Thanks to heroic drives by the four team drivers at today’s four hour event, CORE autosport was able to lock up the team title after only seven of the scheduled ten 2012 American Le Mans Series races. In these seven races, the team scored 13 podium spots – five wins, four second places, four thirds – the best record of any Prototype Challenge (PC) contender since the class began in 2010 and a marked difference from CORE autosport’s 2011 championship run, which was decided after the season finale.
It was the closing laps of today’s race that had the entire team on edge as Tom Kimber-Smith, co-driver of the #06 Soloson Import ORECA FLM09 battled Colin Braun in the sister #05 Composite Resources machine. The two battled each other relentlessly around the 14-turn, 4.048-mile Road America circuit.
Between the close calls, drag races on the straightaways and using traffic as moving “pics,” team manager Morgan Brady was a bit nervous, but the drivers kept it in check. In the end, Kimber-Smith was able to hold off Braun and cross the line a mere 0.42 seconds ahead.
But the one-two finish – the second of the season for the team – did not look like it was possible as the race began.
Kimber-Smith, starting the #06 machine in second place, wasn’t sure if his co-driver Alex Popow was actually going to arrive in time for the race. Popow was in Montreal this morning taking the wheel of a GRAND-AM Daytona Prototype, chasing a championship in that series as well. After Popow’s stint driving the DP car, he took a helicopter, plane and car to Road America, and after arriving had approximately four minutes to breathe before taking over from Kimber-Smith at the 47 minute mark of the race.
An exhausted Popow was able to turn the #06 back over to Kimber-Smith in second spot a bit after the halfway point of the race, and Kimber-Smith brought the car home in a hard-fought first place (fifth overall behind the faster P1 and P2 class cars).
In the #05 car, team owner and founder Jon Bennett started the race with a teammate present, but a car placed at the back of the field. Due to a mechanical issue that prevented the #05 from participating in Friday’s qualifying session, Bennett took the green flag in seventh spot in the PC class, but 33rd overall, well behind slower GT and GTC cars.
Bennett quickly sliced his way through the field and cleared slower traffic in less than 20 minutes. Hustling as hard as he could, Bennett turned the #05 over to Braun after an hour and a half, setting Braun off in seventh spot in the PC class but well within striking distance of the leaders. Hard driving, a series of caution periods and strategy allowed the #05 to end up in the second spot, despite Braun’s best efforts to repeat his Lime Rock-winning pass.
With the team championship locked up, CORE autosport drivers now face a second ALMS championship to win in 2012 – the PC driver’s championship. After today’s win, Popow slightly increased his lead in the ALMS PC driver’s standings over the #05 CORE autosport drivers, Braun and Bennett. Despite being teammates, each driver has vowed to fight to the end for that title, which may not be decided until the final round of the 2012 ALMS season at the Petit Le Mans in October.
To see a highlight race broadcast from today’s four-hour Road America Road Race Showcase, tune into ESPN2 on Sunday, August 19th at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Next, CORE autosport will take to the streets of Baltimore’s inner harbor for the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT. Practice and qualifying for the event will be held on Friday, August 31, with the two-hour street race on Saturday, September 1.
Source: CORE autosport