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French, Masson Set for Full Season with Performance Tech

Kyle Masson, James French confirmed for full season in Performance Tech Oreca 07 Gibson…

Photo: Performance Tech

Performance Tech Motorsports has confirmed Kyle Masson and James French for a full-season effort in its new Oreca 07 Gibson in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Pato O’Ward, who co-drove to the Prototype Challenge class championship with French last year, is scheduled to join the team for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and could be in line for the remainder of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds alongside his Indy Lights commitments this year.

At 25 years old, French is the oldest of the three drivers, all of whom hold Silver driver ratings from the FIA.

Team owner Brent O’Neill said his youthful lineup has impressed so far in their first experience with LMP2 machinery, and their ratings could give the team a strategic advantage.

“I’ve got the youngest driver lineup out there again,” he told Sportscar365. “Three Silvers, and we still have been able to stay in the top seven or eight cars [at the Roar Before the 24] until Sunday.

“Those three kids in the car are just awesome. Pato seems to adapt really quick. James and Kyle are now getting their heads around the car.

“Come race day, we’re going to have three silvers that we can do whatever we want with.”

O’Neill was also quick to compliment his crew who also were adapting to a brand new car on a tightened calendar after only receiving their new Oreca on the final day of last year.

“It says a lot about my crew,” he said. “The guys who work for me, they’ve been with me for a long time and everybody has been engaged. They all want the same thing.

“We’ve proved that with our MPC and P3 programs [in IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda] we’ve got a great structure and the guys have all done a great job.

“We actually got about three weeks behind with weather, Oreca trying to get the car finished and get the car to Paul Ricard for a shakedown, but I have to tell you the crew has done an awesome job.

“Oreca has really been great and they’ve been by our side right from the get go from the technical side to the engineering side. Anything we needed, Oreca was there.”

O’Neill Concerned About DPi Pace

O’Neill said he is concerned about the speed discrepancy between the DPi cars in the Prototype class after Cadillac DPi-V.Rs led the way in every session in last weekend’s Roar Before the 24.

While the ability of LMP2 machinery to compete for race wins and podiums by the end of last season does give him hope that the playing field can be leveled, O’Neill said the gap he saw in testing was problematic.

“They’ve got to do something with the DPi cars to keep the P2 cars in the class, to be honest,” he said. “You have to do something. Just every session, when they want to go, they go. There’s not even a question.

“I hope that IMSA looks at it very close after the Roar, because not just from my little team’s standpoint but everybody’s standpoint, why are you going to invest $2.5 million to run a season when you don’t have a chance.

“Right now, as it stands against the DPis, there’s not a P2 car out there that’s even close. I’m hoping, all of us are hoping, because then it gives the teams some longevity.”

When asked if he favored splitting the LMP2 cars into a separate class, O’Neill indicated that, while it is not his first preference, stressed that if the pace gap seen at the Roar persisted it might become necessary.

“If they don’t do something about it then they really need to look at having it split because there isn’t a P2 car in the paddock right now that has a chance,” he said.

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based journalist and sportscaster, covering IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Issac

    January 10, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    1. I wish them the best but I have the feeling along with Core they will be fighting for last place in class. The P class isn’t designed for lineups like theirs, I feel like the ELMS or WEC would have been a better place where they would be regularly competitive. But hey it’s their money.

    2. Could the two of them look more uncomfortable in that picture?

    • