This weekend’s 8 Hours of Portimao is set to be a huge one for Jim Glickenhaus and his plucky American team Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus. For a second consecutive weekend, his crew is being thrust into the limelight for a major endurance race. Last week it was the Nurburgring 24 Hours with the Chevrolet V8-powered 004C GT racer, this weekend it’s the debut of the team’s 007 Le Mans Hypercar in the FIA WEC.
Glickenhaus’ journey to the top of sportscar racing has been a challenging but fascinating one. The sheer determination of the New Yorker and his drive to take the fight to blue chip manufacturers with cars designed and built in-house is something that has all too often been missing from elite-level sportscar racing in recent years. Budget levels are to blame: building a bespoke race car capable of competing alongside major OEM efforts has become impossible for all but a select few wealthy privateer teams.
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Before looking ahead to the prospects of the team this weekend, it’s worth taking a quick trip down memory lane. Glickenhaus has become a mainstay at the Nurburgring 24 Hours since it debuted the custom-built SCG P 4/5 Competitzione in 2011, based on the underpinnings of a Ferrari 430 racer. After two VLN appearances on the Nordschleife, the car finished second in the SPX category for non-homologated cars, 39th overall, in the near-200 car field for the 24 Hours.
From there the car, and team, became a firm fan favorite and came back year after year with the same goal of winning the race overall with newer, more sophisticated machinery. Glickenhaus hasn’t achieved that target yet, but it has had more than a handful of memorable moments. Perhaps the most significant was taking pole position for the race in 2017 with its 003C driven by Jeff Westphal, earning the pole award trophy donated to the race organizers by none other than Jim Glickenhaus himself.
Glickenhaus’ dream of winning it all at the ‘Green Hell’ is still a priority, though much of the focus has shifted to its ambitious Le Mans Hypercar program. The non-hybrid Pipo Motors-powered 007 Le Mans Hypercar that the team will field this weekend against Toyota and Alpine has been almost three years in the making.
Plenty of observers questioned the credibility of the program when it was first revealed in late 2018, but by staying honest, modest and dedicated to the cause (through one of the most commercially challenging times in recent memory), Glickenhaus has managed to prove the naysayers wrong. True, the car’s debuted was delayed to Round 2 of the season, and yes, there’s only one chassis set to race (for now – both cars are set to race next month at Monza, and then at the Le Mans in August). But the team is on site at Portimao with a car that has been through a gruelling test program and is ready to race.
Those within the program have had only positive feedback to give on the twin-turbo V6 007 throughout testing. RACER spoke to Californian driver Gustavo Menezes earlier this year and was assured that up close, the car’s build quality and performance is impressive.
The team’s No.708 chassis “ran like a train” in its recent 30-hour test at Aragon, and had just one minor issue with an electrical connector during its run of almost 5000km. That test is the reason only one car will compete this weekend – the No.708 is being re-built around an improved and lighter chassis, while the already upgraded sister No.709 is being tasked with taking part in the team’s first WEC race weekend.
Getting on the podium will not be easy at Algarve even with only three other cars in the class. The circuit is a tough one and the competition will be tougher. Competing against the likes of Toyota and its new GR010 Hybrids and Alpine’s grandfathered LMP1 was never going to be easy, so with a brand new car, making the finish, ahead of the well-proven and well-run WEC LMP2 cars, will surely be the first priority.
The BoP which governs the class may keep things closer than expected though. Ahead of the weekend the latest bulletin revealed that the Toyotas and Alpine will have to run with weight increases of 26kg and 22kg respectively after the opener at Spa. The Glickenhaus meanwhile, will run at 1030kg, the lowest possible weight for a car in the LMH category. It will also be permitted more energy during each stint than its competitors.
This will surely raise the confidence levels of Glickenhaus and his squad, especially as he knows his trio of drivers are more than capable of delivering a surprise result. IndyCar star Ryan Briscoe, Le Mans winner and WEC champion Romain Dumas and Rolex 24 class winner Richard Westbrook will share duties behind the wheel.
Whatever happens, what must not be forgotten is that this is merely step one. The team’s pseudo home race at Monza (Glickenhaus’ WEC effort is based in Podium Engineering in Milan, Italy) follows Portimao next month, where the team plans to debut its second car. The WEC teams then travel to France in August for the Le Mans 24 Hours; and that’s when the fun really starts…