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Continental Tire IMSA Spotlight: Brent O’Neill
- Updated: March 29, 2017
IMSA Spotlight: Brent O’Neill
Team Principal: Performance Tech Motorsports
Could you have envisioned winning at both Daytona and Sebring in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge class before the season started?
“You can never envision winning the [Rolex] 24 and the 12 [Hours of Sebring]. They are two really hard races to win. It doesn’t take much to put you out of a 24-hour race or a 12-hour race.
“You can’t even imagine winning both of those races back to back.”
How impressive have your young drivers James French (24), Pato O’Ward (17), Kyle Masson (19), and at Daytona Nick Boulle (27) been in two of the toughest races anywhere in the world to start the season?
“I think they deserve a lot of credit because if you look at our lineup for Daytona, we had four drivers. The average age of the four drivers was 22. Two of them had never done a live pit stop before. They raced for 13 hours in the freezing rain in an open cockpit car, and none of them put a wheel wrong.
“Part of that is, we sat them down and had a meeting almost every night with the drivers. One of those things that I said, and I’ve done this for a long time, you’ll never see a car that wins the 24 or the 12 hour with a lot of body damage.
“Most of the cars that win those races have never gone off, they haven’t gone into cars, they’re just dirty from the race. I have to give all of the credit to them. They all were very careful on the race track.”
What does getting two wins out of the gate do for your championship hopes?
“I think it’s important to have a start like we’ve had for the rest of the season. Starworks kept us honest right up until the end in the 12-hour, so it is going to be a tight race this year. It is a small field, but there’s some good competition.
“In hindsight, if you look at the 24 and the 12, for us to finish where we did [overall] in the 24 with all the [GT Le Mans] cars and… traction control that they have, it’s just hard to beat them.
“But you look at Sebring, for us to finish fifth overall in a 46-car field with some big factory efforts there, it says something about the team’s preparation and what the drivers do.”
With the two longest races of the season behind you, is anything in your preparation for the shorter races different than what you do for the big endurance races early in the season?
“We’re not going to change anything that we’re doing. It’s Friday, we unloaded on Tuesday. All the guys got the day off. And if you saw the car right now, the car is a bare tub.
“We think that the preparation that we’ve done this year, all the guys have done a great job. [At Sebring], we ran four [IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda] cars: two LMP3 cars and two MPC cars.
“Not one of our cars had a mechanical failure. That just tells you the work that’s been done in the shop. The guys are paying attention and doing a great job at the shop”
Does the success you’ve had in the WeatherTech Championship trickle down to your other programs as well?
“For sure. Kyle Masson who’s in the PC car [in the WeatherTech Championship], it’s only his second year ever racing. He won both of the [MPC] races.
“Andres Gutierrez, this is his first year with us and he finished second and third in the P3 class. He’s a 17-year-old kid that has very little experience. It’s pretty impressive to see how well they’ve done.
“It does trickle down. When you have success in the PC side [in the WeatherTech Championship], success breeds success. I think everybody’s done a great job and it really does help all of our other programs.”