Tuesday April 23rd, 2019 2:42AM

Braun, Bennett score strategic victory at Road America

By IMSA Wire Service
  Contact Editor

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – It’s not unusual for a race at the 4.048-mile Road America to come down to fuel strategy, and that’s exactly what happened in Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Continental Tire Road Race Showcase.

No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 co-drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun picked up their second consecutive WeatherTech Championship Prototype race victory thanks in large part to team strategist – and Colin Braun’s father – Jeff Braun and his decision to go “underground” following Colin’s last pit stop with 56 minutes remaining.

While the lead changed hands three times in the last 25 minutes of the race as each leader needed a late splash of fuel to make it to the finish, the No. 54 steadily rose up the running order. With three minutes and 15 seconds to go, Jonathan Bomarito brought the No. 55 Mazda DPi onto pit road from the lead.

Two laps later, Braun crossed the stripe 2.389 seconds ahead of Stephen Simpson in the No. 99 JDC Miller Motorsports ORECA LMP2 car. He ran out of fuel in turn 13 on the cooldown lap and needed to be towed into victory lane.

“It’s a great result for all the CORE autosport guys,” Braun said. “I’m super proud, it was quite a team effort. Jon did a great job at the start of the stint. We have some amazing calls on the pit box as far as what our strategy was going to be. We had a great call that got me to second. I kind of faded toward the end with a bit of tire wear so we started to change our strategy to look at a fuel savings/fuel mileage race so we started down that path right away.

“Great call by the guys on the box to stick to that plan the whole rest of the way. They were giving me fuel numbers that I was trying to hit and sort of keep the pace. It was a fantastic day, I think at Mosport we showed we had a lot of speed to win. And we showed here we had to save fuel and be smart and win in a different way.”

It was the 17th IMSA win for Braun (10 WeatherTech Championship, 5 American Le Mans Series, 2 GRAND-AM) and was the 16th for Bennett (10 WeatherTech Championship, 6 ALMS). It was Braun’s first win at Road America and Bennett’s second, having earned an ALMS Prototype Challenge (PC) class win at the track back in 2012.

“It’s clearly a team sport,” Bennett said. “(Colin) did a great job and was magic in the car. He was fast as well as having to save fuel. We had an awesome run on our Continental tires. They performed well all weekend.

“At some times, you have to separate yourselves from the pack so we made a strategy call to come in the back door. It was interesting to watch it develop as the engineers were picking apart how much fuel left, how many laps left. It was incredible to watch. I didn’t even give myself a chance to think about it, but back to back wins with these incredible drivers in this series is amazing.”

It was the third consecutive WeatherTech Championship Prototype victory for the Gibson-powered ORECA LMP2 cars. The team that started the run – Simpson and co-driver Misha Goikhberg – came home second. It was their second podium result of the season.

Speaking of podiums, it was yet another podium for No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R co-drivers Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr. The No. 31 led a race-high 38 of the 69-lap race en route to the fifth podium in eight races this season.

As a result, they retained the Prototype class points lead by seven, 228-221, over their Action Express Racing teammate, Filipe Albuquerque, who finished seventh on Sunday with co-driver Joao Barbosa, who returned to competition this weekend after missing the last two races due to a cycling injury.

Another late-race leader, Jordan Taylor, came home fourth in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R he shares with Renger van der Zande after his late splash of fuel. Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya filled out the top five in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi.

The Prototype class returns to action next month in the two-hour, 40-minute America’s Tire 250, part of the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 6-9.

Four-For-Ford: Briscoe, Westbrook Give Ford GT Fourth Consecutive Win At Road America

Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook gave Ford its fourth consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship win Sunday in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, putting the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT back atop the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class standings in the process.

The winning pass came with two minutes remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute race when the race-leading No. 25 BMW M8 GTE of Connor De Phillippi ran out of fuel just short of the finish. Westbrook managed to stretch his fuel over the race’s final 63 minutes to secure the win, beating the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R to the stripe by 7.938 seconds.

With only three races remaining on the WeatherTech Championship schedule, the No. 67 Ford GT leads the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R co-driven by Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen by four points, 241-237, while the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller sits another five points back in third.

