Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Local Sports

Core Autosport ready for VIR

Special to Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 08:18 PM

Core Autosport is prepared for success, and some unknowns, at Virginia International Raceway this Saturday in the penultimate round of the 2012 American Le Mans Series season.

After clinching the 2012 ALMS Prototype Challenge (PC) team championship in Round Seven (out of 10) at Road America, all eyes turn to Round Nine to see what will happen with the driver's championship, at a circuit that ALMS has never visited prior to this season.

No. 06 Soloson Import ORECA FLM09 driver Alex Popow is currently leading the PC driver standings by 32 points, aided by four wins in 2012 (Sebring, Long Beach, Road America and Baltimore), but the sister No. 05 Composite Resources car's pilots — Jon Bennett and Colin Braun, with two wins (Laguna Seca and Lime Rock) — will put up a fight for the title.

Joining Popow in the No. 06 machine for the four-hour VIR 240 is Tom Kimber-Smith, class winner of the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The combination of Popow and Kimber-Smith resulted in a win at Road America and podium finishes at Laguna Seca and Lime Rock. Both drivers have only raced on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit once before, Popow in 2011 and Kimber-Smith in 2008.

Kimber-Smith and Popow will need serious speed to keep ahead of Bennett and Braun.  Both drivers live in the greater Charlotte, N.C., area and have spent years testing and driving at the track.

For Bennett, it includes time in a variety of racecars, including a Formula Ford and spec racers, among others. Braun has not only tested NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series cars at the venue, but also competed there in a GRAND-AM Rolex sports car multiple times, with a pole position and a second place on his resume.

This weekend will also be about helping the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer.

At 12:15 p.m., Core Autosport will be holding a live auction in the ALMS paddock area benefiting this important foundation, with many exclusive team items for sale.

Practice for the VIR 240 begins on Thursday with additional practice and qualifying on Friday.

The four-hour race begins at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Live coverage of practice and qualifying can be found on ESPN3.com, with a two-hour event summary broadcasting on ESPN2 television at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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