CORE autosport’s Colin Braun passed Wayne Taylor Racing’s Jordan Taylor for the lead with 12 minutes to go just as Mazda Team Joest’s Harry Tincknell spun into the gravel at Moss Corner. At first, Braun gave the spot back thinking that he had passed under yellow. A review indicated that Braun made the pass prior to the yellow, which allowed to take the spot back. From there, Braun pulled away to give CORE autosport and owner/driver Jon Bennett victory in the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. It is the first-ever overall victory for both drivers and for CORE autosport’s Prototype program. It is not the first overall victory for CORE autosport because they run Porsche’s North American factory GT team. They won the rain-shortened 2015 Petit Le Mans overall with their Porsche 911 RSR.
“I’m excited. It’s so cool to get the first win for CORE at this level,” Braun said after the race. “It’s been a pleasure driving with Jon all these years. We’ve had a lot of firsts together and done a lot of cool things and this is another one of those things in a long line. Hats off to the CORE guys. We had great strategy all day. We saved fuel when we needed to, we saved tires when we needed to. And we just played our cards the right way and got it done when it mattered.”
Braun won the pole for Sunday’s race Saturday afternoon. However, much like at Watkins Glen last weekend, the team voluntarily moved to the rear so that Bennett could start the race and get his minimum seat time. That put Acura Team Penske’s Dane Cameron on the pole.
For all intents and purposes, the No. 6 Acura ARX-05 was the class of the field on Sunday. However, they had a miserable race. Cameron led until the first round of stops. A bad stop put them down the order. On the second stop, Cameron ran a red light at the end of pit road. That resulted in a stop and 60 second hold penalty that dropped them off the lead lap. Later on, Juan Pablo Montoya lost his left front wheel to draw another full course caution. Ultimately, the No. 6 ended up 17th overall (10th in the Prototype class), five laps down.
The demise of Acura Team Penske’s No. 6 vaulted Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac with Renger van der Zande driving to the lead with Action Express Racing’s Felipe Nasr giving chase. Meanwhile, the cautions fell in a way that CORE autosport was able to stay on the lead lap despite Bennett not being as fast as the pros.
In the second half of the race, Braun climbed up the order as quick as he could, taking advantage of his ORECA 07-Gibson’s superior straight-line speed. By the time Montoya’s wheel came off, Braun was up to second. He was able to run up to Taylor and make the pass at the end of the Mario Andretti Straightaway.
Van der Zande and Jordan Taylor ended up second, 3.431 seconds back. Action Express Racing’s Eric Curran and Nasr were third in their Cadillac, followed by Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac. Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor were fifth.
GT Le Mans saw Porsche GT Team’s Nick Tandy lead early from the pole. Similar to Watkins Glen, this was a race in which the different manufacturers all took a turn at the front. Porsche was first, followed by BMW and Chevrolet.
The race ultimately came down to a stroke of luck with pit strategy for the No. 67 Ford GT. Richard Westbrook stayed out as long as he possibly could on fuel so that he could short-fill to the finish. Unlike in other forms of motorsports, the pits do not open under caution in the final 30 minutes of the race. When Montoya lost his wheel, Westbrook scrambled to get into the pits before they closed.
The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA team serviced Westbrook and got him out of the pits before the pit exit closed. That allowed him to maintain his advantage. From there, Westbrook was able to deal with GT Daytona traffic and hold on to take his and teammate Ryan Briscoe‘s second win of the year.
Porsche was looking good for a second-place finish, but Patrick Pilet overshot Moss Corner with a few laps to go. That allowed both Corvettes to drive past. The No. 3 of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen finished second, followed closely by the No. 4 of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. Pilet and Tandy had to settle for fourth, while Joey Hand and Dirk Müller in the No. 66 Ford were fifth.
GT Daytona was much like qualifying early on. 3GT Racing dominated the show with Jack Hawksworth leading for the first third of the race.
While 3GT Racing had a dream start to the race, Wright Motorsports had the exact opposite. First, Michael Schein slid off at Moss Corner and stalled to bring out the first of six full course cautions. Shortly after the restart, Schein got in the back of teammate Christina Nielsen exiting Moss Corner and spun her into the wall to bring out another yellow. Nielsen’s car wasn’t hurt that bad, but it was stuck in the mud from heavy rains on Thursday. The Wright Porsches would eventually finish ninth and 10th in class.
Late in the race, it was the No. 14 Lexus with Kyle Marcelli at the wheel in the lead. Marcelli was going for the weekend sweep after winning on Saturday, but Riley Motorsports’ Jeroen Bleekemolen was not feeling that. With just under 16 minutes to go, Bleekemolen was able to get past Marcelli exiting turn 10 to take the class lead. From there, Bleekemolen pulled away to give himself and team owner/driver Ben Keating their first win of the year.
Bleekemolen’s margin of victory was 2.919 seconds over Marcelli and Dominik Baumann. Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally and John Potter charged from the rear of the field to finish third, followed by Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow. Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Katherine Legge and Àlvaro Parente.
For IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams, there is a split schedule coming up. GT Le Mans and GT Daytona teams will be back in action on July 21 at Lime Rock Park for the Northeast Grand Prix. Frontstretch will be on-site at Lime Rock to bring you all the action from the 1.474-mile road course. Prototype teams are off until early August at Road America.