MONTEREY, Calif. (May 1, 2016) – After starting from pit lane, CORE autosport made an impressive comeback at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun made up a one-lap deficit with pit strategy and strong pace to finish third in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda.
Sunday’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event at Mazda Raceway was separated into two, two-hour races. The Prototype and GTLM cars raced in the morning, while the Prototype Challenge and GTD cars took to the track together in the afternoon.
Though Bennett qualified the No. 54 Flex-Box/Composite Resources ORECA FLM09 fifth on the grid, a fueling issue during the warm up forced the team to bring the car back to the paddock. The CORE autosport crew was quick to fix the issue, but there was only 10 minutes between the warm up and recon lap, thus the team did not make it to the grid in time. IMSA rules state that if a car is late to the grid, it must start the race from pit lane and then serve a drive-through penalty.
As the green flag waved, Bennett waited patiently in the No. 54 at the end of pit lane while both the PC and GTD cars went by with a large gap in between. After being released from pit lane and then serving the drive-through penalty, Bennett was back out on track in front of the race leaders and had no choice but to go a lap down.
CORE quickly adjusted its pit strategy and was ready to bring Bennett in as soon as he reached minimum drive time. Not long after the pit stop and change to Braun, the race’s first and only full-course caution was issued. The team brought Braun right back onto pit lane for a splash of fuel and put him out ahead of the PC field, who all needed to do a full-service stop with driver change. The No. 54 was now back on the lead lap.
Braun was also the beneficiary of a wave-by, which enabled him to pass the safety car and position himself at the back of the GTD field. Now all he had to do was climb through the GTD traffic and up the PC order while saving fuel so he could make it to the finish without another pit stop.
It was a tall order, but Braun was up to the task. He set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:20.380 (100.3 mph), while passing car after car. He finally cracked the top-three just as the white flag came out. Without more time on the clock, Braun crossed the line in third. It is the team’s second-straight podium at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
CORE autosport has a month off before it hits the track again. June 3 – 4 it heads to the streets of Detroit, Michigan, for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers. The race will air live on FS1 at 12:30pm ET.
“It was really an incredible effort. We had a fueling issue with the car after warm up. Unfortunately that caused us to miss the recon lap. The penalty for that is to start from pit lane plus a drive-thru penalty. We had a lot to make up today. I tip my hat to the entire team and Colin. It was a real team effort and amazing result.
“It was a different sort of race for us starting from well behind. We had a very good engineering strategy to get us in a place to strike. We tried to force our competitors into a little fuel issue, but it didn’t quite work out for us. It was a close one, and I look forward to getting back on track at Detroit.”
– JON BENNETT
“I knew we were going to have to play catch up all day after the warm up issue, so I wasn’t surprised by our strategy. It was a challenge to save fuel while also needing to pass so many cars, make up the gaps and get through the GTD field without doing anything crazy. It was fun racing though.
“If you look back on our last two weeks; we got wrecked at Long Beach and those guys worked their tails off to get the car fixed between events when we didn’t have the chance to come back home. The guys also came through big time today and several of them were sick, but they kept working and never gave up. That’s the strength of CORE, we never give up and we stay at it.”
– COLIN BRAUN