It’s often said that winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But winning it twice, in the same year, is a feat that had only happened twice before in the race’s 51-year history.
That was until last week when CORE autosport-prepared cars claimed victories in both the GT Le Mans and Prototype Challenge classes in the historic inaugural round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
In it’s 24-hour debut and the first race operating Porsche North America’s factory program, the Rock Hill, S.C.-based organization took the German manufacturer back to victory lane with its No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet.
What’s more, CORE’s PC effort of Colin Braun, Mark Wilkins, James Gue and team owner Jon Bennett joined in the winning celebrations, marking the first double class victory in the around-the-clock endurance classic since Porsche’s factory team in 1966.
“When you have a result like that, it takes a little while to sink in,” CORE autosport COO and team manager Morgan Brady said. “But when you look back at it, you know it’s real and you look at the accomplishments on both sides of our company, with the Porsche program as well as PC. It feels great.”
Having expanded from its successful roots in PC to running a customer Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the ALMS last year to being named as Porsche’s partner for its factory GTLM effort, the past 12 months has seen the team take some significant leaps forward.
CORE doubled in size during the off-season, having hired a dedicated staff for its new works GTLM program and moving its three-time championship-winning PC squad into an independent operation.
Among the additions were Tom Brown, who came on board to engineer the No. 54 Oreca FLM09 and former Krohn Racing team manager David Brown, who along with CORE’s Gary Davies, are now race engineers on the two Porsches.
There was no shortage of support from Weissach, either, with a half-dozen engineers from Porsche AG’s Performance and Drivetrain departments also assisting the effort in Daytona.
Despite the high level of preparation, CORE’s race operations staff only had limited running time with the new Porsches, due to the late end to the FIA World Endurance Championship season.
In fact, January’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 marked the first time many of the mechanics and crew had even worked together in a race environment.
“In the lead up to the race, there were certainly some teething problems that are to be expected with a program of this scale,” Brady explained. “The first race of any season is a challenge, let alone it being Daytona.
“However, once the race got started and we got through a couple of pit stops, everything really just came together. The guys were working well together.
“Between all three cars, not one car had to open toolbox to fix anything. It was just fuel, tires and driver changes for 24 hours.”
Brady credits the personnel behind both GTLM and PC efforts for making the difference on the track and in the pit lane.
Remarkably, the cumulative pit time for the class-winning No. 911 Porsche was 1 minute less than the nearest competition. That came in a class typically dominated by the efficiency of Corvette Racing on pit road.
“Everybody shows up to the track with cars. Everybody shows up to the track with equipment. Everybody for the most part has money, if they’re there. But people are one of the biggest differentiators,” Brady said. “I feel very fortunate to be working with the group of people we have here.”
The win for the No. 911 Porsche came on the heels of Porsche AG Team Manthey’s 1-2 finish in the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans last year, maintaining the German manufacturer’s 100 percent win record with the 991-based GT contender in 24-hour races.
While it’s unclear if Porsche can continue its winning ways for the rest of the TUDOR Championship, particularly given the high level of competition in the factory backed class, Brady, team owner Bennett and the rest of the crew at CORE are not taking the task lightly as they pursue titles in both classes.
“One of the things we talk about internally is that we feel a lot of responsibility to Porsche and the brand as a whole,” Brady said. “We’re truly ambassadors of the brand. From 50 years ago from the beginning of the 911 to more recently, we’ve had to live up to the history and carry on. We’re custodians of this history.
“I’m just really thankful to all our personnel. We’ve put a great group together that we’ve been able to uphold that, certainly in our first race, and we hope to continue that in further races.”