Bennett Avenges His Lolas Demons with a Win in the Masters Endurance Legends Sunday Race at Rolex Monterey Reunion
The Sunday Masters Endurance Legends race marked the end of two weeks of historic racing competition on the iconic Monterey Peninsula, here at the Rolex Monterey Reunion at Weather-Tech Raceway Laguna Seca. Despite closing the show, the race proved a thriller with Craig Ben-nett taking the win in the 2012 Lola B12/80 Prototype over Bill Auberlen in the 1999 BMW V12 LMR.
The weather was the absolute seasonal opposite of Saturday’s race as mild temps and sunny skies shone today on the Monterey Peninsula circuit versus the cool, misty and foggy conditions of Saturday’s contest.
Auberlen took off into the lead of the 40-minute timed race at the line and through the hairpin, but got four wheels off in turn 3. Bennett took an easy lead and immediately began to march away — leaving Auberlen a busy race ahead. “Somehow we changed the compound of the tires, to what seemed a very hard compound and they just never activated,” Auberlen considered. “I knew it right away (when he approached turn 3), oh, we’re in trouble. The car in cold wet conditions, was much faster yesterday.”
By Lap four Auberlen had worked his way back up to second, but was two seconds off Bennett’s pace. By lap 12 Craig Bennett had pulled out a 10 second lead. He said, “Yesterday I wasn’t com-fortable to run up there and I lost it trying to be too careful. This car is so capable — and I’m still learning it. But that run today made up for a lot.” Bennett posted a scorching best lap of 121.918 during the race, but coasted to the victory in the end.
Travis Engen in his 2005 Audi R8 LMP caught Spencer Trenery in the Riley XI Daytona during lap two of the 40-minute race. Trenery then passed the Audi during the mandatory two-minute sta-tionary pit stops and continued in third.
By the end of lap 3 Porsche factory racer, Patrick Long, had thrusted his Lola B2K10 from 25th to 8th. A Safety car was dispatched on laps 6-7-8 as the Nissan NPT 90 of Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman stopped on track. Safety crews push started it and got it going again. By lap 9 after the double-yellow laps Long had passed Spencer Trenery for third and began whittling away at Au-berlen who continued to struggle with difficult handling.
During the mandatory pit stops. Bennett came in on Lap 12, giving the lead to Auberlen who again lost the lead in his own stop. Long pitted from third handing the Lola over to teammate and car owner, Erich Joiner. Back on track, Trenery went after Joiner with a vengeance. The two-lap dice had the two prototypes nose to tail with Trenery forcing the issue on the inside on the hairpin twice — succeeding the second time around in the late stages of the race.
In the GT class, the Porsches, Corvettes and BMWs mixed it up with the slower prototypes. BMW factory racer, Connor De Phillipi, 2011 M3 GT, inherited 2nd place on lap 12 during the pit stops. That set up a cruise to the top GT spot, and eighth overall for co-driver and North Ameri-can BMW Racing Program Chief, Thomas Plucinsky. De Phillipi loved the weekend drive: “This weekend has been really fun, the E92 is one of the most successful GT cars BMW has ever built. Getting out of the M8 and into this car, the systems are nearly as good as what we have now.”
Thomas Plucinsky said, “This weekend was awesome! This was a huge opportunity to get in the car and do some laps.”
With a great variety of great historic race cars, a star-studded cast of several pro-drivers, the Masters Endurance Legends group was well received and put on a great show.
We will see them again at COTA for the Formula One US Grand Prix Support race, November 1-3, 2019.