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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Acura IMSA stars' simultaneous Le Mans returns a "coincidence"

Daytona 24 Hours winner Colin Braun says it's a "coincidence" that both he and Acura colleague Simon Pagenaud are both ending lengthy Le Mans absences in the same year.

#45 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca 07 - Gibson of George Kurtz, James Allen, Colin Braun

The Meyer Shank Racing driver in the IMSA SportsCar Championship's GTP division has joined LMP2 squad Algarve Pro Racing to make his first Le Mans appearance since he finished second in the GT2 class in 2007.

Braun will line up ninth in the pro-am ORECA-Gibson 07 he shares with James Allen and bronze George Kurtz, who Braun has spent a decade coaching since his first foray in Radicals.

Fellow Honda Performance Development driver Pagenaud, who joined MSR to win Daytona in each of the last two seasons, is also making his Le Mans return at LMP2 squad Cool Racing - having been absent since he finished second with Peugeot in 2011 - due to scheduling clashes with IndyCar.

As a result, Acura has the bulk of its GTP driver roster present at Le Mans, with MSR drivers Braun and Pagenaud joined by Tom Blomqvist (United Autosports) plus Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti trio Ricky Taylor (TDS Racing), Filipe Albuquerque (United) and Louis Deletraz (WRT).

However, with Acura and parent brand Honda yet to commit its GTP programme to Le Mans, Braun says his long-awaited return owes more to coincidence than any signal of intent from HPD.

"I don’t really know too many details on everybody else’s programmes, but certainly for me, coincidence I guess that it all lines up with the others being here as well," he told Autosport.

"My relationship with George is the reason I’m in this programme, so it’s great to be a part of it and hopefully the first step of many."

 

Pagenaud explained that he concluded his deal quickly with Cool boss Nicolas Lapierre at Daytona when he learned there was a vacancy in the team's Le Mans line-up, resulting from its European Le Mans Series regular Jose Maria Lopez being already committed to Toyota.

Reflecting on his long Le Mans hiatus following his maiden outing as an 18-year-old in a Risi Competizione Ferrari, Braun said he "feels like a rookie again in a way".

"I barely remember a lot about it," the 34-year-old said. "A lot of the little details and a lot of nuances are sort of gone I guess, and being in a different class obviously and having so much experience since then to now, it’s all a bit different.

"Obviously this one being the 100th, everything is bigger and more fans and more everything, so I think it’s a little bit hard to compare this to the normal year that I did in 2007.

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"But certainly everything has evolved, everything is a bit more just elevated I would say.

"When I did it in 2007 I was obviously on the young side and probably didn’t appreciate all the little things that this race means, so [it is] neat to be able to come back with a bit more perspective, a bit more maturity and be able to appreciate what this race is about."

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