With a stacked driver lineup and restructured crew, CORE autosport’s Jon Bennett believes they’ll be able to fight for overall victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The five-time Prototype Challenge champions step up to the Prototype class this year with an Oreca 07 Gibson for Bennett and season-long co-driver Colin Braun, who are joined by former LMP1 aces Romain Dumas and Loic Duval for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
The star-studded lineup, which features a combined four overall victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a pair of FIA World Endurance championships, will provide the extra ‘firepower’ needed to compete in the Florida endurance classic, according to the team owner/driver.
“We’re not in the PC class anymore,” Bennett told Sportscar365. “We need to bring a proportional amount of firepower. I asked Morgan [Brady, CORE Chief Operating Officer] to find world class-level drivers who are not from NHRA; people who have experience in what we do.
“He came up with these ideas and I was like, ‘You’re kidding me, right?’ He said, ‘No I’m serious.’
“We’re going to war with warriors. I’m really happy about that.”
Bennett, who is one of the few gentleman drivers in Prototype this year, believes his performance won’t come at a detriment to the team’s chances, particularly with the full-course caution rules and similar Pro-Am lineups achieving success in the past.
A minimum base drive time of two hours is required to achieve points, a rule added since Ed Brown’s victory in the race in 2016.
“If do my job and we all do our jobs, when the sun comes up on Sunday morning, the car could be healthy, my drive time done, and let’s go racing,” Bennett said.
The team enters the season in a restructured form, following a challenging year in GT Daytona that saw Bennett and Braun record only a pair of top-five finishes.
Brian Colangelo, who helped lead Starworks Motorsport to the WEC LMP2 World Championship in 2012, has moved over from CORE’s GRC program to serve as team manager, with former Muscle Milk Pickett Racing lead mechanic Steve Ragan joining the operation as well.
Jeff Braun, who also has decades of prototype racing experience, remains as the team’s race strategist.
“We needed a little bit of a fresh approach, so I’m looking forward to that,”Bennett said. “GTD racing took a lot out of us; we struggled a bit.
Le Mans Debut in the Pipeline?
Bennett said the team will not take part in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite its factory Porsche GT operation making its first trip to the French endurance classic, in support of the German manufacturer’s planned four-car GTE-Pro effort.
“I’m super looking forward to this year as our child is going off to France and competing,” he said. “It will be fun to see CORE’s flag being flown at Le Mans.
“We’ll see how [LMP2] goes and if they continue to have a configuration that’s compatible on both sides, it’s certainly possible we can go.”
When asked if that could be in 2019, Bennett stressed their focus at the moment is on the WeatherTech Championship program.
“We have a new book to start with and we need to get a solid foundation on running and driving this car first,” he said.