An apparent victory on fuel strategy and track position turned into a story about traffic as Renger van der Zande made two big moves during the last short period of green flag racing to get the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac to the front and win the Chevrolet Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, the seventh round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
After an eventful first two hours and 20 minutes, when it appeared everything was falling the way of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura that Blomqvist had put on pole with a record-setting lap, van der Zande (who had taken over from co-driver Sebastien Bourdais) had to muscle through a power steering issue and then took advantage of traffic to put the No. 1 Cadillac in the lead. First he moved past Richard Westbrook in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac with a little side-to-side, then took advantage of Jarvis getting checked up by GTD traffic to take the lead.
“The gig is in traffic, and especially on these kinds of tracks, if you’re aggressive and you have not much to lose, when you’re fighting for [the] championship, this is what you have to do. You have to go for it,” van der Zande said.
The move for the lead didn’t look particularly aggressive, and in fact it didn’t need to be – Jarvis said he had no idea that van der Zande was that close.
“I saw a car the inside and you know, caught me a little bit off guard,” Jarvis explained. “I thought I had enough of a buffer but just got held up by the GT on the exit of Turn 2. In hindsight, if I defended it would have been pretty easy to keep them behind.”
Given the problem that van der Zande revealed the No. 01 was having with the power steering, it was a wonder that he was in a position to be fighting for the lead in the first place
“It was a really tough day. We had a power steering issue all the way. I had to put all the muscles I had to keep it going around the corner, and especially in the high speed corners it was giving up every time, so it felt a bit heroic. Every time when we had a restart there was five, six laps where the power steering kind of worked, so I really needed those. One hour and 20 minutes to go, I was like, ‘How long do we have? I’m not sure if I can do this,’ but we made it happen.
“Because when the front comes up its lighter for the power steering, so I was braking earlier and then going early on throttle just to make it happen. But it’s not ideal and then sometimes it would just work and you would steer straight to the curb. I must have looked drunk from behind.”
From the outset of the race, it looked like it was going to be another Acura vs. Acura battle between the No. 60 and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing car of Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque, but the second caution of the race came because the No. 10 lost a tire. They got back to the pits and got it fixed without losing a lap and would eventually pull themselves back into the fight.
The real race began to unfold with about an hour left. The No. 60 Acura and the CGR Cadillacs had been battling, and van der Zande was the first to enter the pits for what was expected to be the penultimate stop, going for the undercut. Jarvis pitted a few laps later and was caught by Taylor on his out lap. Taylor, now back in the car after a short stint for Albuquerque, had the No. 10 back in the race thanks to pit strategy. Jarvis defended aggressively, moving Taylor toward the wall. Side-by-side contact in Turn 1 sent Jarvis wide.
A few laps later, with 58 minutes left in the race, Jarvis and Scott Andrews in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier made light contact in the fast Turn 4 as Jarvis was lapping the LMP3 car and the Ligier went heavily into the tires, bringing out the penultimate full-course caution. With the Cadillacs out front and the MSR crew looking for an edge, Jarvis brought the Acura in for a top-off and the strategy nearly paid off later when a shorter final fill gave them track position. Shortly after the race resumed, once the clock read under 40 minutes, everybody came in to top off — the No. 10 going first. Jarvis brought the No. 60 in the next lap, beating Taylor out of the pits. Needing more fuel, both CGR Cadillacs lost track position.
With Jarvis leading and Taylor now pursuing, Taylor got caught in a bit of traffic in Turn 3. Earl Bamber in the No. 02 CGR Cadillac got a run, dove inside in the first part of Moss Corner, hit Taylor and spun the Acura. That put Taylor out of contention, and earned a drive-through penalty for Bamber.
The move gave Jarvis a nice cushion back to Westbrook, who would have to fend off van der Zande. That cushion was erased when Taylor, trying to get by Pipo Derani’s No. 31 Action Express Cadillac in Turn 9, made contact and spun himself into the tire barrier. It took him a moment to get going, brining out another full-course caution and setting up van der Zande’s run to the front. In the space of eight minutes he got by Westbrook – which also opened the door for Derani to pass Westbrook – and then Jarvis. Derani and Olivier Pla finished third — the third podium for Action Express this season.
The victory inches Bourdais and van der Zande closer to teammates Bamber and Lynn for third in the championship. Finishing second – for the fifth race in a row – while Taylor and Albuquerque finished sixth means Blomqvist and Jarvis retake the points lead heading into the penultimate round for the DPi teams at Road America next month.
“We had a quick car; very difficult to drive, so not an easy race. OK, we come away with the points, leading the championship, but pretty disappointing,” said Jarvis.
Jarett Andretti lost the LMP3 pole in post-qualifying scrutineering, but he pushed the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier to the front before handing over to Gabby Chaves. At that point Colin Braun was in the No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier, having taken over from Jon Bennett, and pushing toward the front — eventually winning the race.
“I don’t know how exactly it all shook out; I just know we executed in a lot of the little details the right way and found ourselves at the front at the end,” said Braun. “We had really good pace in practice, and I think we set our car up a bit more for a long run than a qualifying trim. I think that paid off in the end with those long green flag sort of runs and then I was able to have enough pace on the restarts to stay ahead of those guys.”
Chaves and Andretti ended up second, with Ari Balogh and Garrett Grist third in the No. 30 Jr III Ligier. The victory pads the lead of Bennett and Braun over Balogh and Grist.