After a strong start to the season at Daytona, Ben arrived at the weekend looking to continue the momentum for the title charge. Running alongside Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood in the fluro yellow and black Lexus, the trio looked in a good position after the initial sessions as Jack took on qualifying. With the single lap pace proving strong, the Vasser Sullivan GTD PRO entry was firmly in the fight at the front of the field, eventually securing a front row gridslot, running P2 as the session ended.
Florida lived up to its Sunshine State billing and race day started under blue skies. The fast-paced action started from the first lap, and would relentlessly continue like this until the final lap. Jack held position off the start as an early incident brought out the first of several safety cars, and set the tone for the teams to look at different strategies. With pitstop cycles working through, Ben eventually took over for his first race laps just after the third hour.
Running P7 as he emerged from the pitlane, he wasted no time in showing his raw speed, closing down the gap ahead. As pitstops played out, combined with this fast pace, Ben gained three positions as his stint neared an end. A further caution period saw the team roll the strategy dice once again, bringing the Lexus RC F GT3 back to the pitlane and a switch of driver.
The team was back into the podium paying positions by middle distance, and Ben returned to the cockpit as the race reached its eighth hour. The track was, again, under a caution as he headed out, and was firmly under the rear wing of the race leader as the race went back to green. He would continue to be engaged in a fight at the front of the field throughout the stint, also battling with traffic, which would be a key factor during the whole race. As he concluded the second stint, with the car battled scarred from close racing, Ben still held the final podium position passing over to Jack for the run to the flag.
Further incidents in the closing hours would shake the order further, and bring out the safety car once again. This presented further opportunities with strategy, and a final scheduled pitstop ahead of the final hour mark saw the team still fighting for the final podium spot. Then, with the track now under the cover of darkness and only minutes remaining, a heavy incident saw several of the lead cars involved shaking up the order one last time. The fight continued as the track once again returned to green, and Jack brought the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 home in P2, less than 3-seconds off the lead.
After the conclusion of the rollercoaster of a battle, and with a second consecutive podium, Ben and his teammates remain firmly in the fight for the championship heading to round 3 at Long Beach. Fresh from the podium, he explained:
“I think a P2 result today is a great achievement for us. It was a hard day and a tough day. We had many setbacks, but we managed to keep clawing back. The Vasser Sullivan team and everyone at Lexus executed it perfectly. We kept calm no matter what was thrown at us, and it just shows you’ve got to be a good team and do everything right to get on the podium. P2 is a great finish and great points for the championship. Let’s get on to Long Beach.”
The IMSA Sportscar Championship continues with the Grand Prix of Long Beach over the weekend 14-15 April 2023.