Colin Braun didn’t need to answer questions about whether his No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 had enough fuel to finish the Chevrolet Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
An accident involving Renger van der Zande’s No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R with five minutes remaining caused the two-hour, 40-minute round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to end under caution Sunday. For Braun, attempting to stretch his final tank of fuel for 75 of those minutes, the finish behind the safety car eased any worries he and co-driver Tom Blomqvist had about running dry.
Blomqvist demonstrated the one-lap speed of the Meyer Shank Acura a day earlier by claiming the Motul Pole Award for the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class at the 2.459-mile, 10-turn road course – the second straight overall pole for the Brit at CTMP. This time, he was able to take the overall race victory after finishing a close second a year ago.
“That’s fantastic,” Blomqvist said following his fourth career triumph in WeatherTech Championship competition. “The racing gods were looking down on us a little bit today. We rolled the dice (with pit stop strategy) to try and go long, and the only way we were going to win that race was if the yellows kind of played into our corner. Thankfully, they did.
“I’m just so happy for the guys,” he added following the No. 60’s first win since the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. “They’ve worked their back sides off all year long, really. This car has been a lot of work. We haven’t had the greatest run of recent races, so to get the pole yesterday and finish the job off today is just amazing.”
The No. 60 Acura dropped from the lead to third place during a round of pit stops under caution just past the halfway mark. The decision was immediately taken to try and reach the finish without stopping again, hoping for at least one more full-course caution.
Circumstances couldn’t have played into their hands any better. After the first half of the race ran caution-free, the second half saw three more full-course yellows after the initial one, giving Braun the ability to strategically manage his hybrid-powered prototype’s energy reserves.
Braun had a five-second lead over Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Racing Acura ARX-06 when the final caution flew. Albuquerque and co-driver Ricky Taylor finished second, while the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 shared by Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly earned a fourth podium finish in the last five races to close within 10 points of the GTP championship lead.
The win was the 24th in IMSA competition for Braun, an amazing six of which have come at CTMP – including last year in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class.
“I love a fast corner and it’s always been a place that’s clicked for me,” Braun said. “I’ve just always loved this place and it’s got a great rhythm to it. When you kind of get that confidence that it’s going well, you can go out and attack straight away, and when it works, it keeps the confidence high.
“Everybody did a great job,” he noted. “The Acura cars have been fast all week, and our team specifically worked hard. Those yellows played into our favor and I still had a bit of fuel to save, but I knew if I could get a good jump and kind of push hard and build a gap for a lap or two, I could settle in and hit the fuel number. It was a lot of fun.”
For Albuquerque and Taylor, second place was a welcome result in a season in which the No. 10 Acura has experienced difficulty reaching the finish line. Coupled with a tough day for incoming GTP points leaders Alexander Sims and Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac (who finished eighth at CTMP), the No. 10 Acura duo is third in the standings, just 29 points out of the championship lead.
“Before the race, the theme of the weekend was we need to put together a weekend like we are used to and just get back to normal,” Taylor said. “It just so happened the No. 31 had a bad day and the points came together. We’re happy about that, and happy to get back on a roll of positive momentum. We’ll take a second place to the sister (Acura) car very happily and try to build on that for Road America.”
Porsche claimed positions 4-6 at CTMP, with the customer No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963 customer car driven by Mike Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm besting the factory Porsche Penske Motorsport entries.
Fearless Fraga Forces Way to Front as No. 74 Riley Wins Third in a Row in LMP3
Felipe Fraga saw enough of an opening and took it.
The result? The third straight Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) victory for Fraga, Gar Robinson and the No. 74 Riley Ligier JS P320.
After dominating the first half of the Chevrolet Grand Prix under green-flag conditions, Fraga was passed by Garett Grist in the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier on a restart from caution with just more than an hour to go. It stayed that way until just six and a half minutes remained as the class leaders approached the 10th and final turn at CTMP.
Fraga nosed the No. 74 inside of Grist in the No. 30 heading into the 90-degree right-hander, side-to-side contact ensued and Fraga regained the lead as Grist slid wide into the grass. Race control reviewed the incident but determined that no action was necessary. When the fourth full-course caution came out a minute later, that’s the way it ended.
It was a repeat performance from two weeks ago at Watkins Glen International, when Fraga muscled past Grist for the lead with 50 minutes to go and went on to win.
“It was a crazy race,” said Fraga, who collected his 10th career WeatherTech Championship win. “Today, I think they were a little bit faster than us, especially in the straights. … In the GT traffic I basically caught him like 2-3 seconds in two laps. Then I just had a gap, like he opened into the last corner and I think he didn’t expect me to try in the last corner, and I did it.
“I tried to (pass) him inside and he just turned in me and we had big contact again like in Watkins. I think that’s what happens when you fight really hard for the win in IMSA.”
Grist saw it the other way for the second race in a row.
“It’s pretty clear what happened so there’s really not much to say, I guess,” Grist said. “I mean, Watkins Glen I raced clean, here I raced clean. … I guess we know how we can race, though. Three rounds left.”
After falling out of the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona early, finishing last in class (a race that did not award points toward the WeatherTech Championship for LMP3), Fraga and Robinson – who picked up career victory No. 11 – have rebounded to win three in a row. They’ve opened a sizable, 187-point lead over Anthony Mantella and Wayne Boyd, who finished third Sunday in the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08. Grist and the No. 30 Jr III Ligier are 187 points out of the class lead with three races remaining.
“I’m really happy because I was expecting to finish second today because of our pace,” Fraga said, “but I’m really happy that it worked out. It was my first time at this track and it’s one of my favorite tracks now.”
Both the GTP and LMP3 classes return to action Aug. 4-6 with the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
- Derani, Cadillac lead IMSA practice at newly repaved Road America - August 4, 2023
- Meyer Shank Acura’s long run rewarded with IMSA CTMP win; No. 74 Riley wins third in a row in LMP3 - July 9, 2023
- No. 25 BMW Wins Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen after No. 6 Porsche Penalized in Postrace Inspection - June 25, 2023