Colin Braun’s handiwork was hard to ignore after CORE autosport’s LMP3 victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Partnered with Jon Bennett since 2012, the Texas native took his client and co-driver to school on the fine art of motor racing, and with a lifetime of pro-level knowledge to receive from Braun, CORE’s owner began winning races and championships with his young mentor.
Outside of his duties with CORE in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Braun kept busy coaching and racing with another successful businessman by the name of George Kurtz. At the recent SRO Motorsports America season opener in Sonoma, Kurtz earned two solo wins and a third with Braun in the No. 04 DXDT Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Brought together in the No. 54 Ligier JS P320 LMP3 entry this season at IMSA’s four endurance rounds, Braun is surrounded by his success stories. And after standing atop the Sebring podium with Bennett, the inclusion of Kurtz (pictured at left, above, with Braun and Bennett) — who captured his biggest win to date — brought immense satisfaction to the pro in the middle.
“It’s neat to see his effort and his hard work and his attention to detail pay off. George and I, we go way back; I started working with him probably eight or so years ago,” Braun told RACER. “We’ve just worked hard together over that period of time. I think for many people, he didn’t maybe stand out until the last little bit. But, honestly, he’s been working hard and racing in a lot of different places and has just been honing his craft. I think now he’s gotten the opportunity to present it on a bigger stage. I think more people are taking notice of what I’ve seen and the effort he’s put in.
“The guy is just a super hard worker and is always on me about, ‘Hey, what can I do? What can I do better? Let’s look at data. Let’s go through the video,’ and he goes out there and then applies what we talk about. We’ve just got a great rapport. Then you get opportunities at a big race like Sebring to show off all the hard work. Certainly, it seems like it’s all happened in the last little bit for him, but it’s just the years and years of dedication to improving that’s coming together for George.”
Braun and Bennett were inseparable through the 2019 season when CORE took on a Nissan DPi campaign that proved to be more costly and troublesome than desired. Bennett would take a year away from IMSA as Braun maintained his winning ways after helping DragonSpeed to win the LMP2 class at the Rolex 24, and with the announcement of the new LMP3 class for 2021, the band at CORE got back together for a new challenge.
“And the great part is while Jon decided to step away from racing last year, nothing really changed on a personal level; we and our wives, we went to dinner just as much as we used to and have remained super good friends, so teaming up to race together again was like no time passed by,” Braun said.
“I was excited for him, because I knew how much of a passion and how much he loves to go racing. You want to see your friends do what they love to do and enjoy it. For me, Sebring was just like the old days, like the old times. And then getting George a win at the IMSA level and his biggest professional racing win, that was super special for me to be part of that with George. I couldn’t be happier working for two fantastic people that are good friends of mine, and to be able to win races for those guys is pretty darn cool.”
Braun was especially delighted by how CORE went about winning the 12 Hours of Sebring. Not only is using the pro driver for the maximum amount of time allowed in a pro-am line-up a common practice in endurance racing, it’s expected. With the rules calling for Bennett and Kurtz to complete no less than three hours in the No. 54 Ligier, tipping the balance in Braun’s favor to deliver pro-grade laps for the other half of the race would have been the easy call.
By the end of the race, the driving time between the trio revealed little effort was made to hide the non-pros in pursuit of victory as Bennett clocked three hours and 35 minutes, Kurtz was in for three hours and 52 minutes, and Braun completed four hours and 25 minutes.
“We had our plan set out, and it gets hard with the stint lengths in LMP3 and the minimum drive times,” Braun said. “With the pace of Jon and George, we weren’t in any massive rush to cut the thing down to exactly three hours. They both had good pace and they were doing really nice jobs. We just broke the race out that way where it wasn’t so far from being split three ways.
“We wanted to have me in for the last three stints, just because we knew that was when it was going to really get serious with the pros going into the other cars. But beyond that, those guys were doing such a good job that we had no reason to cut down on their time. Some teams got their guys out right when they crossed that three-hour mark. But with Jon and George doing as good as they were, we won this as three drivers together. And that’s where a lot of satisfaction comes from.”