BOWMANVILLE, Ontario– The entire weekend came down to one moment for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
After struggling through the practice sessions, the one bright spot heading into the race was the lap No. 67 driver Ryan Briscoe put down in qualifying. Briscoe put the Ford GT he shares with Richard Westbrook on the front row at p2 with a 1:13.831. There was hope. Then, through much of the 2-hour, 40-minute race, there didn’t seem to be anymore. Until the very end.
Westbrook, who’d made it up to the front of the GTLM pack by waiting while other teams pitted, got the call on the radio to duck into pitlane for a quick stop while a caution flag flew. Thanks to the crew, he kept the lead.
“I’m just a little in shock, actually,” Briscoe said. “I didn’t see that coming, especially after the first stint. The car was a real handful. We made adjustments with the tire pressures and ran the absolute perfect strategy, got Rick in and he just drove masterfully. We caught the yellow at the end, saw that happening and dove in the pits and came out with the lead.”
With the win, their second of the season after driving to victory lane at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Westbrook and Briscoe regained the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship points lead they’d lost to teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Müller just last Sunday.
“I’m just so happy,” Briscoe said. “It was such a disappointment at Watkins Glen where we definitely had the fastest car all weekend, then had a mechanical issue one hour into the race. That was a tough one to swallow, and to come back here where we weren’t expecting to get the win and get the win, it’s just incredible. I’m so happy and so proud of my teammate and the whole team at Ford CGR.”
It was Westbrook and Briscoe’s third podium in a row at CTMP and Ford CGR’s second in a row this month after Hand, Müller and the No. 66 Ford GT team won at Watkins Glen.
“It was a struggle all weekend,” Westbrook said. “Then Ryan threw down just an insane lap in qualifying, which gave us hope. Maybe a little bit of false hope. That’s what I was thinking an hour and a half into the race. The car was really tricky but the team did a great job adjusting tire pressures. That’s what you expect from Ford CGR. The car got better as the fuel went down. They decided to leave me out, which was a really good call and we got a safety car at the end, which was good. We were definitely on for a podium, but that safety car gave us the win. It was just awesome.”
Hand and Müller finished fifth after a mechanical issue in qualifying put them at the back of the GTLM field for the start.
“It was a tough weekend for us,” Hand said. “Coming off a win at Watkins Glen, we had good momentum and we just struggled a little bit with the car. We had an issue in qualifying that put us in the back and it’s a tough race track if you don’t have track position. We fought for track position all day and just couldn’t get in the right spot to be there at the end. The No. 67 guys did a great job. Dirk and I did what we could, but they were at the right place at the right time and as we’ve done before, capitalized on opportunity. It was a great tour for the Ford CGR team, because the boys have been on the road for two weeks and they won two races. That’s all we can do as a team.”
Ford maintains the series manufacturers points lead over Chevrolet and Porsche entering the next race at Lime Rock Park, Conn., in two weeks.