CORE autosport is back in the prototype ranks after a year away with full-season LMP3 entry in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, an opportunity that team owner Jon Bennett calls “a win-win” for himself and the team after the conclusion of the Porsche factory GT Le Mans program.
Bennett, who came four points away from taking the combined IMSA Prototype class crown as a privateer in 2018, is reunited with longtime co-driver Colin Braun for the season and is joined by George Kurtz and Matt McMurry for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
After a year spent out of the cockpit in 2020, Bennett felt the call to get back in the seat and saw LMP3 as the perfect option for a variety of reasons.
“When racing came to an end in October of 2019 I had really accomplished more than I could have ever imagined,” Bennett told Sportscar365.
“Two seasons in the top category, one racing DPis with an LMP2 car and one actually with the Nissan DPi, there’s a lot to it.
“Quite honestly I had done nearly 27 seasons back to back in different categories and I was kind of curious what life would be like without racing, but not so much!
“I missed being in the paddock. I have a lot of friends here and it’s part of my life I obviously kept an eye on the headlines in IMSA and was coming to the races to support our GTLM program with Porsche.
“I noticed some changes, primarily the addition of LMP3, which I think was a great idea in terms of increasing the numbers of competitors.
“It’s a class that while it’s not inexpensive — no racing at this level is — but I could make sense out of it.
“That desire to come back to racing plus realizing that Porsche was planning to pause its GT Le Mans program, I didn’t want to see our CORE teammates unemployed during this super difficult time.
“As you go through life you look for win-wins, and the LMP3 class allowed me to get back in a race car with Colin and keep many of our CORE autosport team members employed. It keeps the organization active.”
Bennett said approximately 40 percent of the staff remains from the crew that ran two Porsche 911 RSRs last year on behalf of Porsche while the rest were largely able to find work elsewhere.
That leaves CORE with a crew long on experience, but still very new to the LMP3 platform.
“I would say this car is a really well-put-together car,” he said. “The performance seems like it’s somewhere between the LMPC (Oreca FLM09) and the Oreca LMP2 car.
“We’re still getting the plastic off the seat so to speak so our book of tricks is only a page deep at the moment, but we’re learning the car.
“We did a shakedown at a local track and then the sessions here so we’re just getting started, but it has a lot of potential.”
Separation Between LMP3, GTLM “Will Be Fine”
While acknowledging that it will require cooperation from all parties, Bennett played down the concerns about the lack of a clear speed disparity between the LMP3 and GTLM classes.
“Racing is always better when there are logical class splits in terms of performance,” he said. “I think for the race it will be fine.
“If it had been earlier days where there had been a full compliment of GT Le Mans cars it would have been pretty wild, but I think it will be fine for the season.
“The good news is that as the season goes on and as LMP3 teams learn their cars that class split may evolve, which would be great. And if it doesn’t I’m sure IMSA will make some changes to help that along.
“It would be great to see the class slot in just above GT Le Mans, and I wouldn’t mind seeing another ten cars come into the class. It’s a bit tricky.
“We all know each other for the most part, maybe me better than most. I know the job that the GTLM drivers have to accomplish. There’s a lot of pressure to succeed. We have to learn to get along, basically.”