The Shop is open Monday-Sunday 9-5. Keep up with all of the latest happenings at The Glen by going to the official Watkins Glen International Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/watkinsgleninternational and following WGI on Twitter, @WGI.

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