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#54: Core Autosport Ligier JS P320, LMP3: Jonathan Bennett, Colin Braun, #74: Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320, LMP3: Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga, start, green flag

New Blood Takes on Old Guard in LMP3 Title Tussle

Prototype Rookie Robinson Takes 50-Point Lead over Braun, Bennett into Finale

 

By Godwin Kelly

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s the new kid on the prototype block against the battle-tested veterans vying for the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) title in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

 

Gar Robinson, who has four wins in his rookie year racing prototypes, must go head-to-head with veterans Colin Braun – who made his first prototype start in 2005 at the tender age of 17 – and Jon Bennett, who teamed with Braun to win consecutive Prototype Challenge championships in 2014 and ’15.

 

The outcome of the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Nov. 13 will be the deciding factor for this crown in the first year of LMP3 competition for the WeatherTech Championship. Robinson, who will co-drive the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 with Felipe Fraga and Scott Andrews, leads the championship with Bennett and Braun right under his rear wing, trailing by a mere 50 points. Braun and Bennett will share the wheel of the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier with George Kurtz for this 10-hour marathon.

 

Both teams recently tested together at Michelin Raceway, each keeping one eye on the other.

 

“Riley and CORE are equal,” Robinson, 26, said. “Riley has more prototype experience than CORE. I think both teams have put in a lot of work this year and having a showdown between the two big teams is what people want to watch. I’m happy to be on one side of this battle.”

 

#54: Core Autosport Ligier JS P320, LMP3: Jonathan Bennett, Colin Braun, winners circle, podium
Colin Braun (l), Jon Bennett (r)

Braun, who figures he has raced prototypes 10 seasons during a career that began in 2005 and includes 20 IMSA wins, thinks the championship could be decided in the last handful of laps. He’s ready for the challenge.

 

 

“The experience certainly helps on the prototypes side,” Braun, 33, said. “Both Jon and I have been through coming into the last race with the championship on the line. I think that experience is helpful. The Riley guys and Gar are very experienced and super-tough competitors, so that means this will be a fight all the way to the end, I’m sure.”

 

While Robinson is new to the prototype scene, he isn’t intimidated by this high-profile, pressure-packed, season-ending points skirmish.

 

“I stared down the barrel of a championship three times in a row in Trans Am and won two of them,” he said. “I know what it takes to play the points game. I know when you need to push, when you need to take risks, when you need to check your risk assessment.

 

“Risk assessment will be fairly high for us going into Petit Le Mans,” Robinson added. “The best thing we can do is treat it like any other race we have gone to this year. Every one of these races is different. There is no such thing as a routine race in IMSA. Each race has its own flavor.”

 

#74: Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320, LMP3: Gar Robinson on pole.
Gar Robinson

Robinson and the No. 74 Riley won the Rolex 24 At Daytona (which didn’t award WeatherTech Championship points for the LMP3 class) to open the season and followed with triumphs at Mid-Ohio and the back-to-back races at Watkins Glen. Braun, Bennett and the No. 54 CORE captured the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March and the most recent LMP3 race at Road America in August. They are the only two LMP3 cars to win this year.

 

Robinson may have more wins and the narrow points lead, but Braun said Michelin Raceway is a different animal on the WeatherTech Championship circuit and it’s a track where each of the three contending drivers has yet to win.

 

“The small-detail things, like negotiating traffic, are definitely helpful on the experience side,” Braun said. “We are doing our best to put our best foot forward. The more experience, certainly the better. On the flipside of that, I know Gar has done this race a few times in GTD (GT Daytona) – slightly different cars but certainly he has experience at Road Atlanta as well. This makes for an exciting battle, for sure.”

 

All five WeatherTech Championship classes will be in action at Motul Petit Le Mans. Practice begins Thursday, Nov. 11, with qualifying set for 3:45 p.m. ET Friday, Nov. 12. The start of the 10-hour race airs live at noon Saturday, Nov. 13 on NBC, with coverage switching to NBCSN at 3 p.m. and running through the dramatic conclusion shortly after 10 p.m. Flag-to-flag coverage is also available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio. Tickets to attend are available at roadatlanta.com.