SEBRING - CORE autosport kicked off its 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season by winning the two most prominent endurance races in North America: first the Rolex 24 at Daytona and now the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
James Gue took on opening stint responsibilities, starting the No. 54 ORECA FLM09 from fourth, where Colin Braun qualified the car on Friday. Gue's first stint was plagued with yellow flags, many of them for incidents involving other PC cars. Gue kept the No. 54 out of trouble, handing it over to Jon Bennett without issue, who held the car in fourth-place before trading places with Braun.
"It was stressful there at the end," Braun said. "We had a lot of pressure from Bruno. He was definitely quick. You never know how it is when you get through traffic - it sometimes goes your way and sometimes doesn't. It was really nice that it went our way. We had to push pretty hard. I was dropping wheels and making some moves in traffic that were pretty aggressive. But that's what you've got to do to win these races."
It was in Braun's hands that the car found the PC lead for the first time. He held onto the lead until just past the halfway mark, when he passed the controls back to Gue. By this point in the 12-hour race, it was clear the PC class had boiled down to a battle between CORE autosport and the No. 09 RSR Racing entry.
Gue held his own in a duel with RSR's David Heinemeier Hansson with three hours to go, leaving Braun in a position to fight for the win in his final stint. The final full-course caution was issued with less than an hour remaining in the race while Braun was running second to RSR's Bruno Junqueira. Both cars needed to make pit stops during the yellow flag to make it to the finish, so CORE opted to use the strength of its pit work to leapfrog the No. 09 in the pits.
"My second stint was really fun," Gue said. "My back-and-forth with the No. 09 got a little bit closer than I wanted it too. I kind of got caught up on the restart there when the whole pack of DP cars came by. But I managed to recover from that and retake the lead. Then I got caught up in traffic again, and we went back and fourth. But ultimately I was finally able to pull away there at the end."
The green flag flew with 20 minutes remaining in the race and Braun in the PC lead. Junqueira cranked up the pressure with each lap and was within striking distance numerous times, but Braun kept his cool. At the finish line it was Braun by 2.428 seconds over Junqueira.
It is the second win at Sebring for CORE autosport, but the first for Bennett, Braun and Gue who are fresh off their Rolex 24 at Daytona win. The team has now won the first two rounds of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship and the Patrón North American Endurance Cup, not to mention the two most legendary sports car races in North America.
"I knew coming here there would be a lot of questions about our fantastic weekend at Daytona," Bennett said. "And I told myself that certainly that couldn't repeat itself. But we came here like we do at every event and we have a process, and we start at the beginning and let the results be what they're going to be. As the 11th hour clicked down, I was just in awe of the progress we had made and each of our individual successes adding up to another great event for us. There are really no words, and I'm very, very thankful for all the hard work that went into both wins. To accomplish the win here this year in the shadow of winning Daytona just a few weeks ago, it's a fantastic accomplishment."
CORE autosport will have a bit of a break before its next event, the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered By Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, May 3 and 4.
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