CORE Autosport Rises To ALMS Success
BRASELTON, Ga. – In April of 2010, CORE Autosport founder Jonathan Bennett showed his new team manager Morgan Brady into an office at Composite Resources, Bennett’s manufacturing company. ‘Call me when you have a race team,’ Bennett said.
That’s a lot of faith to place in someone you met at a gym wearing an American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón shirt, but Bennett made a shrewd choice in Brady who has since delivered back-to-back PC championships for CORE.
Brady made his own leap of faith when he met Jon. The mild-mannered business owner’s second statement upon meeting Brady was ‘I’m going to start an ALMS team in Charlotte.’ It was a bold declaration, but a tour of Bennett’s Composite Resources operation convinced Brady this was a real opportunity to build a successful race team.
“Composite Resources appeared to me to be a mini-McLaren-esque operation applied to the composite manufacturing industry,” Brady recalled. “There was a feel and an air of all of the important values of racing in terms of organization, cleanliness and presentation. There was a very precise way of doing things. Although they weren’t motorsports related, there was a general sense that I could tell would carry over to the racing industry.”
Bennett’s financial commitment to racing and time were in Brady’s favor. He was hired in April of 2010, while Bennett was competing in the IMSA Prototype Lites Championship. CORE autosport slowly took over ownership of the team, establishing an inventory of staff and equipment and the framework for a race team. After winning the 2010 L1 team and drivers’ championship, Bennett was ready to make the leap to ALMS; Brady wasn’t so sure.
“By the time we got to Petit Le Mans, Jon was really gung-ho to go into ALMS the next year,” Brady said. “I told him ‘you need to promise me that if we put out a press release saying we’re going to run LMPC in 2011, you have to promise me we’ll do it,’ and that’s exactly what we did. That to me was a strong indicator of Jon’s personality and that he’s for real and not messing around. We’d only worked together for a short time at that point and unfortunately racing is notorious for guys that say one thing and do another, but Jon Bennett is absolutely a man of his word.”
In 2011, its first year of PC competition, CORE autosport won two races en route to the PC team championship and a three-way tie for the drivers’ championship with pilots Gunnar Jeannette and Ricardo Gonzalez (who tied with Genoa Racing’s Eric Lux).
People have certainly been a key component of CORE’s success, not just finding the right people, but getting them to all work in concert as a team. Brady found this particularly challenging in the first season when everyone was new and brought different ideas, philosophies and attitudes to the shop. His primary strategy was clear and consistent communication.
“From absolutely day one, set out clear values on what’s important,” Morgan advised. “Set out your priorities and goals and stick to them. Remind people every day of what we’re here for, what we’re doing and what’s expected of them.”
What was expected from the 2011 PC champions was another championship in 2012. Morgan says that constant improvement is one of the philosophies set for the team. Improvement can come from anywhere, from the newest employee to the most senior, because part of communication is sharing ideas and working together to solve problems.
Even with a new set of drivers in 2012, CORE claimed its second consecutive team championship and driver championship with rookie Alex Popow. Bennett and Colin Braun were a close second in the driver points. Bennett even scored his first four ALMS race wins (Mazda Raceway, Lime Rock Park, Road America and VIR).
“When Morgan and I met several years ago, I talked to him of what my expectations were for owning and running a team and how important organization is to me,” Bennett shared. “Luckily, in Morgan, I found a bit of a kindred spirit, where we share the same philosophy in how things should be done.
“I think the proof that we’ve done well with different driver lineups underlines the importance of being organized and having a plan every weekend for each event. Clearly, we’re not the only team that comes to the races prepared and organized, but I do think we do it on a consistent basis and the good results are a part of that preparation.”
Both Bennett and Brady will tell you that, even with back-to-back championships, the team is not resting on their laurels and by no means consider themselves a shoe-in for championship number three next season. That would run contrary to Brady’s expectation of constant improvement. Brady believes Bennett’s own humbleness is contagious amongst the team.
“The feeling that we’re the dominant team and the ones to beat has never come over our team,” Bennett said. “I just feel like we’ve had good results and definitely relish those results. But in terms of feeling of dominance, that’s just not what’s going through the halls at CORE.
“We know that next year, there will be a new group of PC teams and we expect them to be quite competitive. We’re going to have to step up our game to meet that.”
Stepping up its game includes making sure CORE grows into a lasting motorsports organization. Bennett has made no secret that he did not start a race team simply so he could go racing. Congruently, Brady isn’t focused solely on winning another championship in 2013, but rather, he must create a plan for the team’s transition into the 2014 season when ALMS and GRAND-AM merge. He is also keen to add more partners, strengthening the long-term stability of the team. It’s this continued growth and raising of the bar that keeps Brady motivated.
“I like the added pressure now of being two-time defending champions and we’re looking forward to defending it,” Brady said. “I think as a company and a race team, you’ll see us expand and potentially experiment with other racing-oriented opportunities and we’re absolutely looking forward to all the challenges that will come in 2014.”