After coming so close to a second consecutive Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona victory on Sunday, the four CORE Autosport drivers reflected on the Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) class win that got away.
The #54 Composite Resources/Flex Box Oreca FLM09 led more than eighty-per-cent of the race, but a crash with just twenty minutes ended their chances. Colin Braun was the unfortunate driver to end in the wall, but between him, Jon Bennett, James Gue and Mark Wilkins, did enough to finish third in class, as well as claiming the overall victory in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
“Everybody did a really great job,” said a disappointed Braun after the race. “We were struggling with the straight-line speed of the car, but we were still managing the gap.
“With 20 minutes to go or so, I made a pretty routine pass around the outside of a really slow DP car in Turn 5. I think he just missed his brake marker and ran into the right rear of me pretty hard. It was hard enough to spin me out and subsequently, I think, break the right rear suspension, unbeknownst to me.
“Finally, I got it back going on track and I thought it was going to be ok. I went through the bus stop and I think the suspension just folded up. I ended up hitting the wall pretty hard, bringing our day to an abrupt end.”
“I’m gutted for everybody. We were in a position to win the race and had that guy used better judgment, I think we would’ve won the race. It’s one thing when you make a bold move and get on the bad side of it, but it’s another thing when I make a routine move that I’ve made a hundred times in a race and that happens.”
Team-mate Bennett laid no blame on Braun for what happened in the closing stages, and said the teams’ retirement was just a normal part of racing.
“With the events of today, it’s easy to focus on the last 20 minutes of the race,” insisted Bennett. “But quite honestly, the first 23 hours and 40 minutes were pretty amazing. After a great performance last year, we led this race essentially from the drop of the green flag right until the very end.
“Unfortunately, stuff like this happens when you’re in the business of risk management. We take chances once or twice a lap, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s just a fact of racing.”
Third driver Gue felt CORE Autosport were the dominant team in the class during the event, but felt the way the race ended for them was disappointing. He was happy to be a part of the team for the event once more, admitting he felt right at home.
“Overall, CORE again showed they are the dominant team in this class,” said Gue. “I think we led the majority of the race, and I felt very comfortable in the car. We had a great set-up and were in really good shape.
“The end was unfortunate, the way it finished. While it’s always good to be on the podium, it wasn’t necessarily representative of the effort the whole team put in. Overall, it’s fantastic to be back with CORE. Everyone is so welcoming, I feel like I’m home.”
Final driver Wilkins praised the overall effort of the CORE Autosport team even if the ultimate result was not as the team had wanted. Like Gue, he felt happy to be a part of the driver line-up for the event again.
“I can’t say enough about the CORE Autosport team,” said Wilkins. “I think they are the best in the business. They gave us a great race car. The set-up was spot-on.
“We pushed hard all race, but we were smart and stayed out of trouble. It’s a tough one. There’s a reason why it feels so good to win one of these; it’s because they are really hard to win. All in all, the team performed excellent. Everyone did a great job in and out of the car. For that, it was awesome to be a part of the team for this event.”