CORE autosport’s Jon Bennett says his team could step up to the Prototype class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year, amid the increased level of competition and factory involvement in GT Daytona.
The owner/driver, a two-time Prototype Challenge class champion, made the move to the GTD ranks with Porsche, although facing stiff competition, with Bennett and longtime co-driver Colin Braun yet to crack a top-five class result this year.
While remaining fully committed to the WeatherTech Championship as a driver, Bennett indicated there’s realistically only two options on the table for 2018.
“Clearly it’s a GTD or Prototype decision,” Bennett told Sportscar365. “I certainly think Prototype is an option.
“Eighteen months ago I was a little bit concerned on what a potential budget could be for a Prototype program. Now that a couple of teams have done essentially a calendar year with this new formula, I think some budgets are coming into focus.
“You could do it super extravagantly or you can do it on a practical, make-sense budget.”
With a growing crop of LMP2 cars in the soon-to-be single prototype class in the WeatherTech Championship, including standout performances from JDC-Miller Motorsports, Bennett feels a Pro-Am driver lineup could potentially fight for overall wins, particularly in endurance races.
“I think one of the interesting things for a privateer Pro-Am combination is that if they are on equal footing with Pro-Pro factory-supported [DPi] teams,” he said.
“Even with a long shot, arriving to the Daytona 24 with a dark horse situation for winning the race overall, even as a Pro-Am privateer team, is an interesting possibility.”
He said they could also remain in the GTD ranks for a second season, although said if they do so, it would continue to be with Porsche.
The Rock Hill S.C.-based team operates Porsche’s factory GT Le Mans program.
“We continue to enjoy our relationship with Porsche in competing in our GT3 R this year,” Bennett said. “GTD is hyper competitive. It’s bewildering sometimes, for me personally.
“But I feel like I’ve been driving probably the best I’ve driven since I entered the IMSA paddock. It’s a little hard to see from the results.”
One of his big surprises this year in GTD was the level of factory involvement from both Acura and Lexus, which are both under a single-year agreement from IMSA to run as works teams.
“When I learned of the factory involvement in GTD, my vision of what that was going to look like was more along the lines of how manufacturers support GT Le Mans cars, which is absolutely serious business,” Bennett said.
“I didn’t expect factory support for GTD teams would be larger than factory support for GT Le Mans teams.
“If you take a quick walk down pit lane, and you didn’t know anything about racing, you’d say, ‘Wow, these two teams are seriously connected to the factory.’
“I think it’s a little bit disappointing how many technical people with laptops are parked at Acura and Lexus during a race weekend.
“But it’s what they’re there to do for one season and hopefully it remains that and they’ve completed their task at end of Peitit Le Mans and it becomes customer racing again. That’s what the class is designed to do.
“If you’re into David vs. Goliath battles, then definitely you have your wish.”
Bennett said a decision on their 2018 program is likely to be made within the next 30-45 days.