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BRAUN: Opening a New Chapter With Rolex 24 Win

Meyer Shank Racing’s Colin Braun files his first Sportscar365 column of the year…

Photo: Milke Levitt/IMSA

There’s an adjustment period when changing teams. I spent ten seasons with Jon Bennett and CORE autosport so going into 2023 I closed one chapter and opened the next when I joined Meyer Shank Racing, but I couldn’t have been more excited.

Combine that with learning a new car, but I was looking forward to the challenge.

That said, Mike Shank, Jim Meyer, and the entire MSR organization couldn’t have been more welcoming. Tom Blomqvist and I hit it off immediately, and I’m pretty sure Helio and Simon get along with everyone. I quickly settled in and got to work learning the new hybrid-powered Acura ARX-06.

Because the GTP class is new, every team is learning so we’re all pretty equal when it comes to experience.

There were a lot of unknowns heading into Daytona, and when your first race of the year is the longest & biggest, that leaves people working extremely hard to deliver results. Fortunately, the MSR team is stacked with many talented people, and we have a great working relationship with Acura and Honda Racing Development!

Being defending Rolex 24 winners and champions it gave us a lot of confidence.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

One of the first lessons we learned during the Rolex 24 was that the closing speeds are insane on the banking.

In my first stint, I was slicing and dicing through traffic in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 and had to make a move on the banking. It’s hard to slow the GTP cars down with the amount of momentum we carry at times, and that means, as a driver, you have to make quick decisions.

At one point, I went three-wide on the high side, and it sure was close but my days in NASCAR helped I think.

However, slowing down and risking getting hit in the back would be more dangerous, so I had to be committed and go. We had to plan our moves in traffic way in advance due to the closing speeds. Sometimes having to hope/guess what slower class cars were going to do.

Also new in 2023, Michelin offered two tire compounds. Soft High Temperature (SHT) and Soft Low Temperature (SLT) were the options, but we could only use the SLT compound at night per the rules.

Because IMSA and Michelin are focused on sustainability with the new GTP class, we also had fewer sets of tires compared to previous years, which required careful planning.

Out laps on cold tires were a bit dicey. We wanted to understand whether it was better to change all four tires every other stint (double stinting tires) or do a combo of right-side tires one stop and left-side tires at the next stop for our Acura.

Throw in two different compounds and variations in ambient temperature, and it was quite a puzzle. There wasn’t a massive difference between the two compounds regarding performance.

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

They are just made to run in different ambient and track temp conditions, so you must ensure the right combination, or it could be bad.

I definitely stayed busy during my stints in the new Acura ARX-06. The balance changed significantly depending on if we were on new tires, double-stinted tires, or mixing and matching.

We have a lot of tools in the car to adjust the braking system and differential setup with the hybrid component.

The steering wheel is full of buttons and dials, which initially seem like a foreign language, but we have great assistance from the HPD and MSR engineers.

They can help us dial in the setup via telemetry in the pits. It’s really cool technology. The driver/engineer combo in this new era of IMSA racing is at another level! We rely on our engineers even more than in years past. Their help via the radio can really impact the balance of the car.

The Rolex 24 was a huge learning curve for everyone, and I couldn’t be prouder of how MSR rose to the occasion with the dedication and heart needed to win the Rolex 24 Hour race!

With the help of Acura and HPD, we had an extremely fast race car that was fun to drive for the entire 24 hours. It was a privilege to share a seat with Tom, Helio, and Simon and then stand with them on top of the podium. So far, my time with MSR has been amazing, and I can’t wait to get to Sebring!

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMS

Colin Braun (@colinbraun) is a sports car racing standout and former NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series driver, driving for Meyer Shank Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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