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.”