DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It may have been quiet and they may have barely come home on the lead lap, but a podium effort was more than CORE Autosport could have hoped for Sunday at the end of the 56th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Embarking on their maiden voyage in the Prototype class, the team of Loic Duval, Romain Dumas, Jon Bennett and Colin Braun ran a consistent and steady race, staying out of trouble and avoiding any mechanical misfortunes to come home third behind the two Action Express Racing Cadillac DPis at the end of the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
At first glance, it may not have seemed like much, but for a team that boasts five-straight Prototype Challenge championships (2011-2015) between the American Le Mans Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and was making its debut in the premier class, it was a watershed moment.
“It’s hard to find the words to describe this moment,” said team principal and co-driver Bennett after the end of the race on Sunday. “I knew earlier this week when I crossed through the turn four tunnel, that competing in IMSA’s top class, we had a glimmer of a chance of winning this race.”
“With all the big names and storylines this week, we just put our heads down and stuck to our old formula, which was staying in our lane, doing our jobs and letting the rest take care of itself. I’m so proud of the team and my co-drivers. It means so much to me, to reach a pinnacle, in terms of the category, and then to do it well. Personally, it is so important and a pleasure to share with the team.”
Of particular importance was Braun’s closing stint on Sunday afternoon, in which he regained three laps against the leading No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi of Filipe Albuquerque to put the CORE No. 54 ORECA 07 LMP2 back into contention late in the going.
“We had a great race. We didn’t really have any issues,” admitted Braun. “We got pretty close to a win there at the end, and maybe if we’d had another yellow or two we could have made it happen, but a podium is a good way to start our first Prototype season.”
“I think we had the most reliable car this weekend, especially when you see where we came back from,” added Duval. “We had good fun, the four of us, and it was a pleasure to join the team and to race with Colin, Jon and Romain.”
“It’s just a great effort. It’s a nice reward for the team in the first race with this car. But on the other hand, when you are so close and when you come back so close to the leader and you’re finishing [on] the same lap … we had, I would say, a weird race this year with only four yellows or something like that. Maybe it could have been a different race if we had more. But at the end it’s a great effort from all of us, and we are really proud of this result.”
CORE Autosport ended as the highest-finishing Pro-Am entry, earning a set of Rolex watches for all four drivers in the process.
But that particular distinction was bigger than just the physical rewards, said Bennett.
The long-time CORE team runner affirmed that this year’s Rolex 24 marked CORE’s arrival among factory-supported powerhouses like Acura Team Penske, Mazda Team Joest and Wayne Taylor Racing, in addition to the race-winning and three-time Prototype champion Action Express squad.
Now, CORE Autosport hopes to be the next name on that list of champions.
“We belong here,” said Bennett. “We understand what we’re doing. We understand the category and we’re ready to compete.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 24-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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