Today’s 1000-mile Petit Le Mans didn’t just mark the end of the 2012 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season, but it also marked the eighth win of the year for CORE autosport. The #06 Soloson Import ORECA FLM09, driven by Alex Popow, Ryan Dalziel and Mark Wilkins dominated the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, winning the Road Atlanta event by more than two laps over the next contender.
Popow, lead driver of the #06, took the first shift behind the wheel, among a 42-car starting field on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit. Starting from the fourth spot (16th overall when factoring in the faster P1 and P2 classes), Popow drove smart and maintained his position before turning the car over to Dalziel, who was able to drive through the field into the first PC position. From that point – approximately one-quarter into the race – Dalziel, Popow and Wilkins – cycled through the driver’s seat, rarely relinquishing first place. Dalziel took the final shift of the day and continued extending the lead, ending up on the top step of the podium (sixth overall).
This was the first Petit Le Mans win for all three drivers, and the fifth win of the year for the #06 machine.
The sister #05 Composite Resources machine, driven by team founder / owner Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Ricardo Gonzalez, started in second place and was in the hunt for the lead until the last quarter of the race, when an on-track incident set the car, and team, back in the standings. When the checkered flag flew, the #05 was scored in fourth place (10th overall).
Tonight’s win marks not only the eighth win for the Rock Hill, SC-based team but also the 17th podium visit on what has been a dream season for CORE autosport. The team clinched its second consecutive ALMS PC championship by the seventh race of the year (Road America) and its second consecutive driver’s championship, in 2012 for Popow, by the ninth event (VIR).
This was Popow’s rookie year in ALMS competition, and with a variety of co-drivers including Dalziel, Wilkins, Tom Kimber-Smith, E.J. Viso and Burt Frisselle, managed a podium finish in all ten rounds of the 2012 season. Popow started the 2012 ALMS season off with a bang with a win at the fabled Sebring 12 Hours, then followed up with wins at Long Beach, Road America, Baltimore and the second major endurance race of the year, Petit Le Mans.
Braun and Bennett, in the #05, may have had a tough Petit Le Mans, but the rest of their season was not as troubled. The first year of their pairing, the team finished on the podium seven times, with three wins – at Laguna Seca, Lime Rock and VIR. Braun, also in his first full year of ALMS competition, scored two pole positions (Mosport and VIR). The duo not only propelled CORE autosport to its team championship, but they finished the year second in the driver standings.
Morgan Brady, team manager, CORE autosport: “This was a phenomenal second season for CORE autosport and today’s win was even more special because we were able to do it in honor of Ralph Brown.
“To have won eight races out of ten this season and clinched the ALMS PC team and driver championships in advance is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved with CORE autosport.
“I’d like to thank the group that works so hard at the shop and track, including Mike Sales, Eric Van Bibber, Jay Ribas, Adam Wareing, Neal Everhart, Jamie Brooks, Brian Heriza, Ryan Imperial, Jeremy Joyner, Bobby Khavidi, Keith Goslin, Ross Needham, Fred Beltran, Sean Smith, Bryan Winn, Austin Bennett, Aaron Hamilton, Jim Cahall, Deb Forman and Lindsay Brown. I also want to thank our engineers, lead Gary Davies and Ed Nathman.
“And on behalf of the entire team, I’d like to thank Jon Bennett for his vision in creating CORE autosport.”
Jon Bennett “What a great season overall for CORE autosport – both teams, the #05 and #06 – did a spectacular job.
“Sometimes you can’t control the results. Colin, Ricardo and I did everything we could today, and the team worked very hard, but we struggled a bit with the #05.
“But the other car made it to the top step of the podium. I look forward to displaying that trophy in Ralph Brown’s hospital room.
“Congratulations to everyone with CORE autosport – from Alex and his co-drivers in the #06 to all of the crews and staff. We had a very strong season overall and I’m looking forward to the 2013 season!”
Colin Braun “It’s the end of my first year with CORE autosport and I can tell you that the team is everything I thought it would be. I wanted to be with a winning team and with eight wins over the season – including three for Jon and me this year – I cannot be happier with the whole organization.
“Although we starting off today’s race in a decent spot, it did not end the way I wanted. The #05 was really fast and Jon and Ricardo did a great job, but we had some bad luck when I was behind the wheel and unfortunately we fell back in the standings a bit to fourth.
“It seems like a lot of drivers have had a bone to pick with Petit Le Mans, and I’m no different now. I’m ready to come back next year and I won’t be satisfied with anything but the top step on the podium.
“Thank you to everyone at CORE autosport, Jon, Morgan Brady, Gary Davies and all the crew of the #05 car, including chief mechanics Eric Van Bibber and Jay Ribas. I look forward to coming back with the team next year.”
Ricardo Gonzalez "Congratulations to CORE autosport for an amazing season.
“It was great to be back with CORE autosport for Petit Le Mans. This race last year was when the team won the team championship and I won the driver championship, so to be back for this race felt right.
“I only drove one stint in the middle section of today’s race and we were doing very well. Unfortunately bad luck happens sometimes and we didn’t have the finish we wanted, but the team worked really hard and gave us a great car.
“I very much enjoyed driving with Colin and Jon, and I hope to have the opportunity to come back and race with the team again at some point next season.”
Alex Popow "Wow, what a win and what a season. 10 races, five wins and 10 podium finishes. What more can you ask for? It’s going to be hard to have another season better than this one.
“CORE autosport is a great organization and everyone on the team does an amazing job. Every time we ran together, we have gotten better and better and managed to dominate the PC class even more.
“I’ve got to hand it to Jon Bennett as owner of CORE autosport. He and his whole organization are so professional, from team manager Morgan Brady to engineer Ed Nathman to my crew headed up by Adam Wareing.
“But more than that, Jon was my competitor. It’s not everywhere that you get an equal car and opportunity to win when you’re driving against the team owner, but Jon made that happen for me and I cannot thank CORE autosport enough.
“I’m very happy for my country, my family and the support of my sponsors and partners including Soloson Import, Candal Taxand, Tourism Venezuela and more. All of their help and support has paid off with success this year.
“And of course I’d like to thank my co-drivers at CORE autosport this year, including at this race Ryan and Mark, but also the other drivers I’ve worked with, including Tom Kimber-Smith, Burt Frisselle and E.J. Viso.”
Ryan Dalziel “Petit Le Mans has always been cruel to me, and last year when I was driving with CORE autosport and getting wrecked with only a few minutes to go was just terrible.
“But this year we made up for it. I’m very happy for CORE and to help them get their first Petit Le Mans win, as well as help Alex cap off a tremendous run this year.
“The team was excellent today and everyone did a great job, with Ed giving us a solid car, the crew making fast stops that allowed Alex, Mark and I able to do our job.
“I really wanted to win at this race – especially this year when I was able to win at Sebring and Le Mans. It’s been a pretty good year for me and I’ve crossed a lot off my list. Now I guess it’s time to do it all again!”
Mark Wilkins "It feels great to have a win at Petit Le Mans. The CORE autosport crew did an awesome job, Alex and Ryan drove the wheels off the car and I was able to achieve my goals – don’t put a wheel wrong, get some good solid lap times and give the guys a nice clean car to take it to the end.
“Like Ryan, Petit Le Mans owed me one. In 2010, I was leading this race and we had a brake rotor failure. That year I co-drove to wins at Sebring and Laguna, and I really wanted to cap it off at Petit. Got it now.”
Source: CORE autosport