CORE autosport continued its prolific streak of success, collecting its fifth-straight Prototype Challenge title in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship finale at Road Atlanta. By finishing fourth in the rain-shortened 18th Annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, CORE secured both the team and driver championships for Jon Bennett and Colin Braun.
The race started under a steady rain that intermittently worsened throughout the day. The hazardous conditions brought out 11 cautions throughout the race, a 65-minute red flag, and eventually brought the 10-hour endurance classic to an end two hours early. It was the first time Petit Le Mans has ended before the 10-hour mark since 2009.
Slated to start sixth on the PC grid, Bennett was bumped to fifth when the No. 8 Starworks car was moved to the back of the PC grid. Knowing he had to meet his minimum drive time of two hours and five minutes, Bennett patiently sloshed through the wet track, avoiding the various spinning cars that brought out yellow flags. He successfully kept the No. 54 Composite Resources/Flex Box ORECA FLM09 on the track and handed the car over to Braun in fifth place when he completed his required time at the wheel.
The conditions did not improve for Braun. In fact, series officials issued a red flag in hopes of waiting out the heavier rain.
When the race restarted, Braun handed the car over to Anthony Lazzaro who was racing with CORE for the first time. Even in Lazzaro’s experienced hands, the standing water on track became too much to handle and he spun off track in the Esses and made contact with the wall.
With more than three hours remaining in the race, the crew quickly went to work on the car to get it back on track, even though the PC Championship was theirs as soon as Bennett had completed his stint. The team quickly repaired the right-rear suspension and had the car back on track with Bennett behind the wheel, but numerous laps down. However, attrition had taken such a toll on the PC class that the No. 54 was one of only four cars still running.
Finally, with two hours and 10 minutes still remaining in the race, and the sun setting on the Road Atlanta, officials threw the checkered flag to bring the race to an early end. With the rain intensifying and darkness looming, IMSA determined it was too dangerous to continue the race to its full 10-hour length. Bennett crossed the finish line in fourth.
It wasn’t a race win, but it was more than enough for CORE to take home its fifth-consecutive PC Team Championship (three in the American Le Mans Series and now two in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship). It was also the second-straight PC Drivers Championship for Bennett and Braun.
Highlights from the rain-logged Petit Le Mans will air on FOX Sports 1, Sunday, Oct. 4, at 1:30pm ET.
After celebrating Monday at the Night of Champions in Atlanta, CORE will get right back to work preparing for 2016, which kicks off with the Roar Before the 24, January 8 – 10.
“We would have certainly loved to win the race today, but it was a really tough race. The weather conditions were simply impossible. At the end of the day, we did what we had to do – clinch the team and drivers championships.
“My mission today was to finish my stint incident-free in very difficult conditions. Colin got in and did a great job, and then handed it off to Anthony Lazzaro. Anthony is new to our team and new to the car, which was a really impossible assignment for him. He got caught out and we did medium damage to the car. The guys at CORE did a superb job getting the car back together. We made the decision to put me back in the car for some time before handing it off to Colin for the finish. But the weather just didn’t hold out.
“It was a great day for CORE autosport – both on the PC side and the Porsche side. I’m so happy for our partners at Porsche. The fact that our guys over there were able to put a Porsche 911 GTLM car P1 at Petit Le Mans is simply incredible.”
– Jon Bennett
“I’m very excited to win the championship – that was our goal coming in here. We were in a fortunate enough spot and also an unfortunate spot where we really had to play to the strengths of us winning the championship and focus on that more than we did anything else. We knew that was probably going to come at a detriment to us winning the race, but we wanted to win the championship. It was one of those unique things where we had to win the war first, then fight the battle.
“All in all, the guys did a great job and Jon did a great job staying in there for two and a half hours straight in hard conditions. I was really proud of him. I had a good solid stint and we made up a couple laps on strategy. We were in decent position, but unfortunately Anthony caught the puddle wrong. That could of happened to any of us. It was tricky out there, and it caught out a lot of people today. It was unfortunate, but that’s the way racing is.
“The team did a great job. They showed why win championships. They never give up. To see the effort they put in to fix the car is inspiring.”
– Colin Braun
“It was a tough race today and the conditions were pretty treacherous. I lost control at the bottom of the Esses and hydroplaned off the road. It’s unfortunate because the guys did a great job, but it was impressive watching them get the car back out on track. CORE is an awesome team and they have a lot great people. It’s a high-level team with a great atmosphere.”
– Anthony Lazzaro