By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
CORE Autosport were at the short end of the stick.
The team announced on November 30th that they would be switching to the Nissan DPi platform after Extreme Speed Motorsports pulled out of the WeatherTech Championship. That gave the team just over a month to get their brand new car, prepare everything for the Roar Before the 24 test in early January and iron out any kinks discovered in the car in preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Then comes the race and the team starts tenth out of 11 cars in the DPi class with only the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi not participating in qualifying. Going up against the Mazda duo, the Acura duo and the Cadillac sextet isn’t an easy proposition for the lone rangers from Rock Hill, South Carolina with team owner Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, Romain Dumas and Loic Duval driving.
But that’s the challenge the CORE group undertook, and undertake it they did. The team had many issues during the race, including a flat tire about an hour and a half after the start. After the pit stop to change that flat tire, the team were dealt a pit road speeding penalty and had to perform a drive-through penalty. More pressing than those issues was a gearbox problem as lead engineer Jeff Braun elaborated about on his Instagram page.
“My four data and electronics guys saved our race by writing computer code while the car was failing on track, and then reprogramming two onboard computers during a pit stop to keep the gearbox operating,” said Braun.
That was nearly 11 hours into the race, and the team lost around seven laps in the pits fixing that issue. That was also before the rain.
When the rains came down, CORE Autosport had more difficulties. Romain Dumas spun and had contact with the tire barrier that removed the rear wing and necessitated a lengthier pit stop than normal to repair the car. But there were still more issues.
There was another spin and another pit road speeding penalty, but the team still kept going and finished fourth, having been down as far as 13th early in the race.
Attention during the race was focused on numerous other stories, and for good reason. Alex Zanardi raced in the U.S. for the first time in many years. 2005 and 2006 Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso raced for Wayne Taylor Racing in an all star lineup. 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi drove for Team Penske while a new team made its debut with Lexus in the GTD class and scored a class podium. However, CORE Autosport was overlooked by many, this writer included.
Finishing a 24 hour race after learning an entirely different car in less than two months should be commended. CORE Autosport should be proud of their effort, as should Nissan. Both won twice in 2018, and with the right circumstances, CORE Autosport can (and should) win more.