DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2014) – Taking part in the legendary Rolex 24 at Daytona for the first time, CORE autosport was victorious in the Prototype Challenge category. The twice around the clock event at Daytona International Speedway opened the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Though the team started from the PC pole, CORE’s journey to the top step of the Rolex 24 podium got off to a rocky start. On the opening lap, Jon Bennett was spun off course by a GTLM car. He recovered quickly, but went from leading the PC field, to ninth.
Lead engineer Tom Brown used pit strategy to help the No. 54 ORECA FLM09 regain a lost lap with Colin Braun in the car and take over the lead after only five hours of racing. From that point forward, the team never dropped out of the top three in class.
As other teams fell victim to mechanical problems, on-track accidents and pit lane penalties, Bennett, Braun, James Gue and Mark Wilkins charged on through 24 hours of racing without further incident.
The final hour and 10 minutes were the most anxious, as Braun found himself in a battle with former teammate Tom Kimber-Smith, driving the No. 25 ORECA FLM09 for 8Star Motorsports. The pair exchanged the lead several times and with 30 minutes remaining it became a question of who would pit for fuel first. Braun dove into pit lane from the lead. The No. 25 opted to pit a lap later, but returned to the course behind Braun.
A full-course yellow with 20 minutes remaining eroded some of the margin Braun had built to Kimber-Smith, but after a strong restart the No. 54 held on to win by a lap over the No. 25. The victory was a fitting welcome for new sponsor Flex-Box, which joined the team for the opening round of the TUDOR Championship. Flex-Box is a leading supplier of specialty shipping containers.
It was the first Rolex 24 win for all four drivers and came on a day when Porsche North America won its first Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GTLM category. CORE autosport is the competition partner for Porsche on its GTLM TUDOR Championship program.
CORE autosport leaves Daytona with the PC Championship lead and now looks forward to another legendary endurance race—the 12 Hours of Sebring, which takes place March 12 – 15 at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.
Driver: No. 54 ORECA FLM09
“It’s great to win it obviously that’s what we’ve all tried to accomplish. This is my 10th time competing here, so to win it is really special. I’ve tried, and I know how hard it is to win, and how many crazy things can happen and you can get stripped of it. I’m really proud of these guys; they did an awesome job.
“The biggest thing was our preparation in the off-season. We really came here with a great plan and just executed our plan. We didn’t do anything crazy and just stuck to what we were trying to do. We were able to execute and win the race.
“For me the race went pretty straightforward. CORE autosport built a great racecar. We didn’t really have any mechanical problems or anything. We just put gas in it, changed drivers and left the pits every time. The guys did a great job on pit road and were able to just do routine service and keep going. That’s why I think we were able to win the race.”