LAKEVILLE, CT, Saturday, July 7, 2012: CORE autosport pulled off a championship-caliber performance in today’s American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, as the team scored a one-two finish in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class.
Jon Bennett and Colin Braun, driving the #05 Composite Resources ORECA FLM09, scored their second race win in a row (fifth overall). The sister #06 Soloson Import machine, driven by Alex Popow and Tom Kimber-Smith, finished second (sixth overall).
The day began at the seven-turn, 1.47-mile road course with the threat of storms. Luckily for the team, the rain held off and the two hour and 45 minute race began with Popow in the #05 in fourth (11th overall) and Bennett in fifth (12th). Within 12 minutes, Popow took the first spot, while Bennett was mired in GT traffic.
At just past the one-hour mark, Popow handed the #06 off to Kimber-Smith, still in first, and Bennett turned the #05 over to Braun, after fighting his way up to third with an impressive run.
At that point the battle began between the two-car team. With a bit more than an hour left in the event, a full-course caution came out and the team came in for stops. By the time the race resumed with 50 minutes to go, Kimber-Smith was in the second spot and Braun was in third.
It was then when Braun lived up to his reputation, matching the standard for a race-winning pass equalling the drama of he and Bennett’s win at Laguna Seca in May, when he wheeled the Composite Resources machine around Kimber-Smith and the then-first-place #52 car within one lap. Braun never looked back and was able to score the first position, marking his and Bennett’s second consecutive win and fourth team victory in four races for CORE autosport.
While he was chasing victory, Braun set the fastest PC-class lap of the race at 48.823 seconds, a new track record.
Kimber-Smith moved up to second spot after the #52 suffered an incident. He was starting to battle Braun for first, but unfortunately the #06 machine had contact with a GT car with a mere eight minutes left in the race. The Soloson Import machine was relatively undamaged and made it back to the start/finish line without issue.
The two team cars finished on the same lap – 164 – two laps ahead of the third place PC finisher.
CORE autosport maintains a lead in the 2012 ALMS PC team championship with a total of eight podiums in four races (four wins, three thirds, one second). Popow remains the leader in the driver’s championship; just a few points ahead of second-place Bennett and Braun. In 2011, the Rock Hill, SC-based team won both championships.
“When the race began, the race circuit was damp and I fell into the grips of the GT race. Those guys were not playing around and I found myself in a bad neighborhood there.
“It was at that point that I took a moment to collect my thoughts, get organized, settled in the car and know that we were going for two hours and 45 minutes, and it was going to be all right. Once the race calmed down a little bit, I was able to pick off the GT cars one at a time.
“As it turned out, I was in a fairly good position with a car that was not bent, not broken and in a position to win when I gave it to Colin. And then the magic started.
“It means a lot for me to win at Lime Rock as this is my ‘home' track. I grew up not far from here and I’d come to the track when I was in high school. I knew I wanted to drive and win here and to have a one-two finish is just fantastic.”
“What a great day for CORE autosport and a one-two finish.
“We had a strong car all day. I was impressed with Jon’s performance at the start of the race and his pace was spot on. When he turned the car over to me I was in good shape.
“Luckily we were able to capitalize with a really good restart – it was one of those restarts where you had to push 100 percent. I just knew that it was going to be then or never to pass the first and second place cars.
“Once I got into first, it was about managing the gap and the risk from that point, especially with the traffic here, which is tough. You’ve got to be smart out there.
“It’s just amazing that we got two wins in a row in the #05 car. There’s no question that Jon, Gary (Davies, lead engineer) and I are clicking really well together. Now we’ve got to keep the momentum going for the season and win those championships.”
“Congratulations to the whole CORE autosport organization for a great finish. It’s really a first class organization that I enjoy driving with.
“For my car, we had a pretty good race.
"I started in fourth and was able to take first in PC and then held on before I turned the car over to Tom.
“Second is good, but I’ve got to keep going, keep pushing and the #06 guys and I will go for the win in Canada.”
“Yesterday we may have had some issues with the car, but those seemed to be resolved overnight. Today it felt mega.
“Alex and I did everything we could to try to win this race. We were leading but then Colin got in the other car, was really fast and we got unlucky with traffic, caution periods, what have you.
“I’m learning how to race the American way, which is quite different from the European-spec of racing. It’s so aggressive here. There’s so much contact, all the time, especially at a small track like Lime Rock.
“What made it clear to me was seeing what Colin did on that restart when he passed me and the other car. I learned what you have to do now.
“I was hoping to come home clean, but at the end of the race I just didn’t have any place to go with the GT car and we made contact. Unfortunately these things happen.
“Thanks again to Alex and CORE autosport for having me drive again today. The team is first-class and deserves the championships.”
Source: CORE autosport