Over the last couple of days at Daytona International Speedway, teams and drivers have continued to test the new LMDh cars for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTP class. Among the drivers getting more time in new seats was Colin Braun, the newest addition to Meyer Shank Racing. Braun (pictured at left, above) will join Tom Blomqvist (middle) in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 in 2023, with MSR’s IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves (pictured at right) and Simon Pagenaud added for endurance roles.
Stepping into a championship ride is a big ask — Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis won the final DPi title in 2022. But Braun is a champion himself, after winning the 2022 LMP3 title in the WeatherTech Championship with Jon Bennett. And his wide-ranging racing resume that includes everything from NASCAR to GT3 to Daytona Prototypes and DPi also features a previous stint with MSR, in the 2009 24 Hours of Daytona, as well as setting a speed record with the team in 2013 at Daytona; Team principal Mike Shank and Braun have known each other a long time.
“Coming in as the new guy, you know, I’m excited to be a part of it,” says Braun of his latest opportunity. “These guys have been great to work with so far. And I’m coming in ready to go. The great season they had in 2022, winning the two biggest races and winning the championship, these guys have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge. I’m looking forward to 2023 working alongside Tom full time — his experience on the electric side of things is going to be a huge help as well. So great teammates, really good people to work with, and being a piece of it is going to be an exciting journey.”
The electric experience Braun refers to is Blomqvist’s time in Formula E, which may come into play with the ARX-06’s hybrid drivetrain. That aspect is new for Braun, but he’s found it pretty easy to adapt to so far.
“I tested in Sebring a few weeks ago. So far, I love it. It’s a lot of fun to drive,” he says. “The hybrid side has been pretty natural, I’d say, to sort of understand and we’re gaining experience as a group, and for me, personally, each lap. It’s fun on the engineering side of things; you’ve got quite a few more tools to work with inside the cockpit, on that hybrid side. So that’s making it a lot of fun to understand the changes we can make to the car from from inside. And more to be to be learned and explored, but I’m really impressed so far.”
One particular things he notes with the hybrid is in deceleration. The LMDh cars use regenerative braking and brake-by-wire, so there’s many things that can be adjusted on that side beyond basic front-rear bias. How that will all work and how it will mesh with other setup changes will be one of many things he and the team will be learning as the season goes on.
That’s especially true, he believes, because of IMSA’s unique schedule. From the banking of Daytona to the bumps of Sebring to the first sprint race on the streets of Long Beach, each of the first three races of the season provide a unique challenge, and will present new lessons.
The challenge is one he’s up for, hoping to pull from his wide range of experience. Even the past few years alone, aside from his tenure at CORE Autosport in prototypes with Bennett, he’s been partnering with George Kurtz in Fanatec GT World Challenge America in a Mercedes-AMG GT3, and is fresh off a 25 Hours of Thunderhill victory with Kurtz, Felipe Fraga and Matt McMurry. Braun says he believes that mix of experience played a big part in getting the ride. But the MSR opportunity also means his long stint with CORE and Bennet comes to an end, although the team exits the competition realm on a high note with the LMP3 championship.
“Jon was sort of at a place in his career where he’d accomplished a lot of things n the sport and he had some things outside of racing that were kind of taking away some of his attention and some of his focus,” Braun explains. “I think he was at the point where it probably could have gone either way for him. This opportunity came up and he’s always been a huge supporter of mine, and a big encourager of my career. So I think it was the perfect storm — Jon and I are great friends and I was able to openly talk to him about the opportunity and I think it was just the right timing on all sides.
“Also, with the fact that we won the championship, it was a great kind of storybook ending to the lineage of CORE. All the things just kind of fell into place. There are so many times in racing where it doesn’t work that way, so it was really awesome to kind of see it all line up and go the right way.”
Now it’s on to the next opportunity. While the new ARX-06 and the prospect of once again fighting for the championship in the top class excites him, it’s the MSR team that’s got him most revved up for 2023.
“The most exciting thing for me is working with this group of guys,” he declares. “They’re so on top of it — they’re all working so hard. Having a great co-driver in Tom, and Helio and Simon … you couldn’t ask for for better guys to work with. So I think it’s the people, it’s a big opportunity for sure to come in and keep the success going in this program. It’s nice to be coming into a program that’s established and the team works really well. Mike (Shank) has great leadership on that side. You know, we’ve got new vehicles to understand how they work, but to me it comes down to the people and the team. Then we can figure out anything.”