CORE autosport has previously enjoyed three successful trips to the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, but this time around the streets of Long Beach were not kind to the reigning Prototype Challenge Champions. The No. 54 Flex-Box/Composite Resources ORECA FLM09 exited the latest WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race early.
It began in PC qualifying, which was abandoned after an incident brought out a red and prevented the session from meeting the minimum green flag time. As a result, the PC grid was set by driver points, despite Jon Bennett being second-quickest in class when the red came. Instead, Bennett lined up fourth for the start.
After holding his own at the start, Bennett got caught in traffic and fell to sixth. Shortly before reaching his minimum drive time, Bennett got hit by a GT car, which spun him into the wall between Turns Nine and 10. The hit broke the car’s left rear suspension and rear wing.
Bennett was able to get the car back to the pits and the CORE crew immediately got to work repairing the damage. The No. 54 was back on track within 20 minutes, but it was several laps down to its competitors.
Bennett completed one lap to meet his minimum drive time and then handed the car off to co-driver Colin Braun. Despite being the quickest PC car on tack upon his return, Braun reported something wasn’t right at the back of the car. The issue worsened and ultimately, the left rear suspension failed as result of the first hit. Braun came to a halt on course in Turn 11.
CORE’s Long Beach race ended with 30 minutes left on the clock.
The team has little more than a week to get the No. 54 back in top shape before the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, April 29 – May 1.
“Our weekend started with our typical organized and positive tone from the moment we unloaded the truck. With Jeff Braun’s engineering and a well-built car from Rock Hill, we had a super fast car in all of the practices.
I had a pretty good qualifying effort too that unfortunately got reversed.
“I had difficulty finding pace in the disorganization of packing up for the start of the race and I encountered difficult traffic. Later a GT car hit me, I spun and made contact with a concrete wall. The car was significantly damaged, but I was able to drive it to pit lane. The guys did a remarkable job repairing it in the pits.
“I handed the car over to Colin, and even with a damaged car, Colin went out and turned the fastest PC lap at the time. The team did a great job getting the car back together and Colin did a great job with a hurt car. Unfortunately, some of the damage from the hit caused us to retire the car before the end of the race. It was a rough day in the office. We’ll pick up the pieces and take the car to Laguna Seca and get back to scoring championship points.”
– JON BENNETT
“We just didn’t seem to have any luck this weekend. We had a really fast car and we were quickest in every practice session by a good chunk. Jon did a killer job in qualifying, but we didn’t get to count qualifying. The race start was pretty strewn about and not orderly, so we lost quite a bit of time avoiding the chaos.
“Jon was doing a good job, but then a GT car hit him and it spun him into the wall pretty hard. The guys did a good job fixing it up. It was a really big hit. I’m proud of the guys for digging hard and getting it fixed. It’s not easy to assess the damage and change the parts and figure out what needs to be fixed and what doesn’t.
“I jumped in the car and it was definitely wounded. I think we had more severe damage than we initially thought. I was able to go out there and be reasonably quick, but then something more broke in the left rear where the car was hit. Unfortunately, it broke in a spot on the track where I couldn’t easily get off the track and into a safe area. I hate that we brought the yellow out at the end of the race, but I had no where I could get to because I had no drive.”
– COLIN BRAUN