LE MANS, France (June 17, 2018) – CORE autosport owner/driver Jon Bennett experienced his first laps on the famed Circuit de la Sarthe this week when he participated in the Road to Le Mans support race. Though he experienced some bad luck that affected he and co-driver Nic Jönsson’s results, the track time was invaluable.
A combination of local roads and permanent race course, the Circuit de la Sarthe—home of the 24 Hours of Le Mans—is open for race events only, making it unavailable for testing. With an eye to participate in a future 24 Hours of Le Mans, Bennett entered a support series for this year’s big event to gain experience. He drove the No. 15 Ligier JS P3 with Nic Jönsson in the Road to Le Mans, which offers a combined total of four and a half hours of track time across practice, qualifying and race sessions.
Bennett, Jönsson and the M Racing – YMR team had two productive practice sessions before a problem in qualifying. Shortly after taking to the circuit, Jönsson lost a wheel and came to a stop. As a result, he did not turn a representative time in the first qualifying session and Bennett could not turn any laps in the second qualifying session that immediately followed. The pair would start near the back of the 50-car grid in both races.
Jönsson started the first race 55-minute race from 42nd on the grid and climbed through the field to 15th when it was time to pit and hand the car over to Bennett. While attempting to continue Jönsson’s forward progress, a rear axle failure brought Bennett to a stop on the Mulsanne straight with five minutes left in the race. He was classified as finishing 41st in the race results.
Bennett took the wheel to start race two from 45th on the grid. During his stint Bennett was able to crack the top 10 before handing the car over to Jönsson to finish. After the field had completed its pit stops, Jönsson was shuffled back to 31st, but climbed back to 22nd at the finish.
Bennett will team back up with Colin Braun and Romain Dumas for the next round in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, June 29 – July 1.
Driver: No. 15 Ligier JS P3
“The Yvan Muller Racing team did a wonderful job this whole event. An unusual situation caused Nic to lose a wheel early in qualifying, which basically left us with zero lap times for either qualifying session. We were pretty much relegated to starting last in both races.
“The mission in running the Road to Le Mans race was to gain a little track time so that if we come back in the future for the 24-hour race, that in addition to learning a new event and rule set, we wouldn’t be learning a new track at the same time.
“While the qualifying setback hurt our finish results, I did get a lot of quality track time and now have a sense of what this track is about. I think it puts us in a great place to begin any further adventures at Le Mans.
“Nic Jonsson started the first race and did a magnificent job moving us from the 42th spot on the grid into 15th. Nic handed the car over to me. I had a good stint. About five minutes from the end of the race, under acceleration out of the first chicane, we broke an axle and coasted to a stop.
“Our goal was to get some time on track and get a sense of the race course and environment. We’d like to have a better finish, but that wasn’t our ultimate goal.”