CORE autosport Expands to GT with Porsche
ROCK HILL, S.C. (Jan. 22, 2013) - Defending American Le Mans Series Prototype Challenge class champion CORE autosport announced plans to expand to the GT category in 2013 with a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR piloted by Porsche factory star Patrick Long and three-time Le Mans class winner Tom Kimber-Smith. The new entry will be in addition to the team's confirmed return to the PC class where team owner/driver Jon Bennett and young standout Colin Braun are targeting CORE's third consecutive championship.
In only two seasons of ALMS competition, CORE autosport has grown into a PC powerhouse, earning back-to-back team and driver championships (the 2011 PC driver championship was a three-way tie). The team hopes to further showcase its strength by becoming a Porsche customer team in 2013.
"CORE autosport has obviously achieved great success in the PC class in the ALMS, but we're really looking to expand our horizons and show what the team is capable of," Bennett said. "This has been a strategic business design by our company. Our target for 2013 is to build a strong infrastructure capable of supporting a two-car factory effort. We want to prove we are capable of being successful in GT racing and this year will be a great learning experience for us.
"We know the GT class in the ALMS is one of the most fiercely contested events in the world," he added. "That will become a great measuring stick for us. We know we are really stepping into the big leagues - not only against other Porsche customer teams but Corvette, BMW and Ferrari."
CORE autosport joins Team Falken Tire and Paul Miller Racing as Porsche customers in the GT class.
"We are pleased that CORE autosport has chosen the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to compete in the American Le Mans Series GT class for 2013 - giving us three customers teams entered in the most competitive GT race series in the world," said Jens Walther, president of Porsche Motorsport North America. "Jon Bennett and (team manager) Morgan Brady have shown a very high level of professionalism right from our first meeting last year at Le Mans and the PMNA team is looking forward to working with the team."
The team has revealed it will enter the 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida with just its PC car and begin an extensive test program with the Porsche following the 12-hour classic. CORE's GT race debut will follow shortly thereafter.
A Porsche factory driver since 2003, three-time ALMS GT champion Long is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to kick-start CORE's GT program.
"It is an exciting year for me," Long said. "I'm ready for a role of growth in 2013. It is going to be a great challenge because the GT class has a ton of activity and a lot of manufacturer involvement. It will be about getting up to speed quickly and growing for the future. I first noticed CORE when they made their debut in Sebring 2011. Straight away you could tell that these guys were very serious. They run an efficient and successful operation and when you look at Porsche I see a lot of similarities between the two organizations.
"I think it is going to be a great fit. Although prototype and GT cars are all out on the track together, in GT racing there is a very different mentality," Long added. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to work from the ground level with an organization that has proven they can win in another class, but are now ready to go up against all the other manufacturers in GT."
Kimber-Smith, Long's new teammate, will return to GT action in 2013. The talented Brit has earned three Le Mans victories in only four attempts at the French classic. Last season, he dovetailed a full-season with P2 competitor Greaves Motorsport in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) with four races, four podiums and a victory for CORE autosport in the ALMS. He also scored his third victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after being drafted into the race-winning HPD LMP2 squad.
"I can't wait to get started. As soon as I heard about this program I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of," Kimber-Smith said. "This has all come together really quickly, and I am sure the time between now and when we make our race debut will go by very quickly. I am really excited about being in the ALMS on a full-time basis. I don't think there is another championship in the world quite like it. To be in the GT class will be something very special because I think it is going to be as competitive as it has even been. I really couldn't be in a better position.
"Having Patrick as a teammate is going to be fantastic," Kimber-Smith added. "While I have won Le Mans in the GT class before, I haven't done any miles in a Porsche previously so his input is going to be a huge asset. We've crossed paths before - his final year in British Formula Ford was my first year in the class."
In addition to CORE's PC and GT programs, team owner/driver Bennett will add a debut season in the Porsche IMSA GT3 Cup to his PC title bid. The Porsche IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama is an eight-race single-make championship that visits seven rounds of the ALMS plus an appearance at the fabled Watkins Glen circuit.