CORE Autosport’s Prototype Challenge squad lost first place in the dying moments of the Laguna Seca Round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) this weekend while the team’s new Porsche program salvaged seventh after a trying day at the Californian circuit.
The team’s #05 ORECA FLM09 started the race in pole position at the hands of driver Jon Bennett, and following over an hour of hard-fought racing between the top three, he handed the car over to team-mate Colin Braun whilst running second.
Braun managed to hold on to this place until the next pit stop, where a superior stop by the CORE squad meant that the #05 emerged in the lead of the race. Braun held first and set the fastest lap, until, on the final lap, he lost grip going into turn eleven and found himself in the gravel.
While he managed to make his way back on to the track, the lead of the race had been lost and with just one lap left in the four-hour event, there was no chance of undoing the error and the team were forced to make do with second.
Braun said: “It was a tough day for sure and not where I thought we deserved to finish. [New engineer] Travis Low made good calls on our strategy and I felt like Jon handed the car over to me in a position to win.”
Of his spin, he said: “I got on the brakes and locked the rear tyres up and was along for the ride after that. I wasn’t really sure what happened.”
“I hate it, because the team worked so hard and that’s not where we wanted to finish, but I think we showed how quick we are. We still have a lot to hold our heads up about and we’ll move on to the next one.”
Meanwhile team-mate Bennett said: “The whole team was very optimistic about the race. The optimism was valid all the way through the race and then just a tiny bit of bad luck bit us on the last turn. It was still a strong finish for the team, but a little deflating at the same time.”
Further down the grid, CORE’s highly anticipated GT program managed to record their first ALMS finish in an equally eventful race.
Starting from the back of the grid due to a technical infringement, Patrick Long quickly regained the ground lost by the penalty and at one point was running as high as six. However, after a collision with a P1 competitor and then with one of his GT contemporaries, the #06 was down to ninth by the time the pitstops came around.
After a quick stop, Tom Kimber-Smith made his ALMS race debut and, with the same luck as Long before him, was by another prototype car, this time at the top of the corkscrew.
After one last driver change, Long brought the car home in a respectable seventh place. He said: “I’m happy. We ran with teams that have been front runners for years. The things that set us back today were all out of our control. I got his four times.”
“We did exactly what we set out to do, which was to band together as a team. This was our first weekend out and we’re already a factor in the race. The end result isn’t what we wanted, but you can’t judge a weekend’s performance by the finish position.”
Meanwhile team-mate Kimber-Smith said: “I think, for all of us, it was a really hard day. We didn’t come home in with any expectations. Basically, all we needed to do was finish the race, and we achieved that.”
Of his incident at the top of the corkscrew, he said: “I came out of turn six and tried to leave enough room for a PC car. As we’re going up through the corkscrew, he tried to push me onto the grass. I don’t think he realised I was there.”
“It was unfortunate that we ended up in the gravel, but fortunately we finished the race. There’s a lot we can take away from this weekend and we’re all looking forward to Lime Rock now.”