ROCK HILL, SC, Monday, October 15, 2012: The team and driver championships are clinched. Points are not a factor. The only goal for CORE autosport is victory this Saturday at the season finale of the 2012 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season, the 10-hour / 1000-mile Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda.

#05 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09
#05 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09

Photo by: Richard Sloop

Which of the CORE autosport drivers will stand on that top step is the question. The #05 Composite Resources ORECA FLM09 will be piloted by team owner / founder Jon Bennett, motorsports phenom Colin Braun and 2011 ALMS Prototype Challenge (PC) driver champion and former #06 driver Ricardo Gonzalez.

The sister #06 Soloson Import machine will feature 2012 ALMS PC driver champion Alex Popow, 2012 24 Hour Le Mans class winner and newly-crowned FIA WEC P2 champion Ryan Dalziel, and accomplished racer Mark Wilkins.

CORE autosport has only competed at Petit Le Mans once, in 2011, with a third-place class finish for the #06 car (30th overall when factoring in the four other classes) and a fifth place for the #05 (35th overall), resulting in the team’s first ALMS PC team championship and a tie for the driver’s title.

In 2012, CORE autosport has dominated the hotly-contested PC class, with seven wins, 16 podium finishes and early clinching of the team and driver championships.

But it’s not just about the victory for CORE autosport. The team will also be “Racing for Ralph” as a tribute to the recovery of Ralph Brown, who survived a brain aneurism on September 22nd.

Brown, affectionately known as “Dr. Fast Wax,” is the first CORE autosport crew member. His primary position is General Manager of Composite Resources, the business that #05 ORECA FLM09 driver Jon Bennett began to fund his racing career, but his motorsport involvement goes back even further. He was by Bennett’s side as Bennett progressed through the SCCA and IMSA ranks, as a travel companion, crew member and support system.

Brown has been a fixture at every CORE autosport event since the team was created and represents the heart and soul of the Rock Hill-based organization. Thankfully, with a combination of excellent medical care and support by family, friends, colleagues and racers, Brown is expected to make a full recovery.

#06 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet
#06 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

Jon Bennett
“Ralph Brown has been an integral part of my personal and professional success for years now, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at what is a very difficult time. He is a true friend and we are all glad that he’s making a recovery and will be back with us soon.

“That being said, Ralph is a racer and the only way we can truly honor him is to go out to Road Atlanta and do what we do best. I know he’ll be watching us in his hospital room and I look forward to placing a winner’s trophy in that room upon our return.

“It is such a change from last year to this year. In 2011, we were very nervous and our championship standing was precarious to say the least. We came together and did a great job. But this year is such a remarkable difference.

“I’m looking forward to going to Petit this year without having to worry about any championships and really race for the sport of it. It’s the race you end with and think about all winter, so it’s very important that we have a great race and end the season on a high note.

“With the driver lineup we have between Colin, Ricardo and me, I think we’ll be pretty strong.”

Colin Braun
“First I’d like to send good thoughts and prayers from Melissa and I to Ralph Brown and his family. Ralph’s a buddy of mine and I look forward to seeing him back in the shop and at the track soon, but first I want to bring him the winner’s trophy from Petit Le Mans.

“I’m looking forward to going back to Road Atlanta – I’ve done a lot of testing and racing there in my career, including in NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series cars, GRAND-AM Daytona Prototypes and even some in ALMS. It’s a place that I really enjoy running because it’s got a lot of high-speed corners and a great combination of turns, elevation changes and more.

“Endurance races like Petit Le Mans are why I enjoy driving sports cars as much as I do. It’s the combination of timing, strategy and perseverance between the drivers and the team, that make it all work. I really enjoy driving at night, which is even more challenging, but that’s the fun!”

Ricardo Gonzalez
"I was with CORE autosport in 2011 and obviously I know Ralph quite well and my whole family and I are hoping for his full recovery very quickly. He is a very good man and deserves only the best life has to offer.

“I’m very happy to be back with CORE autosport for Petit Le Mans. There’s a special connection for me with the team as we won two championships last year, and their season this year has been even better. They’ve done a great job and I am very confident that they’re prepared for this endurance race.

“I’ve run in two Petit Le Mans and have had some bad luck in those races, so I’m thinking the third try will be what it will take to get that win.

“Although I’ve driven for the team before, this will be the first time I’ll be co-driving with Jon and Colin. With that driver lineup, the confidence I have that the car will be very good right off the truck and the great crew, we will be the car to beat in the PC class.”

Alex Popow
"Ralph is a great guy and he’s helped the team, and me, a lot. I wish him and his family only the best and cannot wait to get him back at the track with us. Our team won’t be complete without him.

“What an ALMS season this has been so far. In nine races, the #06 car has been on the podium nine times and has had four wins. And thanks to everyone on the team and my co-drivers, I have clinched the 2012 ALMS PC driver championship.

“And all this happened in my first year with CORE autosport, in my first year driving in the ALMS!

“So now we’re looking for a good season finale run at Petit. We don’t have to worry about points, with the team and driver’s championships already won. So we can just go all out from the very first lap and go for the win.

“I really want to go for it all. We won some pretty big races this year, including 12 hours at Sebring and four hours at Road America. And now we’ve got to bring it home with the 10th podium finish for the #06 car and a win for what has been a dream season for me.

“We have a very strong driver lineup for the race. Ryan is very fast as always and Mark will be a great addition to the #06 car – he’s also pretty fast and very consistent – and my driving has also been pretty good this year, so the race should go our way.”

Ryan Dalziel
“Our thoughts are first with Ralph Brown and we wish the best for him and his family at this time. I’ve had a relationship with CORE autosport since the team began and have spent a lot of time with Ralph. He’s a very strong guy and we look forward to his quick recovery.

“I have a score to settle with Petit Le Mans. Last year I was driving the #05 car with Jon and Frankie [Montecalvo] and we ran into some bad luck throughout the race. We were going to finish in decent shape, but then, with only a few minutes to go, I was involved in a pretty serious wreck as I exited the pits.

“I know that this year we are in for a better run and a better finish. Although I’m driving a different car, the CORE autosport guys do not play favorites, so both have an equal chance to win.

“CORE has had an excellent year and I’m lucky to have had the chance to co-drive with Alex for two wins this season, as well as two additional podium finishes. He’s a great co-driver and with him and Mark as my teammates, this endurance race will certainly be one to look forward to.”

Mark Wilkins
"Road Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks and I’ve always felt comfortable there. I’ve run Petit Le Mans once before (2010), ironically in the same cars that CORE autosport now field. It’s one of the greatest endurance races in the world and it’s going to be a pleasure driving with CORE autosport, especially having Ryan and Alex as co-drivers.

“I love endurance racing. It’s a real team effort. So much goes on just to make it to the end of the event – there’s a ton of strategy, lots of pit stops, co-drivers – everyone has to rely on each other, and that’s the way I love to run.

“I cannot wait to get out there and stand on the top step of the podium, to bring victory to CORE autosport and Ralph Brown.”

Source: CORE autosport