CORE autosport narrowly missed a TUDOR United SportsCar Championship podium finish at Watkins Glen International. After a strong drive in six hours of difficult conditions, the team finished fourth in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Wet weather arrived in Watkins Glen on Saturday during the final practice session and worsened throughout the day to the point that IMSA officials were forced to cancel qualifying. This meant the grid would be set by point standings, putting the No. 54 Composite Resources/Flex Box ORECA FLM09 on the pole position.
The rain continued today. It began with a sprinkle, but morphed into a full on downpour two-thirds through the six-hour race.
Jon Bennett had the challenge of starting the race in not quite wet, but not quite dry conditions. The team opted for slick tires on their Prototype Challenge car. Bennett did a miraculous job keeping the car on the track while other PC cars ran into trouble, causing multiple safety car periods. Though he was unable to keep the lead, but keeping the car pointed in the right direction, he was able to hand it over to James Gué in fourth place.
Shortly after taking over the reigns of the No. 54, Gué was tagged by a GTLM car and spun around, but was able to avoid any contact with the guardrail or other cars and rejoined the field in one piece.
When it was time for Gué to hand the car over to Colin Braun, they were fifth and a lap down, but a full-course caution period enabled Braun to get back on the lead lap. He then set on a charge for the front, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process, (1:41.987), but then the rain got heavy.
As conditions deteriorated, Braun was forced to pit for wet tires, dropping from second to third. Minutes after taking on wet tires, as the rain continued to get worse, Braun spun on his own in Turn 11. He didn’t make contact with the guardrail, but did need to get the car into reverse to get the No. 54 facing the right direction. Once he got going, he was down to fifth, one lap down.
Moments later, race officials issued a red flag for weather conditions. Cars sat, queued up at the end of pit lane until the rain let up, then, they were released on track in full-course caution conditions. This gave Braun an opportunity to get the lap back with the pass-around procedure.
Braun moved into fourth on the restart, but the race went right back to full course-caution for an accident. After yet another yellow, the race resumed and the rain wasn’t letting up.
Time was running out, but Braun was clearly quicker than the leaders. Just when the team thought they had enough time to make it to the podium, an accident on the front straight with less than 10 minutes to go put the field back behind the safety car and the race ended under yellow with Braun in fourth.
The fourth-place finish was enough to keep CORE autosport in the PC Team Championship lead and Bennett and Braun in the PC Drivers’ Championship lead, but their margin has shrunk from five points to one.
Highlights from the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen will air on FOX Sports 1, July 5, at 1pm ET.
In two weeks’ time, CORE autosport will head north of the border to Canada for the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, July 10 – 12.
“There were really tricky conditions today. Six hours is a long time when you’re in wet-dry, back-to-dry, back-to-wet conditions. I think all of us were hoping for a better performance. At the end of the day, the car is one piece and we gained points for the season championship. It’s not too bad, but I think we’re all a bit underwhelmed. It’s just a really tough day; it’s hard to make progress when the conditions are changing so often. Now we move on to Mosport, which is usually a good track for us. We’re looking for that first win of the season.”
– Jon Bennett
“My time on track was exciting. Our car was really good in the dry weather. We were pretty quick right away, and I got up to second. We were close to pitting when I got behind a couple GT cars. They went kind of straight through the bus stop, so I followed them off, which caused me to have a quick little spin. But it wasn’t a big deal, and I got back going. We put the rain tires on when it started to pour down rain. We struggled early when it was wet for some reason, but toward the end we had much better pace.
It seemed like we couldn’t catch a break, nothing went our way. We tried to stay out on slick tires when it started to rain, and we got caught out for a long time on slicks hoping it was going to dry out, but it didn’t. That’s the way it goes. We came out of here with our car in one piece and finished fourth, so that’s a decent result.”
– Colin Braun
“The stint I had went fairly well. I unfortunately got tangled up with another car. I’m not really sure what happened, but I got a little love tap that put us off track. Fortunately, it didn’t damage the car too badly and we were able to continue on. It was a challenging race given the conditions, but the team did really well. We got down a lap, and then we got back on the lead lap right at the end. We were at the mercy of the yellows and the red flag. We just needed more time.”
– James Gué