The IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship’s lone trip north of the border to the Canadian Tyre Motorsports Park concluded on Sunday afternoon with a second win for an LMP2 car in the Prototype class this season. After JDC-Miller’s Gainsco ORECA won at Watkins Glen last time out, Jon Bennett and Colin Braun’s #54 CORE autosport ORECA 07 took the win this time, after Braun made a late pass into the final corner on Jordan Taylor’s #10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
The #54 ORECA 07 started from pole after a stunning lap by Braun but the team elected to have Jon Bennett start the race in order to get his drive time done in the first half of the race. This meant that the car had to start from the rear of the prototype field (as it did at Watkins Glen, for the same reason), strategy though moved the car forward in the first half of the race. By electing to stay out when others came into the pits early under the first Full Course Yellow to allow Bennett to complete his drive time gave the #54 ORECA good track position, which Braun capitalized on in the second half, scoring the team’s first ever win in the Prototype class.
It was a nearly a return to a familiar place for the #10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. The reigning champions who dominated the first half of last year have not found the top step of the podium since the series’ trip to Detroit last year.
Third in class and the new championship leaders in Prototype was the #31 Whelen Engineering (Action Express) Cadillac DPi-V.R of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr. Their race ran on without any major incidents, though interestingly, Curran drove just 17 of the 116 laps after coming in under the FCY for a driver change.
The same could not be said for the #6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05, the team that inherited the pole and were one of the favorites to win, but luck wasn’t on the team’s side.
Dane Cameron had a spectacular first stint but drama soon befell the team after debris caused a right-rear puncture which required service, Cameron then running the red light on pit exit leading to a stop and sixty-second penalty. That was soon followed by the wheel falling off the car on Juan Pablo-Montoya’s outlap which caused damage to the brakes which had to be serviced. That car ended the race in tenth.
GT Le Mans saw every manufacture spend time out front but in the end it was the #67 Ford GT with Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe that took home the win, their second win this season following their victory at Daytona back in January. With this win the #67 Ford now moves into the championship lead in the class.
“You never stop believing, we really improved the car after the first practice it was a real handful to drive,” said Westbrook who brought the car to the flag. “This goes to the team and my fantastic teammate who put it on the front row it just gave us great confidence!”
Second and third in class was the pair of Corvette Racing C7.Rs, the #3 Corvette C7.R getting the better of the sister #4 Corvette C7.R.
Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette spent time in the lead in the second half and actually looked poised to take home the win until the late FCY shook things up. The #3 was the first of the cars that completed its final pit stop with only the #67 Ford in front of it, the FCY however came out while the #67 Ford was in the pits, meaning the Corvettes had to slow for the FCY and allowed the #67 Ford to effectively get away with a free stop.
Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR, the class pole sitters came home in fourth after being in the mix throughout. Meanwhile, their teammates in the #912 Porsche 911 RSR, Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber, had to deal with a puncture which caused damage to their rear diffuser, that car ending the day sixth in class.
In GTD, the pair of 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3s look poised for victory but the cards did not fall their way in the end, instead tyre wear proved a deciding factor in the GT3-based class with the #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 with Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen taking home the win.
Bleekemolen made his way past Kyle Marcelli in the #14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 in the race’s closing minutes, Keating crediting the Mercedes’ easiness on the tyres to the victory.
“There was a lot of split strategy this race and we knew it was going to be really tight, but the Mercedes is really easy on the tyres… and I’m just really happy to be here.”
Marcelli — who won yesterday’s Continental Tyre SportsCar Challenge race — was able to hold onto second for himself and Dominik Baumann.
Andy Lally in the #44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 was perhaps the star of the second half of the race, the American making his way past multiple cars including Madison Snow in the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, and David Heinemeier-Hansson in the #15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 en route to a third place finish in class.
The championship lead in GTD remains the same following the race. Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in their #48 Paul Miller Lamborghini are still atop the standings now by three points as opposed to the one point lead they entered the weekend with over Katherine Legge for the driver’s championship and the #86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 in the team’s championship.
The next round of the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship is the first of two GT-only rounds from Lime Rock Park in northern Connecticut the weekend of July 20th.
Images courtesy of IMSA