CORE drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun successfully completed a double race weekend in two different states thanks to some help from modern aviation. After finishing eighth on the streets of Detroit in the No. 54 Flex Box / Composite Resources Porsche 911 GT3 R, Bennett and Braun rushed to the Detroit airport to catch a plane to Worcester, Massachusetts. From Worcester, they boarded a helicopter, which landed directly at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
The GRC Series was kind enough to allow both Bennett and Braun to take a sighting lap in their GRC Lites cars before the two took up the last spots on the grid for the main.
With only the single sighting lap and some video footage to learn from, Braun charged his way to fourth in Saturday’s main, while Bennett finish eighth.
On Sunday, the drivers finally got a full day of practice, qualifying and heat races under their belt on the long and technical course. In addition to being the longest circuit thus far on the GRC schedule, the track was quite rough in places, and suspension damage became a key concern for all teams.
In a stroke of luck for Bennett and Braun, a heavy rain began to fall on the Thompson track just as the final was about to begin. Having a wet track would seemingly negate all the additional track time CORE’s competitors had on Friday and Saturday.
Braun started fourth and Bennett 10th on the GRC Lites grid. Braun had a fantastic start and was into second early in the race. Bennett too was on a tear and up to fifth, but became a victim of the treacherous course and broke a left control arm with only four laps to go.
Up front, Braun was unable to close the gap to the race leader and crossed the finish line in second—his first podium of the season.
The GRC Lites races from Thompson, will air Wednesday, June 7, on CBS Sports Network, at 5pm ET.
Next up for CORE’s GRC program is a doubleheader in Ottawa, Canada, June 17 – 18, at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum.
Driver: No. 56 Composite Resources/ORECA Gear
“It was great of GRC to give us that sighting lap. We had a chance on the plane to look at some video. We had outside car and inside car video. When we arrived, we had a couple minutes to spend with our spotter and team manager. Those guys had watched all the practices and heat races, so it was great to break it down the videos with them and see what the starts looked like and how people were getting into the first corner.
“I’m proud of how the logistics came together and how we got to Thompson and set out to do what we wanted to do. It was a big team effort by everybody. Both the GTD guys and the GRC guys did everything they could to make it happen.
“The track had a really cool layout. A lot more technical and spread out than what we’ve seen in the last few races. On the one hand I was really excited on the other hand, I was disappointed that we missed out on all the practice sessions, because it was such a long, technical track.
“We started ninth in the main. I got a good start and picked through some positions. Without having anything besides the sighting lap, we were a little unsure of what it was going to look like, so we just decided early on to run as many laps as we could and joker on the last lap, because we figured it’d be good to follow the rest of the field. I ran laps, learned the racetrack, made passes, and on the last lap, we jokered and came out fourth. We were quite pleased with that.
“In the first heat on Sunday, the track started to break apart in the dirt section. I went through there and found one of the many pot holes and tore the left front suspension off the car. That was the end of Heat 1. Not a good way to start the day, but the guys did a good job getting us fixed up.
“It started pouring rain right before the final, which I was really excited about, because I knew nobody had done any laps in the rain prior, so I thought that might equalize the field a little bit.
“I got a really good start from fourth. Out of the first set of corners I was into second and just put my head down. It was definitely a fun race in the rain for me. It was only my second time driving a GRC car in the wet, so I was still figuring a lot of things out.
“The first two laps I ran pretty hard trying to keep up with the leader, but once I knew I didn’t really have the pace to contend with him, I decided ‘I’m not going to catch the leader and with how bad the conditions are, I’d rather go ahead and finish second and not try to make something happen.”
Driver: No. 54 Composite Resources/ORECA Gear
“We were coming off a pretty good finish in Detroit and we had some sophisticated air transport methods getting us to Thompson. We landed in Worcester, Massachusetts. The helicopter was already on the ramp with rotors spinning. The helicopter co-pilot met us at the stairs, walked us over and we boarded the helicopter. He said ‘okay, nine minutes and we’ll be on the ground.’
“The GRC Series nudged the schedule a little for us and tried to accommodate our needs without giving us too much preferential treatment, which I totally understand. It was nice to be able to do both events and I think they were happy to see us!
“My son graduated from high school a few years ago, on the same night I needed to qualify the Prototype Challenge car in Kansas. It was a quick flight to Kansas and I think I landed at 4:40 and was in the racecar at 5:00, so I’m no stranger to the scenario. The advantage is you don’t have a lot of time to overthink what you’re about to do. You’re super focused on whatever information you have and you go out and execute.
“On both days, I saw my personal performance improving, but I seem to be in this zone where it’s not showing in my finishing position. I’m racing wheel-to-wheel with guys who have won races and won championships, so I think my podium and my breakout event is just around the corner.
“I was looking forward to the wet conditions on Sunday. I think it’s an equalizer and Colin and I have a lot of experience running in the rain compared to some of our competition. There was a lot of chaos and Colin and I were both picking our way through the field.
“As interesting as the track was, there were some areas that were really, really hard on the car. I had been lucky all event not having any damage. Sure enough, on lap six out of 10 in the final, it was my turn. I simply hit a hole—not a dirt hole, but a hole in the asphalt—and it snapped the left-side control arm and that was it. I was P5 at the time and holding my own, so that was really encouraging for me.
“In any event, the most important thing is that my level of competitiveness is getting strong and stronger and it’s a short time before I’m on the podium and contending for race wins going forward. The team has a great chemistry, so we have all the ingredients for a championship.”
“I’d absolutely do the double again!.”