ALTON, Va. (Aug. 23, 2014) – As part of the split-race format for the Prototype Challenge category at VIRginia International Raceway, Jon Bennett qualified the No. 54 ORECA FLM09 fifth and finished Race Segment 1 in seventh. Colin Braun will start Sunday’s Race Segment 2 from seventh.
A break from the TUDOR United SportsCar Series’ typical two-hour and 45-minute race format, the PC class is instead faced with a one-hour and 30-minute race at VIR, split into two 45-minute segments. Both segments combine the PC cars with IMSA Prototype Lites cars. This format is similar to the one used at Kansas International Raceway in June, a race won by CORE autosport.
While Braun typically has qualifying duties in the No. 54, the split-race format requires the team’s bronze or silver-rated driver to qualify the car. In CORE’s case, that driver is Bennett. In his second qualifying performance of the season, Bennett put the No. 54 fifth on the PC grid.
Starting from fifth, Bennett initially fell back to seventh after the start, but moved into sixth when another driver spun. While running sixth, Bennett was in hot pursuit of fifth-place Martin Fuentes, but lost momentum and fell into the clutches of former teammate Frankie Montecalvo, who passed Bennett for sixth-place with 20 minutes to go.
The race was briefly halted by a single full-course caution, but green flag racing resumed with seven minutes to go. Bennett survived a close call with a loose tire on track in the closing laps and held onto his seventh-place all the way to the checkered flag.
The finish order for Race Segment 1 determines the starting grid for Race Segment 2. Braun will take over driving duties for Sunday’s 45-minute affair, which goes green at 10:45 am ET and will be streamed live on IMSA.com.
“We had a pretty good result in qualifying. Obviously, we would’ve hoped for better than fifth. But in terms of our lap times, we were certainly competitive. Qualifying is not something I get to do often, so I certainly enjoyed the extra track time and the challenge of qualifying well. Maybe next year there’s a way to work that into the system so it happens more often.
“The start was a bit chaotic. Sometimes you come out on the good side of it and sometimes you don’t. It was a bit of a rough start in terms of maintaining position. One of the cars didn’t start so that changed the grid a little during the pace lap. But it settled down. I just struggled a little today with some handling and lack of grip. I’m sure we’ll get the car tuned-up for tomorrow, and Colin will have a good race.
“The Lites traffic for the most part was predictable, and I think the two cars race together pretty well in terms of speed differential. On the other hand, I don’t think the Lites drivers are used to faster cars coming by, so you have to be careful you don’t surprise them in a place where they’re not expecting the pass.
“Late in the race there was an incident exiting Turn 5 that turned up a lot of grass, smoke and dust. I saw the car off the side of the track, but then tires from the tire wall started rolling my way. But luckily I was able to avoid the debris and continue on.”
– Jon Bennett