CORE’s Triple Play
CORE’s Triple Play
The ALMS GT shark tank becomes even more crowded this week as CORE autosport debuts its #06 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, driven by aces Patrick Long and Tom Kimber-Smith.
Long has 23 ALMS career wins, three GT driver co-championships and a pair of victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kimber-Smith is a three-time Le Mans winner.
After taking the 2011 and 2012 ALMS PC championships, Jon Bennett’s CORE autosport team continues with Colin Braun and Bennett in a single PC entry plus adding a support class GT3 Porsche. Bennett and Braun won the PC class at Long Beach and CORE are second in the PC class championship.
Entering the ALMS GT competition is not for the faint of heart. BMW, Corvette, SRT Viper and Aston Martin currently campaign factory-supported GT teams in the ALMS or at Le Mans. Porsche and Ferrari operate in a different style, selling cars to top independent teams and assigning factory drivers and engineers for support.
The appearance of a third GT class Porsche, in addition to the Falken Porsche with Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers, and the Paul Miller Racing Porsche of Bryce Miller and Marco Holzer bolsters the Porsche ranks. Long, Henzler and Holzer are official Porsche factory team drivers.
Porsche has recently suggested that it is considering a factory team entry in the newly merged United Sports Car Racing (USCR) series in 2014. A strong performance by CORE in 2013 may help their bid to secure a factory tie-up. In addition to the ALMS PC and GT entries, CORE has also added a Porsche GT3 spec series entry to help Bennett gain track time and Porsche experience.
“This year is a bit of a transition for us; with the unified series, things are going to be changing quite a bit,” said Bennett. “We’re trying to figure out what path is best for us in the long term. Our team has a dream of one day going to Le Mans, so one of the attractive parts of the GT program is that it’s a class that’s clearly coordinated with the ACO and the rules package at Le Mans.”
After lining up Long, Kimber-Smith and the necessary Porsche GT equipe’, Bennett and team manager Morgan Brady still had a major hurdle to clear. Despite a friendly relationship with Bennett and CORE as it dominated the PC class, securing Michelin as a technical partner for the GT entry was by no means a given.
The GT class in ALMS, WEC and at Le Mans features open tire competition. Michelin was reluctant to have its latest, highly proprietary GT tires sharing a CORE paddock and pit box with engineers from two rival tire companies (Yokohama spec tires on the GT3 class and Continental, now in its first season, as the PC spec tire) prior to the 2014 launch of the merged new USCR series.
With all of Long’s wins and championships having been scored with Porsche and Michelin, working with another tire maker would mean a steeper learning curve at a time when the team is determined to quickly showcase its potential.
During the winter, Michelin motorsports leaders worked with Bennett, Long and Brady to craft an acceptable solution.
“Certainly, coming in with a known quantity like Michelin is a huge help,” said Long. “It means we have no concerns on the tire side. We know we have the speed and reliability that the front-runners have. People underestimate how important those four contact patches are. You could have a perfect car, but if the tires aren’t working, it’s all for nothing.”