Some IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races are won on the track, and some are won in the pits.
During Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP), it was a case of the latter for the winning #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.
After starting second the #67 paced itself throughout the first half of the race, as each of the four manufacturers in the class took their turns at the top of the leaderboard.
With less than an hour remaining, Westbrook took the reins from starting co-driver Briscoe and ran second behind the #3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia. Garcia then ducked into the pits as the class was set to cycle through another round of stops and Westbrook drove into the lead.
Drama quickly began to unfold as the #6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi of Juan Pablo Montoya lost a tyre on track, causing a full-course yellow. Aware of the situation, the #67 Ford dove into the pits immediately before the caution was called and completed its stop as the safety car exited pit lane.
“You never stop believing,” said Westbrook. “We really improved the car after first practice. It was a real handful. And a few times during the race, it was still a handful. We see stuff from the pickup. But when the guys gave me some clear track, I managed to clean up the tires, and the pace wasn’t too bad.
“They just did a great call, so this goes to the team and my fantastic teammate giving us a fantastic chance of putting it on the front row, which was definitely over-achieving. It just gives us great confidence knowing we can win in this way. It’s just great to be part of.”
The win at CTMP is the second of the year for Westbrook and Briscoe, who also delivered Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s 200th team win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.
And for the first time this season, the team entered the race weekend, not in the GTLM championship lead, but in second place behind teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in the #66 Ford GT, who won last Sunday at Watkins Glen. However, with their victory and a fifth-place finish for the #66 at CTMP, Westbrook and Briscoe reclaimed their position at the top.
“Unreal,” said Briscoe of getting the championship lead back. “This result today, as Rick said, played the strategy perfectly, play the traffic, and Rick just drove unbelievably. I mean the car was not easy to drive today. He was just masterful. What a result. We’ll definitely take that.”
A pair of Corvettes rounded out the remaining steps on the GTLM podium, with the #3 of Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen holding on to second place and the #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin in third. With the runner-up result, the #3 moves into second place in the points.