This year’s GRC Atlantic City course was markedly different from last year. Not only was the layout new, but the dirt section was actually composed of sand on top of asphalt. This made things especially tricky on Saturday when heavy rains passed through the area and made the sandy area especially slick.
Driving the No. 54 Composite Resources/ORECA gear GRC Lites car, Jon Bennett nearly got his first heat win on Saturday and then proceeded to bypass the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) by finishing second in the semi-final.
A strong start had him into the top five, but he began to fall back after contact with other competitors damaged his car. He was able to finish, but back in ninth.
Teammate Colin Braun didn’t even get a chance at Saturday’s final in the No. 56 Composite Resources/ORECA gear GRC Lites machine. After a strong showing in the heat races, Braun lined up on pole for the semi-final, but the engine in his car expired at the start. The GRC schedule is so tight, that the team didn’t have nearly enough time to change the engine before the LCQ.
After an all-nighter changing out the No. 56 engine, CORE autosport bounced back on Sunday, with Braun winning his first heat race. He tangled with another competitor in his second heat race, which put him in a poor starting spot for the semi-final. Still, Braun stayed focused and was able to advance to the final without issue. There, he clawed his way from eighth on the grid to a fourth-place finish.
Bennett was unlucky in his heat races, which forced him into the LCQ, but he came back strong by winning it. He finished where he started in Sunday’s final: ninth.
You can watch Bennett’s and Braun’s GRC Lites races from Atlantic City on CBS Sports Network, Wednesday, August 23, at 5 p.m. ET.
CORE autosport is back with Global Rallycross, September 9 – 10, in Seattle, Washington.
Driver: No. 56 Composite Resources/ORECA Gear
“They had a new dirt section concept with sand on top of asphalt. That made it quite slippery and challenging to figure out how to drive and make it work. Add in the rain that came in the afternoon and it made for quite an interesting time. You’re almost hydroplaning in sand over asphalt. That’s something I’ve never done before. It took some getting used to. We started to drag the sand onto the race track and the whole track got really slippery.
“I started on pole in the semi-final, but on the starting line the engine blew up. That was disappointing. I felt like we were doing well in those conditions and we had a good shot at a strong result. The speed of the schedule is such that when you have an engine blow up, it’s not possible to change it in time for the final.
“The CORE guys were heroes and stayed at the track until 1am changing the engine. It’s a pretty big deal changing the engine in those cars. I’m super proud of our crew who never hesitated and put the effort in to get it changed.
“We got through Sunday reasonably well. The start at Atlantic City is very challenging; it was a tight left-hand corner with not a lot of options, so everybody piled in and it was like roulette to see how you came out. I didn’t come out on the shiny side of that in the semi.
In the final, I got a good start, got up to fifth or sixth and then was in a big pack from third to seventh and ended up finishing fourth.”
Driver: No. 54 Composite Resources/ORECA Gear
“I was pleasantly surprised that the circuit that they laid out was in the same place but completely different. There were some new twists to the design. Sand over asphalt was substituted for natural dirt sections. The course raced really well and it was a good event in general.
“The genius in putting sand over asphalt was that even in poor weather conditions, in the rain, we didn’t get a lot of deep ruts and roughness that you’d see in a natural terrain dirt section. On the other side, where it did rain, the sand on asphalt section got very slippery and required a very delicate touch.
“I moved from 10th to fourth on the first lap of Saturday’s final, but then I tangled with a couple other cars and ultimately broke the car. This racing is very exciting with lots of contact, but the GRC Lites car is a bit fragile and it doesn’t take much to put it out of competition.
“I had another good start in Sunday’s final, but for me, some technique issues in the sand section were my Achilles heel. I never quite found a technique that was both consistent and fast. I was able to get through those sections pretty well, but struggled to match the speed of other drivers.
“It was a little surprising, because in previous events, the dirt section is where I gained a lot of spots. This form of racing is very intuitive. You need to have a good intuition to find speed and adjust for conditions. I’m getting better at, but you’ve got to keep up with the competition.”