Red Bull GRC: After four winners in four races, who conquers Canada?

Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool
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Red Bull Global Rallycross heads north of the border for its first Canadian race in its history this weekend. The trip to Ottawa’s Canada Aviation and Space Museum is part of the Ottawa 2017 calendar, a year-long celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.

You can see both Rounds 5 and 6 on the NBC Sports Group networks. Saturday’s Round 5 airs at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and Sunday’s Round 6 airs at 4 p.m. ET on NBC.

It’s an important event for Red Bull GRC as it makes its debut in Canada, to showcase the talent and potential of the Supercars and GRC Lites fields.

Asked earlier this year what his favorite event to look forward to in his Supercars debut season, GRC Lites champion Cabot Bigham of Bryan Herta Rallysport said Canada is it.

“For Canada, it’ll be my first time ever leaving the country to race… I guess except (Las) Vegas for an international conference!” Bigham laughed, speaking to NBC Sports pre-season. “But going to Canada will be really cool in general for us and for GRC.”

Bigham isn’t a winner yet this year but there’s been no shortage of variety at the top of the GRC charts, as four drivers from three teams and three manufacturers have won so far this season.

Between Scott Speed (Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, Memphis), Sebastian Eriksson (Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE, Louisville), Tanner Foust (Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, Thompson 1) and Steve Arpin (Loenbro Motorsports Ford, Thompson 2), it’s been a year where no one driver has dominated and parity has reigned.

Just 20 points separate Speed (288 points), Foust (269) and Arpin (268) heading to the second doubleheader weekend of the year, and the weekend that brings Red Bull GRC’s 2017 campaign to its halfway point.

Honda’s trio of Mitchell DeJong (244), Sebastian Eriksson (215) and Oliver Eriksson (203) are also within striking range. DeJong scored his first Supercars podium at Thompson race one while Oliver Eriksson has a best finish of fourth in the finals.

Bigham has a best finish of sixth and sits seventh in points. Subaru Rally Team USA finally got a double top-five at Thompson race two, with Chris Atkinson on the podium in third and Patrik Sandell in fifth.

The 0.762-mile course is linked below.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”