Two-time American Le Mans Series Prototype Challenge Champions and defending Twelve Hours of Sebring class winner CORE autosport took the first step to defending its victory by scoring the class pole at Sebring International Raceway today.
Colin Braun earned the PC class pole and qualifying record for the legendary 12-hour race on his final lap of the session.
Braun’s first lap around the 3.74-mile track put the No. 05 ORECA FLM09 at the top of the PC qualifying times early, but it did not last long with the incredibly close competition PC is known for.
After shuffling around the top three for the majority of the 15-minute session, Braun pulled out all the stops on his final lap and flashed across the finish line with a lap of 1:53.404 (118.726 mph), a new PC qualifying lap record at Sebring. Braun’s time was 0.27-second clear of the next PC car and a full 1.106 seconds clear of the previous qualifying record.
Braun will share the No. 05 with co-drivers Jon Bennett and Mark Wilkins for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, which begins at 10:45 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live on SPEED. Live timing can be found at ALMS.com.
Besides getting its 2013 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón season off to a fast start with the PC pole at Sebring, CORE autosport began its first foray into the Porsche IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama. Bennett took to the wheel of the No. 54 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for races on Thursday and Friday. In his Series’ debut, Bennett finished 20th and 18th in the massive 40-car field.
“A big congratulations to CORE autosport. This is more about what the team has done over the offseason and what they’ve done over the week. They’ve been working their butts off getting this car prepared. We didn’t work really hard on our qualifying setup, we worked more on the race setup, so to be able to jump up there and get the pole is surprising, actually. [Engineer] Gary Davies did a great job getting me setup for qualifying. I’m really excited to get the race going. It’s nice to end the qualifying session on top, but even more exciting because I think we have a better race car than we do a qualifying car.
“This new Continental tire has proven to hold up pretty damn good. We were able to go out in practice and do some simulated qualifying runs, but it’s tough with all the traffic we’ve had in the practice sessions, so to have the opportunity to run for 15 minutes with a clear track gave us the opportunity to figure out where this tire goes, how it comes in, how it falls off, the qualifying pace and things like that. I was surprised to be able to put that lap in there at the end. Hats off to the guys at Continental, they’ve done a good job and I’m excited for tomorrow.
“I think everyone was getting quicker and quicker. The first lap that I put in was really good and I thought it could be a potential pole lap, but I ended up going six or seven-tenths quicker. I was a little bit surprised by that. I had to keep pushing harder and harder, but I was happy.”
“GT3 Cup racing is very exciting and this weekend’s been a bit of learning experience, but we’re optimistic that we’ll get a handle on it and get the car toward the front. I’m really enjoying the racing. There’s racing going on throughout the pack and it’s very competitive. The car is wonderful to drive and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
“Starting off the season with a pole at Sebring feels amazing. The team worked really hard for this in the offseason and it’s great to see that pay off right away in qualifying. It’s a long race though, so we can’t celebrate this pole for long; we’re going to focus on being prepared for anything Sebring might throw our way and make sure we’re up front and in position for a win at the end of 12 hours.
“The close times in qualifying show how competitive PC is. Tomorrow’s race will come down to who has prepared the most reliable car and makes the least mistakes. The team has been working very hard since we got to Sebring, practicing different race scenarios, and I feel confidant that we’ve done everything we can to put ourselves in position for a win tomorrow.
[Pic credit: ALMS/Dan Boyd]