Early Exit for Tequila Patrón ESM at Sebring
SEBRING, Fla., – In a race where most teams have months to prepare, Tequila Patrón ESM accomplished in two weeks. Tequila Patrón ESM and Honda Performance Development made the decision to enter the ARX-03b prototypes into the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race – the 63rd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida in the second week of March. A bold and promising decision since the ARX-03b was a race-proven prototype that earned the Florida-based sportscar team a runner-up finish one year ago.
In the end, the 12 Hours of Sebring was just not the race for Tequila Patrón ESM. A rear suspension issue and loss of boost dashed the team’s hopes of a podium finish at its home track today.
The Florida-based team made gains during practice sessions on Thursday and Friday. Then Ryan Dalziel rallied the team when he qualified the No. 1 Tequila Patrón HPD on the front row. The No. 2 team didn’t fare as well in qualifying with a starting position of eighth, but adjusted the car’s setup to mimic the No. 1 machine.
Tequila Patrón ESM entered the race cool and confident. Dalziel took over the race lead with just 45 minutes on the race clock. He led until pitting for the scheduled driver change to David Heinemeier Hansson. Dalziel was one of two drivers to post 1:52 laps times in the first segment of the race. He also logged several of the prototype class’ fastest laps during his stint.
Impressive in the ARX-03bs, Heinemeier Hansson kept a top-10 run during his stint. In his maiden race in the open cockpit chassis, Heinemeier Hansson also set some of the fastest prototype class laps during his stint. He pitted for driver change to Scott Sharp.
Sharp experienced issues with the on-board systems. After radioing the crew and attempting on-track diagnosis and repair, Sharp pitted and the team replaced the ECU under caution which resulted in a loss of two laps. Sharp then lapped the circuit quicker than the prototype leaders. Although down two laps, there was more than nine hours on the race clock. There was plenty of time to reach the front of the field.
Dalziel climbed into the No. 1 machine for his second stint. Near the halfway mark of the race, Dalziel radioed the team and indicated he was having handling issues. He drove to the Tequila Patrón ESM paddock where the crew removed the bodywork for further inspection. The team determined there was an issue in the rear suspension. At this point the No. 1 was nine laps down and would retire from the race.
Johannes van Overbeek started the race for the No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM team from the eighth position. The crew adjusted the No. 2 setup to match its sister car which required the No. 2 drivers to adapt to the new setup. Van Overbeek battling a bit of understeer early in the race but maintained a 1:54 lap time, just two seconds off the leader’s pace.
The race’s second full course caution was the prime opportunity for a pit stop and driver change. Ed Brown ran a strong race in the heat of the day, reached his race-high of eighth position before scheduled driver change to Jon Fogarty.
Fogarty logged consistent lap times and was swapping fast lap times with Sharp during his stint. In his first race with the ARX-03b, Fogarty found a solid pace and was credited with leading one lap. He would pit and van Overbeek began his second stint.
By now, the No. 1 team had retired and the No. 2 team was charging to the front of the field. Van Overbeek reached second position and radioed the crew stating he had lost boost. He pitted for the crew to inspect the race car, completed his stint and turned the car over to Fogarty. In a brief final stint, the race car lost additional boost and Fogarty brought the race car to the Tequila Patrón ESM paddock where team officials decided to retire the No. 2 HPD from the race.
An early end to a promising weekend, but the Tequila Patrón ESM team is not disappointed. In two weeks, it prepared to race cars that had not seen competition since last November. Two of the six drivers had never driven the race cars, who then posted fast lap times during the race. The 12 Hours of Sebring is a long race at a facility that is rough on both racer and race car. The team sought podium finishes and may have walked away empty handed in the trophy department, but full of promise and expectations for the upcoming races ahead.
The 12 Hours of Sebring marks the eve of Tequila Patrón ESM’s European adventure. The team put its best foot forward this weekend and now launches into the second phase of its 2015 season – the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC). Immediately following tonight’s race, the crew packed its race cars and entire paddock into boxes to ship to Europe.
Tequila Patrón ESM will participate in the FIA WEC pre-season test, The Prologue, at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France, on March 27-28. In less than a month, Tequila Patrón ESM will compete in the 6 Hours of Silverstone, the first of FIA WEC eight international races on the schedule.
