By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
SEBRING, Fla– CORE Autosport had a mountain to climb at the 67th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Starting last in the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class, the team are the only representative for Nissan in the class but were able to fight to finish fifth on Saturday’s once around the clock classic with Colin Braun, Romain Dumas and John Bennett behind the wheel of the No. 54 entry.
Teetering on the edge of the lead lap for most of the race, the South Carolina team used caution periods and wave-around procedures and got back on the lead lap late in the race but ended up finishing one lap down to the eventual race winners in the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express Racing.
Team owner and founder Bennett did his stints earlier in the race and himself is a microcosm in the DPi class. Much like his team being loners in being Nissan’s only representative, Bennett is also unique in that he is the only bronze-rated amateur driver in the professional DPi category.
“I think the result certainly was a strong one,” said Bennett. “We’re learning the car and the tire pretty quickly and Colin and Romain, they’re always magic in the car and I think the race bounced a couple different ways, yellows come and go [and] who knows how it could’ve been but the car ran flawless for 12 hours in a very very punishing environment so I couldn’t be happier. I mean it’s certainly not the goal we came here for but it’s still a strong finish.”
Braun has raced for CORE Autosport since 2012 and won the races at Road America and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2018 co-driving with Bennett.
“I think we did great, I mean as far as things that we could control I think we did a really good job of that,” said Braun. “The guys had great pit stops and we were clean with really no contact all race and so we did all we could do. I think fortunately there at the end we got back on the lead lap but we didn’t have the fuel range that those guys did to be able to not have to save. We were in kind of full save mode and they were going hard and so we were kind of stuck.”
Braun and Dumas were two laps short on fuel near the end of the race so they ran in maximum save mode to avoid having to make another pit stop toward the end of the race. This was the team’s second race since taking delivery of the car just over a month before the Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January and despite the help they’ve received so far from out of date notes, progress has been gradual.
“We were talking during the race even some things we wanted to work on for the next time we go, I mean the more we run it, the more we run it in races, the more we’re able to gain. Our own knowledge in just kind of areas we want to improve, the Cadillacs seem to have, I don’t think it’s a big secret, but they have amazing grip, slow corner grip and so we’ve got to find a way to get us more slow corner pure grip and traction. Obviously with Long Beach coming up that’s going to be a big focus for us so we have some ideas and I’m sure we’ll be better come Long Beach.”
The BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach is the next race for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and will be contested between the DPi and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes.