After winning the American Le Mans Series LMPC class twice in his first two years, Core Autosport owner Jon Bennett wanted a new challenge. That challenge would be a full-season entry into the hyper-competitive GTE class with a Porsche, Bennett decided.
That Porsche would be piloted by factory driver Pat Long and three-time Le Mans class winner, Tom Kimber-Smith, Bennett decided—no sense not hiring two top gun-slingers when going to a gunfight.
With top-rank drivers and a proven team, Core could shake up the class; certainly the new crew is the favorite among the Porsche entries, and given Core’s history of excellence of preparation, should take the fight on even footing to the Corvettes, Ferraris, and BMWs that have dominated in recent seasons.
Core will carry on with its PC campaign—Bennett and co-driver Colin Braun want a three-peat in the class. But Bennett also saw a chance to compete for a second class championship, and he took it.
“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,” team owner, Jon Bennett saidsaid Bennett on the team’s website.
“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. 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.
With the withdrawal of the Flying Lizards from GTE, Bennet saw a chance to sign up with Porsche and to capture one of the world’s top Porsche drivers in Patrick Long.
“Morgan [team manager, Morgan Brady] and I are thrilled that Porsche has shown faith in our team by making Patrick available for us. There are a lot of Porsche fans in the paddock and we look forward making them Core Autosport fans as well,” said Bennett.
“We know the car can win races and Patrick’s record with three ALMS championships and two Le Mans wins is exceptional.
“Being able to team him with Tom Kimber-Smith who became a regular at Core last year is an amazing opportunity. In total they have five Le Mans wins between them.”
Patrick Long, 31, has been a factory Porsche driver since 2003—the only American on Porsche’s roster. He has three ALMS titles, 21 race wins, and two class wins at Le Mans.
“It is an exciting year for me. I’m ready for a role of growth in 2013. It is going to be a great challenge because the GTE 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,” Long said.
“I first noticed Core when they made their debut in Sebring 2011, Long said. “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. 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.
“2013 is a transitional year for the American Le Mans Series. It is a great opportunity for Core Autosport to get up to speed. I need to learn the team, the team needs to learn the car but we have realistic expectations and to be at the ground level to start that building process is very exciting.”
Long’s new driving partner Tom Kimber-Smith has two P2 and one GT class win at Le Mans in only four attempts. He helped Starworks win the 2012 World Endurance Championship in LMP2 while also driving for Greaves Motorsports in ELMS and Core in ALMS, with a couple races in the FIA GT1 World Championship.
The 28-year-old Brit has amassed quite a record since winning his first championship in 2000. “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 GTE 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. 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.
“Patrick is super fast in a Porsche so I don’t think I could ask for a better teammate. This will be a big challenge for Core Autosport and myself. To step into the GTE category will not be easy but having Patrick around will be a big help.”
Not content with competing in two tough ALMS classes, Core is also entering the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge, an all-Porsche series which often races on ALMS weekends.
The new Core GTE Porsche won’t be ready in time for the season opener at Sebring. The team plans an extensive test program starting after the 12-hour classic, with the new car’s debut soon after.
The American Le Mans Series 2013 season—it’s last before merging with Grand Am—kicks off with the 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway, in Sebring, Florida, on March 16.
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