After six years in the Prototype Challenge class, CORE autosport has made the switch to GT Daytona competition, with Porsche, for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, in what team owner/driver Jon Bennett calls a “new chapter” for his championship-winning organization.
The Rock Hill, S.C.-based team has shown up at Daytona this week, for the first test with its new Porsche 911 GT3 R, which will be driven by Bennett and long-time co-driver Colin Braun in the 12-round championship.
“Obviously we’re all excited to start this new chapter of CORE autosport,” Bennett told Sportscar365. “We’re very happy to crack the book open and get started with the learning curve of our new 911 GT3 R.
“Our first day went smoothly. There are obviously some Day 1 rough corners to round off and to improve upon but we’ve got good support from Porsche today and really can’t ask for a better start.”
Bennett has returned to the wheel of a Porsche GT car for the first time since 2013, when he took part in selected IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama races, in what was his only racing escapade outside of his six-year run with the Oreca FLM09 car.
“I drive a 911 to work so it’s the same but different, obviously!” he said. “But seriously, it’s a bit different from our experience in the prototype.
“We’re very excited to be with Porsche and in a class that, especially in 2017, is growing and will be super competitive.
“I think all of us enjoy the competition of racing and I think we’re going to get what we came for next year.”
The GTD class has seen significant growth for 2017, with the arrival of three new manufacturers in Acura, Lexus and Mercedes-AMG.
While Porsche enters the second year with its 911 GT3 R, Bennett is hopeful having a seasoned crew, with a proven car will be dividends, especially when up against some arguably questionable Pro-Am driver lineups.
Bennett has also been quick to note that its GTD effort does not receive any additional factory support compared to other Porsche customers, despite his team also operating the works Porsche North America program in GT Le Mans.
“We are a customer team of Porsche,” he said. “I think that’s the essence of GT Daytona. It’s exciting to see different manufacturers coming to this class.
“I think that probably brand-new cars like the Lexus and the Acura, it makes sense to have factory support. This is their first time on track, so there will be some learning curve for them as well.
“We’re very fortunate to have over 50 years of evolution on the 911 so we get to stand on the shoulders of all of those who came before us.
“I think we’ll have a very fast, reliable, proven entry this year.
“We’re super fortunate to have Colin Braun on board for the full year this year and his father Jeff Braun doing engineering for us.
“Is it going to be easy racing? No, it’s going to be super tough. But that’s what I think we all want to revel in and we look forward to that.”
Bennett said they are “90 percent” along in the process of finalizing the Silver or Bronze-rated driver for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races, as the team’s former third driver, Mark Wilkins, has departed for Acura.
And although not yet fully determined, Bennett revealed their fourth driver for the Rolex 24 could end up being a factory Porsche ace, depending on availability.
An announcement on the team’s full lineup for the endurance races is expected within the next month.