Canadian Tire Motorsport Park has been a strong venue for co-drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun dating back to their days racing in the American Le Mans Series Prototype Challenge (PC) class.
Coming into the weekend, they’d won three PC races at the ultra-quick, 2.54-mile circuit, the most recent coming in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship PC class in 2016. In Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, the longtime teammates took it to another level.
Driving the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 entry, Braun took the lead from Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R with eight laps remaining in what would be a 116-lap race. It capped a last-to-first run for the No. 54, as for the second consecutive week, the team elected to have Bennett start the race after Braun had captured the Motul Pole Award in qualifying.
The penalty for changing starting drivers is to start from the rear of the class field, but Bennett turned in a solid opening stint before handing the controls to Braun. He went on to win by 3.431 seconds over Taylor to take the first WeatherTech Championship Prototype class victory for himself, Bennett and the whole team.
“Since we unloaded, it’s been a Cinderella weekend for us,” Bennett said. “It’s nice to see our program and the Porsche program at the top of the charts in all the session and pole positions. Our team was working well all weekend. Colin was amazing all weekend, walk-on-water amazing.
“I don’t have to tell you what kind of momentum that gave us. Qualifying is qualifying, and racing is racing, so it carried over to the race. My job and our strategy has always been: return a square, damage-free car to Colin and go and that’s what we did. A lot of great strategy from his dad (engineer) Jeff Braun, and holy cow, here we are.”
It was Bennett’s 15th career IMSA victory (nine WeatherTech Championship, six ALMS) and was Braun’s 16th IMSA win (nine WeatherTech, five ALMS, two GRAND-AM). This is the team’s first year in the Prototype class. The longtime PC class competitors raced a Porsche in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class last year before moving to the Prototype ranks.
It was their second straight podium result in a week after taking the runner-up spot in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen last Sunday and was the third podium run of the season for the No. 54 team, which finished third in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“It’s so cool to get the first win for CORE at this level,” Braun said. “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. It was important in this race to not get too excited at the beginning. We just sort of laid in the weeds all day and slowly worked our way up and we were there when it mattered at the end.”
Taylor and co-driver Renger van der Zande combined to lead a race-high 71 laps en route to second place in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R. It also was their third podium result of the season and first since a third-place outing in April’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.
Finishing third were Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R. It was the fourth consecutive Canadian Tire Motorsport Park podium for Curran, who also finished second in 2015 and won the race in each of the past two years with then-co-driver Dane Cameron.
It was Curran and Nasr’s fourth podium result in seven races and enabled them to take over the WeatherTech Championship Prototype class points lead by one marker, 198-197, over their Action Express teammate, Filipe Albuquerque, in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi.
Albuquerque and co-driver Christian Fittipaldi finished fourth with Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor rounding out the top five in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi race car.
The WeatherTech Championship Prototype class returns to action next month in the two-hour, 40-minute Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America on Aug. 3-5.
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut on July 20-21. The two-hour, 40-minute race will feature the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes and will be televised on Saturday, July 21 at 4 pm ET on FS1.