Last week’s announcement that CORE autosport would become the operational partner for Porsche’s new factory program in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship may have turned some heads, but for team owner Jon Bennett and team manager Morgan Brady, it was the culmination of a long-term goal fulfilled in an surprisingly short period of time.
Less than four years ago, the idea of going racing in the American Le Mans Series was still a dream for Bennett, who assembled a team as an extension to his manufacturing business, Composite Resources, in 2010. Brady, a former Atlantic engineer who had been part of the ill-fated US F1 project, was one of his first hires, turning down an offer to work for Penske Racing to instead lead efforts at the upstart CORE outfit.
“When Jon first hired me, we didn’t have a screwdriver or a workshop,” Brady said. “I was very optimistic of where this could go but I have to give Jon the credit for being the one to really be able to dream big. He’s definitely the idea guy and I’m the one that makes it happen. It’s Jon’s ideas and Jon’s ability to think on a really big scale that even put this on our radar to go after something on this scale.”
After two ALMS seasons and two PC championships, CORE took their program to the next level this year by fielding a customer Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, as a toe-in-the-water experience. With the goal of eventually landing a manufacturer program, Brady knew the team had to prove themselves in the production-based ranks first before being able to be on the automaker’s radar screens.
Having debuted the GT effort at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the Patrick Long and Tom Kimber-Smith-driven Porsche was on the podium by the second race. “As time progressed, it proved we were capable,” Brady said. “We were talking to several manufacturers at the time. It also lined up with Porsche’s timeline in that they were working towards a North American factory team for 2014.
“One conversation led to another and Porsche liked what they saw with our company. A group of their executives came in and visited our facility. It became clear that both companies aligned well culturally and the mentalities were very similar. It only made sense to move forward with pursuing this program.”
Negotiations came to a head at the start of the COTA weekend, and suddenly the still fresh-faced CORE outfit became aligned with one of the most successful and prestigious sports car manufacturers in racing history.
Under its new partnership with Porsche, CORE will be tasked with the preparation and operation of the factory 911 RSRs, which will be maintained out of the squad’s 30,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Rock Hill, S.C. The German manufacturer, however, will be responsible for engineering and development of the cars, as well as supplying the factory drivers.
“From the minute the press release went out, we’ve been flat out,” Brady said. “That involves trucks, pit equipment, ramping up with people. We’ll certainly need to expand to support this program. We have some really solid people that have been with the team for a while that will be dedicated to the Porsche program. Through the month of November, there will be a big focus on equipment and just being able to properly support cars. From there, the focus will quickly shift to Daytona.”
As for the future of the PC program, Brady confirmed it will continue next year, although as a completely separate operation from the factory Porsche outfit. Bennett’s co-driver has yet to be determined. Kimber-Smith, who started the year in CORE’s Porsche, moved over to the Oreca FLM09 at COTA and will also be in the spec prototype in next weekend’s round at VIR.
“We’ve had a lot of success in PC and I think that program will only continue to be a great place for Pro-Am drivers,” Brady said. “Jon is absolutely dedicated to that and we’ll definitely be continuing on with one car there. Essentially what you see right now in terms of of the CORE PC program, that will be moving forward for next year.”
While no formal testing program has been finalized for the pair of factory 991-based GTE cars, partly due to the late ending of the FIA World Endurance Championship, where the factory entries currently compete, Brady feels up for the challenge that 2014 will bring.
“I’m very happy with the way we’ve progressed as a team,” he said. “We’ve been successful in everything we’ve done so far. By no means do we underestimate the next challenge. But I think we are all confident that we will be successful.”