MONTEREY, Calif. – A trying day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca ended with a podium finish for CORE’s Prototype Challenge squad and a seventh-place finish for the new Porsche program, making its American Le Mans Series GT category debut this weekend.
Following more than an hour of battling amongst the top three in class, Bennett handed the car over to Colin Braun while running second.
After taking over driving duties, Braun held strong in second, but was able to leapfrog the PC leader in his next pit stop thanks to the quick work of the crew.
Braun held onto the PC lead (and set the fastest lap of the race in the process, a 1:20.319) until the final lap, when he lost grip going into Turn 11 on a restart. A quick trip through the gravel lost Braun the PC lead. With only a lap remaining in the four-hour race, there was no time left to reclaim the spot.
CORE’s highly anticipated GT program recorded its first ALMS finish in Monterey.
Though Porsche Factory Driver Patrick Long qualified the car second on Friday, a post-qualifying technical infraction moved the No. 06 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to the back of the grid for Saturday’s race.
Long started the car and quickly made his way through the back of the field into the thick of the GT battles. He was running as high as sixth when he was hit by first a P1 car and then another GT competitor, dropping him back to ninth.
The team did not waver and continued to hit its marks in pit lane as Tom Kimber-Smith took over the wheel. No sooner did the Englishman embark on his first ALMS GT race experience than a PC car spun him into the sand at the top of the Corkscrew.
The spin dropped the No. 06 back to seventh, which is where Long would finish the car after one final driver change.
The American Le Mans Monterey will air on ESPN2, Sunday, May 12, at 4 p.m. ET.
Next up on CORE’s calendar is the Northeast Grand Prix at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park, where Braun and Bennett are the defending PC race winners and Long is the defending GT winner.
Patrick Long (Driver: Porsche No.06): “I’m happy. We ran raced with teams that have been front runners for years. We ran through a bunch of pit stops, a bunch of strategy and finished the race. The things that set us back today were all out of our control. I got hit four times.
“We did exactly what we set out to do, which was to band together as a team. And, we battled back from adversity. Rome wasn’t built in a day; we have to continue building after every single session.
“We had a great start. We were able to get right up to the back of the GT field and started going through them. Ultimately, what stopped our progress was getting spun out in the Corkscrew by the No. 62. We had good speed in the car though and we know a few things we want to work on.
“This was our first weekend out and we’re already a factor in the race. The end result isn’t what we wanted, but you can’t judge a weekend’s performance by the finish position. That’s not just me putting a positive spin on things, that’s genuinely looking back at what we’ve built as a team.”
Tom Kimber-Smith (Driver: Porsche No.06): “I think, for all of us, it was a really hard day. We didn’t come in with any expectations, but after Pat’s qualifying performance, I think we all thought we were in for a good result.
“Basically, all we needed to do was finish the race, and we achieved that. But, between Pat and I, we got hit about five or six times, so I think all credit goes to the crew for building a solid car and to Porsche for providing a solid car. The hits weren’t small, they were big hits.
“Basically, I came out of Turn Six and tried to leave enough room for a PC car. As we’re going up through the Corkscrew, he tried to push me onto the grass. I don’t think he realized I was still there.
What I had to do in the end was turn into him. I think if I had turned into him earlier, he’d have come out of that worse than me. It was unfortunate that we ended up in the gravel, but fortunately we finished the race.”
“There’s a lot we can take away from this weekend and we’re all looking forward to Lime Rock now.”
Colin Braun (Driver: Oreca PC No.05): “It’s was a tough day for sure and not where I thought we deserved to finish. The guys did a good job on pit road, Travis Low made good calls on our strategy and I felt like Jon handed the car over to me in a position to win.
“The caution came out at the end and we had a green/white restart. When the flag came out in the last corner I got on the brakes and locked the rear tires up and was along for the ride after that. I wasn’t really sure what happened. Obviously I didn’t have the grip I needed for how hard I wanted to stop.
“I hate it, because the team worked so hard and that’s not where we wanted to finish, but I think we showed how quick we are. We still have a lot to hold our heads up about and we’ll move on to the next one.”
Jon Bennett (Driver: Oreca PC No.05): “It was one of those weekends that was almost too good to be true. We unloaded and we were fast, our new engineer Travis Low did a great job and the whole team was very optimistic about the race.
The optimism was valid all the way through the race and then just a tiny bit of bad luck bit us on the last turn. It was still a strong finish for the team, but a little deflating at the same time.
“We entered into the GT program not so much focused on results as experience. In many ways we achieved that this weekend, but there was some bad luck for the No. 06. It was a good weekend, so you shouldn’t focus on the results because they could be a bit misleading.