CORE autosport claims two ALMS championships
BRASELTON, GA, Saturday, October 1, 2011: The ending couldn’t have been written, or predicted by the best Vegas odds-maker. A drama-filled 1000-mile American Le Mans Series (ALMS) finale was decided a mere nine laps before the finish, and the result was two championships for CORE autosport.
The first-year Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) team scored both the 2011 ALMS LMPC team championship and the driver championship for Gunnar Jeannette and Ricardo Gonzalez.
The team championship came down to one point over Genoa Racing - quite an accomplishment for CORE autosport, who only announced their intention to move from IMSA Prototype Lites to ALMS competition less than a year ago. Over the nine-race 2011 season, the two-car team won two races, was on the podium 10 times and scored three pole positions.
The 2011 ALMS LMPC driver championship race came down to an even tighter margin – zero. The prize for Jeannette and Gonzalez, co-drivers of the #06 Excel Consultants / Composite Resources ORECA FLM09, is shared with Eric Lux of Genoa Racing. The drivers all scored the exact same number of wins, second, third, fourth and fifth place finishes. This is the first time in ALMS 13-year history that such a tie exists and cannot be broken.
But championships were merely a result of the rollercoaster that was Saturday’s Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda – the 1000-mile ALMS 2011 finale at Road Atlanta.
For the #06 machine, driven by Jeannette, Gonzalez and Rudy Junco, the day began with a bump off-track by a GT car, shoving the car into gravel. The car was unharmed but lost two laps and Gonzalez drove the car from the sixth spot until turning it over in fourth to Jeannette. A combination of driver skill and strategy allowed Jeannette to lead the LMPC class until just after halfway, when the engine threw the accessory belt that drives the water pump and power steering. The #06 crew worked hard to fix the car and was able to get it on track, many laps down, but still running strongly. Junco took over and was able to maintain pace, eventually bringing the car into third spot even after an off-course excursion due to cold tires after a restart. Gonzalez brought the #06 home in the third LMPC spot (30th overall).
The sister #05 Bayshore Recycling / Composite Resources machine, driven by team principal Jon Bennett, Frankie Montecalvo and Ryan Dalziel, encountered even more drama. Montecalvo was able to stay out of trouble during his stints, despite minor on-track contact with a variety of aggressive traffic. About six hours into the event, Bennett was spun by a GT car, resulting in a lock-up of the #05’s transmission. The car was quickly fixed by the CORE autosport crew and was laps down, but still ahead of the Genoa team.
It wasn’t until Dalziel’s final stint, nine laps to the finish, when tragedy struck. When exiting pit road, Dalziel was involved in an on-track incident with the #16 LMP1 machine – severely damaging the car and forcing it out of the race. The #05 machine ended the race in fifth spot (35th overall). The Genoa team was able to claim the fourth spot, which allowed for the driver championship tie.
To see highlights of the Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda, tune into ABC-TV, who will televise a tape-delayed highlight of the event on Sunday, October 2 at 4 p.m. EST.
Morgan Brady, team manager, CORE autosport: “Overall it was a phenomenal first season for CORE autosport.
“The year had its ups and downs, but at the end of the day we were able to walk away with the team championship, which is something we set out to do from the beginning. And to be tied with Eric Lux for the driver’s championship is quite an accomplishment.
“I really want to thank everyone, but especially the folks that work at the shop day-in and day-out make this happen, including Mike Sales, Eric Vanbibber, Jay Ribas, Adam Wareing, Neal Everhart, Jamie Brooks, Alec Crabbe, Michele Henn and Lindsay Brown.
“And on behalf of the entire team, I’d like to thank Jon Bennett for making CORE autosport possible.”
“A championship is never a bad thing. I didn’t want this to end as a tie, but we had a great battle with the Genoa guys all year long. Having the exact same points with the exact same finishes is quite amazing.
“It’s been a fantastic year co-driving with Ricardo and a lot of fun to be a part of the CORE autosport organization. To see a team that was involved in the IMSA Lites series last year evolve into a championship ALMS team had to be one of the steepest learning curves ever in professional motorsports.
“I give a lot of credit to Morgan Brady and Jon Bennett putting together a great team and a great operation. Congrats to the crew as well for all their hard work, which has paid off.”
“I’m very happy for the team in its first year in the ALMS. The team did a great job including putting together first-class talent. Gunnar is a great co-driver and thanks to Rudy, who joined us on our longer races this year and added a lot of value.
“Also congratulations to Eric Lux – we had some good fights with him this year and he’s a very good driver.
“When I started in LMPC last year I had to get used to the car itself and this year I could just concentrate on getting the most out of it. Next year I want to go for even more success.”
“I had a lot of trouble out there in my first stint with the GT traffic, but the second stint was better for me. I got a rhythm down and was very comfortable in the car, but I did slide off.
“Luckily that didn’t put us too far behind and I could get the car to Ricardo to get the job done.
“Congratulations to the CORE autosport team, Gunnar and Ricardo. Everyone did a great job this season and I enjoyed driving with them.”
"I’m very proud of our season and all the people at CORE autosport. It’s been a real pleasure to work with such a group of professionals.
“In March of this year we barely knew each other’s names and over the year we’ve really gelled into a great team and a great company.
“I’m really looking forward to having everyone back for 2012 and having an even stronger season.”
“It was a long race and a long day. We really tried to do well out there and stay clean, but it didn’t work out that way.
“The guys did a great job getting the car back together after Jon got spun out. What a day it was for them, between the #06 car needing the belt replaced and then rebuilding our locked-up transmission, they worked hard. I drove the car after the transmission work and it was great – the guys just keep on working hard and bringing it together.
“I just tried to keep it all clean to give the car to Ryan and after what happened to him our hearts dropped. That was hard for all of us to take, but we did win a championship, so congratulations!”
“It’s a disappointing end to what could have been what should really have been a good day for us. We got involved in other people’s stupidity – it was just one of those days.
“To have it finished off by being hit at the end of pit lane was just the worst. I feel really bad for the guys – it’s miserable when you have to have a big repair after nine hours of running. But that’s racing.
“I’m really appreciative of the opportunity from CORE and had a blast working with Jon and Frankie. And hopefully we can do more next year.”