ROCK HILL, S.C. (Jan. 24, 2017) – CORE autosport’s first foray into the IMSA WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona category will take place this week in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The legendary twice around-the-clock race is the 2017 IMSA season opener.
In September of 2016, CORE announced it would move to the GTD category with a Porsche 911 GT3 R. Since then, the team has been hard at work prepping for 2017 and taken part in three IMSA-sanctioned tests at Daytona International Speedway with its new car.
Joining full-season drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun for the 24-hour race are sportscar ace Nic Jönsson and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long. The lineup is already quite comfortable together. Jonsson and Braun were teammates in the 2006-2007 GRAND-AM seasons and finished on the podium together at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007. Jönsson and Long drove a Porsche together at the 2006 Petit Le Mans and in 2013 Braun and Long drove a Porsche GT3 RSR together for CORE in two rounds of the American Le Mans Series.
The familiarity will serve CORE well as it faces stiff competition in the popular GTD category. The class has 26 entries from nine different manufacturers, some of them with factory backing.
- CORE won the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona in the PC class.
- Colin Braun made his professional racing debut at Daytona in a Porsche GT3 Cup when he drove for Team 16 in 2005.
- Between them, the No. 54 driver lineup has 42 starts at the Rolex 24 and three victories.
- Jon Bennett is a nominee for this year’s RRDC Bob Snodgrass Award, which recognizes exemplary team owners.
- In addition to its 2014 victory, CORE finished runner-up in PC in 2015. The team retired with engine failure in the 2016 race.
- Flex-Box once again teams with CORE for the 2017 IMSA season. The partnership is in its fourth year.
“The Rolex 24 is a special race and can set the tone for the new season. This year, it’s a special honor to be piloting a Porsche GT3 R. Porsche has a long history of success at Daytona and we look forward to making our mark.
“Our new Porsche is quite similar to our Prototype Challenge car in many ways. The GT3 R makes incredible power and has an impressive amount of downforce. The driver change process is new and something we’ve had to reengineer.
“We didn’t realize how polished our PC operation was. Our team has come to expect a high level of execution and it has been a huge challenge to develop the same level of detail in 90 days. I am amazed at the dedication and long hours our team has invested to optimize our new Porsche program.”
“We all got along really well at the Roar. I’ve worked with Jon for a long time. Many years ago, back when I first got into DP racing in GRAND-AM, I worked with Nic for quite a long time. Pat and I have worked together on and off during different times in our careers. I knew everyone’s personality and wasn’t surprised that we all got along well.
“I did the Rolex 24 at Daytona when I was 16. Here we are now and I think this is my 13th consecutive 24-hour race. Daytona was my first big professional car race. It’s fun to flash back to the first few times I came to the track and was thinking about what an amazing opportunity it was when I was 16. Every time I come to Daytona, it reminds me not to take things for granted and to enjoy the moment, because it’s a cool job.
“GTD is such a competitive class and the cars have become so reliable, that it will absolutely be a sprint race in the last couple hours. I’m sure there’s going to be a handful of cars in the thick of the battle and if we do things right, we’ll be in the mix. It’s tough to say who will have an upper hand. We’ve got quite a few new makes in the series and until we get into the last couple hours, we won’t see the true performance of the new cars.”
“Everything went really well at the Roar. For me, it was the first time in a Porsche since 2007, so it’s been awhile since I’ve been in a rear-engine car. Pat and I used to be teammates in 2006 with a Porsche. Colin I’ve known since he was eight and I’ve worked with his dad in different programs. Jon was very welcoming as was the rest of the team. They’re very professional.
“Daytona is a unique 24-hour race, because it’s lit up like a stadium, so it’s never truly dark. Turns Three and Five are probably the darkest places on the track. I don’t really have a favorite time to be driving; anytime is a good time at Daytona when you’re in a race car!
“As far as the GTD class is concerned, I don’t think the talent has ever been this stacked before. There are teams with factory backing, there are teams with very talented driver lineups. The competition is going to be stiffer than ever. It’ll come down to who can keep it on track without making any mistakes or an unscheduled pit stop. CORE is absolutely up to the challenge. I feel very fortunate to be with an organization full of people who want to be here and gel very well together. I think that is a key recipe to success.”
“The talent pool in GTD is stacked. New manufacturers have brought factory driver lineups. There are a ton of entries and lots of big names, so it’s forcing everybody to raise their game.
“The 911 GT3 R may not have the quickest top speed, but we think our ability to keep the tires underneath us, to be reliable, and our braking efficiency are advantages. Daytona is known for really demanding braking. The 911 has always been strong at Daytona and I think that is a big reason why.
“Colin, Jon and Nic are guys I have known for a long time. I’ve race with them and against. There was no transition time needed. We got right to business. The leadership and structure that Jeff Braun (engineer) asks of his drivers: you get to work right away.
“CORE needs no introduction. They are champions and race winners. The team’s infrastructure and crew on the 54 car is still there and it’s been great to be back with the team. I’m looking forward to watching them factor in all season.”