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After the season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January was nearly vacated by IMSA, the panache and forward-thinking confidence of the Acura team under the leadership of Mike Shank seemed to be fading.
The heavy points penalty for racing with low tire pressures knocked Meyer Shank Racing out of contention for the WeatherTech Championship with Curb Agajanian. It was an added blow to have been turned in to IMSA by Honda Performance Development for software bugs discovered in the weeks following the race.
After the sanctions were announced in March, co-owner Mike Shank was widely criticized for throwing a cloud over the first GTP race with the new-generation hybrid prototypes, which are meant to revitalize IMSA. After the team’s victory from pole at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada ahead of drivers Tom Blomqvis and Colin Braun on Sunday with both speed and strategy, Shank hit back.
“This was a small redemption,” said Shank, who fired his chief engineer after IMSA found an illegal bypass of its telemetry for monitoring the minimum pressure in the Michelin tires, regulated for all teams.
“A lot of nasty things were said about my team, my partner, my family,” Shank continued. It is not justified after January. This (victory) is all for them, the doubters.”
Second place in Mosport left Wayne Taylor Racing behind as Andretti Autosport looked for its first GTP win of the season. It was second place at Daytona, but IMSA chose not to change the order of finishing after the belated discovery of the winners racing with tire pressures below the mandated minimum.
Mosport was not kind to Cadillac. The leading Action Express Racing team was beset by caution periods and went offline late in the event as it contested position, soon followed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R. The latter suffered a second major crash in as many months and was cautioned with just under five minutes remaining.
Renger van der Zande was pushed into Turn 8 by the No. 24 BMW M Hybrid V8. The driver, who had a massive crash at Spa, again walked away, this time after a head-on collision with a tire barrier at near race speed. Augusto Farfus was penalized by IMSA for avoidable contact with a drive through penalty.
Blomqvist, Braun win again
Michael Shank’s drivers Tom Blomqvist and Colin Braun proved they could win again aboard their Acura ARX-06 after getting some help with the signature style of the Shank team – by betting. Mosport’s terrifyingly fast sprint through glacier-formed hills consumes a lot of fuel and energy, but the team paid no attention to it. It rolled the dice with only victory in mind given its points position.
The No. 60 Acura team’s final pit stop came 16 laps ahead of its main rivals, the No. 10 Acura of Ricky Taylor and Felipe Albuquerque. But it still made it to the finish, skipping an opportunity to pit from the lead on a late caution. A final caution with five minutes left meant a total of 19 minutes behind the pace car in the final 37 minutes of the two-hour and forty-minute event, rewarding the choice of fuel and sealing victory in the Chevrolet Grand Prix .
“The racing gods looked down on us today,” said pole winner Blomqvist, who watched the final strategy unfold after driving the first stint. “We rolled the dice to try to go long and knew the only way we were going to win that race was if the yellow played in our corner. And luckily they did.”
“It was tough,” said Braun. “I knew Felipe had pitted, so he was good on fuel. So for me it was about giving the Meyer Shank Acura HPD car a good restart, building a little gap. and go into fuel saving mode. I was really surprised at the rate of fuel savings. Once we got into traffic I knew we were going to be strong because we made a lot of gaps in the previous stint.
Fraga vs. Grist, Round II
In a turn 10 pass that recalled a move first thought impossible until the late great John Paul Jr. introducing him during the World Sports Car era, Felipe Fraga staged a surprise attack to win in LMP3. He stuck his Ligier in Garett Grist’s JS P320. Grist, who considers Mosport his home circuit, ended up in the grass at the exit after side-by-side contact before regaining consciousness to finish second.
With the question of avoidable contact hanging in the air and the JR III team throwing its arms in the air along the nearby pit road during their driver’s farming expedition into the grass, no penalty ensued when the race clock expired.
The winning move gave Riley Motorsports, where Gar Robinson is the bronze driver, a perfect record in three races this year for the LMP3 class this season. It followed a ‘get through’ episode between the same two drivers at Watkins Glen, which also ended in Fragga’s favor after a brave maneuver resulted in a narrow high-speed overtake.
Stripes end in GTD Pro
Corvette Racing’s 11-race winless streak in GTD Pro came to an end and Vasser Sullivan’s streak of nine consecutive podiums also fell by the wayside in Mosport. Meanwhile, the constant threat of the GTD teams finishing ahead of the GTD Pro teams subsided for a second race in a row.
C8.R GT3 drivers Jordan Taylor and Andy Garcia weren’t driving the fastest car according to qualifying, but worked a bit of “Corvette Racing” magic, according to Taylor’s pre-race prediction. After lining up for the race instead of qualifying, the team’s pit strategy of undermining the first pit stop and undermining the driver change shortly after Jordan had his required 30 minutes behind the wheel for points paid a winning dividend .
As Pfaff Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R and Vasser Sullivan’s Lexus RC F GT3 battled into Turn 1 after a late restart, Ben Barnicoat came out on top for his overtaking attempt in a battle for position with Patrick Pilet. Barnicoat’s Lexus radiator took a hit and the car, which went off the track in the incident, was disabled. Pfaff drivers Pilet and Klaus Bachler placed second behind the Corvette on the team’s home track. It was the last of the GTD Pro teams to pit, not paying a dividend.
Paul Miller Racing’s BMW M4 GT3 was the first GTD entry to pit after 47 minutes for the exchange from Madison Snow to Bryan Sellers. They were soon followed by Inception Racing’s McLaren 720S GT3 EVO, where Frederik Schandorff stood in for Brendan Iribe. Those two teams finished first and second in class, which was the best track position strategy at Mosport on this day.
It was the second of two second-place finishes on the day for McLaren, whose driver Lando Norris was on the podium at the British Grand Prix.