Not Only Did They Get to Use Their Headlights, They Finished Seventh in the Rolex 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 6 - For most 16-year-olds, just passing the test for a driver's license is cause for celebration. For 16-year-old Colin Braun, the...
Not Only Did They Get to Use Their Headlights, They Finished Seventh in the Rolex 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 6 - For most 16-year-olds, just passing the test for a driver's license is cause for celebration.
For 16-year-old Colin Braun, the celebration this weekend was all about competing in the Rolex 24 sports car race at Daytona International Speedway.
Finishing seventh in the GT class Sunday was icing on the cake.
"It's just cool to be here. I'm used to doing 45-minute support event races, and it's cool to be the main event," said Braun, of Ovalo, Texas.
Not only did he compete in the main event, he raced in the most prestigious endurance sports car race in North America.
Team16 consisted of three 16-year-old drivers - Colin Braun, Adrian Carrio and Brad Coleman - along with veteran driver Ross Bentley. The team completed 650 laps in a Porsche GT3 Cup car, covering 2,314 miles to finish 17th overall and seventh in the GT class.
"When we did the autograph session, we weren't off at some little table; we were in the main company of everybody else," Braun said. "I had a great time here. It's cool being here with famous people like Max Papis and Terry Borcheller and guys like that," he added with a smile.
Braun's sprightly voice, paired with the sparkle in his eyes, confirmed his sense of satisfaction about competing in one of the world's most prestigious sports car races.
"My name is on the list now, so I'm having a blast!" he said.
With the Rolex 24 attracting top drivers from around the world for this year's event, talk in the paddock circulated regarding whether the teens would even make it to sunset.
Not only did they do that, they finished the twice-around-the-clock classic.
"I could not be more proud" of the trio said co-driver Bentley, who also provided coaching to his teammates. "They did a lot of work to prepare and they have performed perfectly. I heard that people where betting whether they would even get to use their headlights."
"I think it's great," said Braun after seeing his bright-blue No. 16 Porsche cross the finish line to complete 24 hours of fierce competition. "We started out this whole program with the goal of finishing the race. There were a lot of people who thought we could never do it. A lot of guys were saying, 'You'll never make it; you won't even use your headlights.' So it's cool to finish the race and let all those people know we could do it.
"I'm obviously really happy with seventh," he added. "Of course I'd like to win, but it doesn't always go that way."
Approaching a 24-hour race is a daunting task for an adult, and yet the three teens took it in stride. Braun and his teammates avoided major problems, set a steady pace and exceeded their goals. The few problems they encountered were quickly resolved by the Team16 crew.
"During my second stint we were trying to get a lap ahead by getting the wave-by, but we had a problem with the wheel studs," stated Braun. "Unfortunately we didn't get the wave-by, but the guys got the car back together and got it out without losing very much time."
In addition to the minor mechanical problem, there were close calls on the track. "I got hit on my second stint by some car that was behind me," Braun said. "I was trying to pass one of those slower Ferraris. It just tapped me in the back and spun me around."
Competing in the GT class also meant giving room to the faster Daytona Prototype category. "Adrian Carrio got hit by a Daytona Prototype in the banking and I got hit by one in turn five, so I think everybody has had their little run-ins," said Braun. "The crew did a good job recovering from those and they really didn't cost us any time, so it's good."
Braun's finish in the Rolex 24 was aided by his father, Jeff Braun. A veteran race car engineer with years of experience at Indianapolis, Le Mans and Sebring, Jeff Braun engineered the teen's car and then called the race strategy from the pits.
"Some of my best memories of this race are being able to do it with my Dad," said Jeff Braun. "He's not here to enjoy this, but being able to do it with Colin and my other son, Travis, is just fantastic; a dream come true. Sixteen years ago I was here doing this race and Colin was four months old. I never dreamed I would get to do it with him, and I certainly never dreamed I'd get this kind of result. It's unbelievable."
Jeff Braun was proud of Colin's results this weekend. "He's a professional race car driver as of today," said Jeff. "That's what he wants to do; he wants the world to know that, and I just want him to have that opportunity. This is a big step towards that."
As for Colin, he said "I just want to be driving something. At this point in my career I'm going to be driving anything I can, whenever I can."
More information can be found at www.colinbraun.com; www.grandamerican.com; www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com; www.speedtv.com and www.restartcommunications.com.