TV Coverage – Sunday, March 22
FOX Sports 1 will broadcast a two-hour recap show from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. (ET)
“We broke something in the rear suspension. It would take a long time to fix and we were already enough laps down and we wouldn’t be able to make them back. We didn’t come to Sebring for points, we came to win or podium and that is gone.
“We have a big work load ahead of us; the guys need to get started on preparing the cars for the WEC. We don’t want to risk the cars. We made a decision before the race - if any significant issue put us behind the wall or lose a bunch of laps, we would park the cars.
“The guys worked so hard to get us ready for Sebring and we were hoping for a podium finish or a win. The decision to use the ARX-03bs was a late one and the entire Tequila Patrón ESM crew and HPD worked countless hours to get the cars ready for this race. Thank you to everyone on the Tequila Patrón ESM and HPD teams for their efforts.”
“We just can’t catch a break. The No. 1 car was the best horse in the race. They were strong, fast and they had early issues. All of a sudden, we came on and we were in really good position. Then we had some boost issues to end our race.
“The crew guys have worked so hard to get us ready. They have a long night ahead of them in preparing the cars for the WEC test. It was the right decision to park the No. 2 car. This is frustrating because we’re all here to win races. We learned plenty here this weekend getting back into the 03bs and that will only help us in Silverstone.
“I had a good stint. The race came to me. It was a lot of hard work but that’s why we do this. I’m proud of the whole team, cars, crew and drivers. For an old race car, she put up a good fight and she’ll continue to fight with us into Silverstone.”
“If you look back at what we accomplished, we had a great weekend. Most team prepare for two months for Sebring and Patrón ESM put this together in two weeks. We led laps, had a fast car and great pit stops. It was nice to reward the guys with a good qualifying and opening stint. To lead laps was a big boost of motivation for everybody.
“Ultimately we knew this was going to be an uphill battle for us. We just ran into some gremlins. A suspension issue took the No. 1 car out of the race. It could have been fixed, it wasn’t going to be too tricky, but our focus was to leave Sebring with the cars in one piece and give the guys a little bit of a break before heading over to WEC.
“All in all, we can’t be unhappy with the weekend. Thanks to the Tequila Patrón ESM team, we have a crew that worked harder than anyone in the paddock.”
JOHANNES VAN OVERBEEK
“We completely changed the setup, so the first stint was okay. In the second stint, the car really came alive and was good. By the time we started going through our driver rotation, we got up to second. We were looking really good and solid. Then the last bit of my run we started to lose boost. We’re not sure what the cause of it is, but we opted to park the car to prevent any further damage. We came to Sebring to podium and sadly, we weren’t going to get there. We opted to park the car so we can get it prepared for the flight to France and the WEC test.
“The car didn’t do anything different. It was a lot easier to drive in the slow corners because it didn’t have boost and seemed really slow on the straightaways. It was still great in the corners.”
“It was great to finally get a long run the car. At Daytona, I didn’t turn a lap in the race, so getting a run here with a full fuel load was good. It allowed me to come to terms with the balance of the car. I was out there when it was hot and nasty, but it was huge to get out there and run like we did. It is just too bad what happened in the end. The team put in so much hard work in spite of everything that has gone down this year; it is a big achievement to get on track this weekend. My hat is off to the guys for getting us here. We had competitive cars and had some mechanical issues that were beyond our control.”
DAVID HEINEMEIER HANSSON
“There is so much good that we can take away from Sebring, despite the fact we didn’t finish the race. I think the old chassis is punching way above its weight class or expected performance. We thought we’d be a second off the Ligiers, but to be this close not only to the Ligiers but to the DPs is incredibly encouraging. Plus the driver lineup is very strong. As a gentleman driver, I’m being flattered by a good car that’s easy to drive. When the car is harder to drive, it is hard for me to stay so close. I’m really happy with the performance overall. We ran and we led the race for a while. I was able to hang with the leaders, some of the best professional drivers in this series. I think we can be happy about today and look forward to Silverstone and the rest of the WEC season.”