Colin Braun says CORE autosport did “all we could do” in the closing stages of Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, with the IMSA Prototype title ultimately decided by fuel mileage.
Braun took the No. 54 Oreca 07 Gibson to 7th place finish after being forced to make a splash-and-dash for fuel with less than ten minutes to go and relinquishing his championship-clinching position.
The No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Felipe Nasr, who entered the season-ending round with a four-point lead in the drivers’ championship over Braun and co-driver Jon Bennett, managed to stretch his mileage to the end to finish 8th and take the title.
Nasr and co-driver Eric Curran, who claimed his second IMSA Prototype championship in the last three years, won by a mere three points over Braun and Bennett.
Braun admitted they had no other choice but to go all-out.
Recent Balance of Performance adjustments to the Prototype class saw a net increase of 2 liters of fuel capacity for the Cadillac DPi compared to LMP2 cars, which faced a 3-liter decrease prior to last month’s round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“We knew based upon the capacity and the mileage we had, there was no chance in the world we could make it,” Braun told Sportscar365.
“It was pretty easy for us to decide to go on the attack.
“If we had the capacity we’ve had in the past, we might have been able to do what everyone else did but since we didn’t, we knew we couldn’t, so we just put our heads down and went after it. That was the only thing we could do.”
The result came after an up-and-down race for the Rock Hill S.C.-based squad, which made up a two-lap deficit early on thanks to a pair of full-course cautions and wave-bys.
It put the Braun, Bennett and Romain Dumas-driven LMP2 car back in contention for the win and championship.
“We’re disappointed and bummed out, obviously, we wanted to try and win the thing,” Braun said.
“But when you look at the whole year, if you said we’d be sitting here finishing P2 in the championship having won two races and had five podiums on the season, I think we would have thought that wouldn’t have been comprehendible.
“It’s great to be disappointed to finish second. I’m super proud of all these guys; they did a great job all year. We had no penalties. We had no mechanical failures.
“We did, as we always do, we try to get better and do all we can.
“Even today, it came up a little bit short but we did all we could to try and make it happen.”
Bennett: “Tough Decision” to Sacrifice Trueman Award for Championship Bid
A mid-race call for Bennett not to complete the minimum drive time to score points for the Trueman Award was a “tough decision” according to the team owner/driver, who ultimately lost out on the overall championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto-invite.
Bennett completed the opening 45 minutes of the race, enough to score Prototype championship points, but shy of the 2 hours and 45 minutes required for points in the Trueman Award.
The Bronze-rated driver, who entered the weekend with an 80-point lead in the Trueman standings, lost out on the award to Misha Goikhberg, despite the JDC-Miller Motorsports driver finishing behind Bennett in the race.
“My mission has always been to go as far and as high in motorsports as possible,” Bennett told Sportscar365. “The opportunity to win an overall championship of this caliber comes very rarely.
“In fairness to all the hard work and effort to the point we were at when we arrived here, it was only fair to the team, and clearly something I wanted as well, was to drop the gloves and go for the overall championship.
“It’s a decision I’m happy with.
“The sun will rise tomorrow and I hope that we all realize what an incredible accomplishment this season has been, to go toe-to-toe with the best in the business in IMSA’s top category.
“P2 is certainly not defeat. I’m really happy for the Whelen team and Action Express. They made us work for every point this year and they were a great competitor to race against.
“I couldn’t be prouder and I’m looking forward to re-loading the weapon and coming back next year with all of the experience we’ve gained from 2018 and being even more competitive next year.”