Racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans is such a monolithic effort that just getting to the starting grid is a challenge. That was especially true for Core Autosport this year, which had to pretty much start over at the last minute after one of its cars got wrecked in qualifying.
This race is a cruel beast. Attrition, fatigue, and a field of 60 cars introduces many variables that cannot be controlled. In a flash, your year of preparation can be spoiled, ruining your chance of tasting the sweetest champagne atop the world’s most grueling podium spot to attain. Sometimes, the drama starts before you even make it to the starting grid.
Rock Hill, South Carolina-based Core Autosport is no stranger to Le Mans, as about 25 percent of its team carry Le Mans experience in one capacity or another. Taking a few breaks from the rigorous IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, Core’s race car offerings are making their debut appearance in this 24 Hours of Le Mans running right now, as a partner of the Porsche GT Team.
Running alongside the Manthey Racing FIA World Endurance Championship 91 and 92 cars, Core brings their pair of 911 RSRs to France, sporting new 93 and 94 decals rather than their usual 911 and 912 plates.
Showing its teeth during Thursday evening qualifying, Le Mans claimed the 94 911 RSR, piloted by Sven Müller, as he put the car into the barriers at the Indianapolis Corner and caused a red flag. As Müller stated, “In my first qualifying lap, I suddenly had no grip at all in Indianapolis (Corner) and lost the car. Luckily the vehicle can be repaired, but something like this can’t happen in the race.”
Having binned the car, the team would have to pull of a heroic effort to get on the grid for the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans. Challenge accepted.
With the factory just being within a long night’s drive, the team opted not to rebuild the crashed 911 RSR, and instead decided they’d have to start fresh. Getting a car sent over is something they would never be able to do so quickly during their IMSA efforts in America.
So while they wouldn’t be rebuilding a wreck, they would be rebuilding an already-used race car that nobody had planned on sending to this colossal 24 hour race.
With a backup car shipped from Manthey Racing team’s base in Germany overnight, the crew quickly assembled, put the kettle on, and got to work. This car had previously been used last season, and needed a fair bit of parts and assembly, but the team had a plan and a fuckton of skill. Benefitting from the Friday break after qualifying Thursday night before the race Saturday afternoon, the team took full advantage, and worked an insane shift to get the 94 Porsche ready to make the grid.
Thankfully, they didn’t have to start at the back of the class grid and were able to retain their eighth place. After about three hours into the 24, they were running 12th in GTE Pro. Keep at it, guys!
Update at 5:36 PM: Unfortunately for everyone involved in the heroic Core Autosport rebuild, the No. 94 Porsche has been forced to retire. Romain Dumas pitted hours ago with a suspension issue that has been found to be unrepairable.
It’s the first retirement in the GTE Pro class. The atmosphere in the garage during a moment of disappointment at such an iconic event at Le Mans is one of indescribable despondency. But the team knows they worked damn hard to get the car on the grid in the first place—and that’s something to be proud of.
With all this team did to get the car back on track today, one can appreciate the frustration to see the car retired after just eight hours of racing, but racing can be a cruel mistress. Core Autosport’s passion and effort deserved a finish after 24 hours.