“It’s just an incredible run we’re having right now,” said Westbrook. “The wins aren’t coming easy by any stretch of the imagination, we’re having to work for them. It’s a track that really suits our car. BMW was fast, but I guess they short filled by too much. It’s just a great win by the whole program. It’s a hell of a ride right now. I’m just enjoying every moment of it.”

Ford’s four-race win streak dates to Watkins Glen on July 1 when Hand and Mueller won the prestigious Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Since then, the No. 66 and No. 67 Ford GTs have alternated victories with Hand and Mueller also winning at Lime Rock Park, while Westbrook and Briscoe won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park prior to its victory at Road America.

The two team cars also have been alternating the points lead with the No. 66 dropping from the GTLM points lead to third this weekend after a broken right rear toe link relegated the team to a seventh-place finish.

“Obviously, really bad luck for the (No.) 66 guys, but it’s been a great four wins in a row,” said Briscoe. “But it’s one car wins and the other one is not scoring the points it needs, and we’ve kind of been going back and forth. But the fact we’ve always been able to compete for wins is fantastic.”

While Ford has four consecutive victories, Corvette Racing has four consecutive runner-up finishes. This time it was the No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin, following a string of three consecutive runner-up finishes for the No. 3 Corvette C7.R and co-drivers Garcia and Magnussen. It was another strong finish for the No. 3 team, however, rounding out the podium in third.

Two minutes short of the first victory for the BMW M8 GTE, De Phillippi was unable to make it back to pit road for fuel and finished sixth alongside co-driver Alexander Sims.

Sweet Relief at Road America for No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche as Long, Nielsen Claim First GTD Victory of Season

To say that it’s been a rough first season for Wright Motorsports in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition would be an understatement.

However, on Sunday during the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, the team’s luck finally turned around as the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R crossed the finish line first for the GT Daytona (GTD) victory.

Co-driving in their first season together, Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen had yet to land on the podium in the season’s prior seven races. However, the team began knocking on the door of a breakthrough performance after scoring back-to-back Motul Pole Awards at Lime Rock Park two weeks ago and at Road America on Saturday.

“Long time coming,” said Nielsen – the two-time defending GTD champion. “We’ve really been wanting to put together the perfect execution for the weekend. Wright Motorsports did an amazing job with our Porsche Consulting car. To end up in first place with our first podium of the season was absolutely amazing.

“Patrick did a great job yesterday with the pole and a perfect stint. It feels so rewarding, we didn’t have a perfect race until now. There were highlights, things that were improving, Things getting better, but it wasn’t all together. And this was finally the weekend where it all came together.”

In a unique strategy twist, the No. 58 Porsche was the only team in the 11-car field to perform two driver changes during the two-hour, 40-minute race – the latter of which also came with a little bit of luck. After taking the reins from Long about a third through the race, Nielsen dove into the pits ahead of a full-course caution for tires, fuel, and another driver swap to allow Long to finish the race.

The No. 58 Porsche restarted from second place behind GTD point leaders Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, yet Long made the move for the lead soon after the green flag dropped and held on for the win.

“We discussed after qualifying, that that’s one aspect, but putting together a full race together with this level of competition in GTD isn’t something you can’t ever take for granted,” said Long. “We took advantage of excellent pit stops and strategy. We had a great balance in the car. When you get out of car and you realize you’re barely sweating you know it’s on rails. We worked really hard.”

The win is the first for Long since the 2014 Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the first for Nielsen since the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last September.

Sellers and Snow took second place on the day, which allowed the duo to expand their points lead 250 – 232 over Katherine Legge in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 who finished seventh. And storming from ninth to third in the final 20 minutes was the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 of Cooper MacNeil and Alessandro Pier Guidi to take the final spot on the podium, the second consecutive for the team.

Once again – showing the intensity of GTD competition – the top seven finishers in GTD consisted of different manufacturers with BMW, Mercedes-AMG, Lexus and Acura joining the mix.

Up next for both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM and GTD classes is the second GT-only event this season at VIRginia International Raceway on August 17 – 19.

  • Associated Categories: NASCAR News, Other Motorsports
  • Associated Tags: motorsports, Auto Racing, Asphalt, road course, IMSA, sports cars, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
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