October 4, 2023

MSR Acura extends fuel stint to take critical win at CTMP

Two full cautions in the last hour enabled Colin Braun in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06 to complete 76 minutes and 52 laps from the team’s final pit stop to clinch victory for him and Tom Blomqvist in the Chevrolet Grand Prix to claim at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. It was the team’s second official win of the season and the team became the first to repeat victory in the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season after their Rolex 24 victory at Daytona, for which they were subsequently awarded points for manipulating tire data.

“I managed to hand the car over to Colin early on, but then things went against us a bit,” said Blomqvist. “We lost (position) in the stop – which we didn’t really foresee, so we have to look at that, understand what happened – which made our lives a bit more difficult.

“We just rolled the dice and said, ‘There’s no point in finishing third, we’re not really in the championship. Let’s roll the dice, hope for some yellow.’ And that was really the only chance. We went for the win. And that last yellow really saved us, because it allowed us to go almost full throttle to the end. So yeah, great job by Colin,” he continued.

Blomqvist had already proven the team’s pace by putting the car on pole and leading the first stint as both Acuras pulled away from the rest of the field, Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura trailing behind. But that pace was almost canceled out by strategy and a windfall for the No. 10. Just before the race’s second full-course caution with 55 yards to go, Filipe Albuquerque brought in the No. 10 for what was the final stop would be; if there were no more yellows, most of the rest of the field would have to retire and the WTR crew would sit nicely.

“It was a roller coaster in terms of strategy,” Albuquerque said. “So we were initially lucky to get to the pits and then yellow came. I didn’t know if this was good for us. When everyone pitted, we were more or less P1. Then the No. 60 car just took a huge risk, which paid off to go to the end. My first feeling I got from the team was that they were going up in smoke, like they didn’t have enough fuel and old tyres, so they might have a hard time. So I just took it easy; I think it was super important to finish somewhere on top.”

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When Robby Foley in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 crashed behind Aaron Telitz in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 at Moss Corner and went off the track with a broken suspension, Braun had a chance to pit before the third full caution came out and the pits closed. However, he passed and the ensuing long yellow yellow allowed the No. 60 to go to the end. A hard crash for the No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R, Renger van der Zande went into the tires at Turn 8 after contact with Augusto Farfus in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL M Hybrid V8, with five minutes remaining sealed the victory.

“I still had some fuel to save, but I pushed pretty hard for the first few laps (after the last restart),” explained Braun. “I knew if I could get a little bit of breathing room I could hit some of these fuel numbers a little bit easier and not have to worry as much about the 10 coming back into some of the braking zones where you lift early to save. So then once I got a little gap I sort of got into it and started hitting that fuel number really well I was surprised by the number we were able to get and the pace we were still able to go.

Albuquerque and Taylor finished second to an Acura one-two. Gambling a different strategy early on, the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 of Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly came in to round off the energy after less than 20 minutes, and the team came away with third place, BMW M Team RLL’s 100th podium, to create a virtual tie at the top of the points with Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims. Derani and Sims’ No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac finished seventh after an extra drive through the pits when they failed to reach the pit lane before it was closed for a full caution.

Sims and Derani still lead the points with 1872. De Phillippi and Yelloly are only 10 behind, and Albuquerque and Taylor were pushed back in the championship fight, finishing third with 1843, 34 points ahead of Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy.

The surprise of the race in GTP was Mike Rockenfeller and Tijmen van der Helm finishing fourth in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Porsche 963, the highest-placed Porsche. The No. 5 made its first stop earlier than most of the other GTP cars and reached its third stop with perfect timing, just before the third full caution of the race.

Jake Galstad/Lumen

LMP3 turned into a battle between a driver with vast local knowledge and the team that has now won every LMP3 points race this season. Felipe Fraga, after taking over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier from polesitter Gar Robinson, led on the penultimate restart. But Ontario native Garret Grist in the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier he shared with Ari Balogh hit hard. Grist took over the lead from Fraga shortly after the restart.

However, Grist lost any advantage he had with some unfortunate breaks in traffic, and with less than 10 minutes to go, Fraga attacked and entered Grist into the final corner. Running side-by-side through the turn, Grist ran out of room at the exit and went off course, with Fraga sailing by as Grist recovered. The incident was reviewed by officials, but no action was taken.

“It was a crazy race,” said Fraga. “Today they were a bit faster than us, especially on the straights. We were also fighting hard at Watkins. In GT traffic, I (Grist) actually gained two or three seconds in two laps. I think he didn’t expect me to try in the last corner, and I did. I tried to get him in, he turned on me and we connected. I think that happens when you race really hard. I’m very happy; I expected to finish second today because of our pace, but I’m glad it worked out.”

Grist disagreed with Fraga’s assessment of the situation. “It’s pretty obvious what happened. At Watkins Glen I rode clean, here I rode clean. I think we now know how to race.”

Fraga and Robinson finished with the win, Grist and Balogh took second and Wayne Boyd and Anthony Mantella took third in the No. 17 AWA Racing Duqueine. Fraga and Robinson have 1115 points, with Boyd and Mantella second with 934. Grist is only third with 928 after Balogh missed de Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.


Story originally appeared on Racer

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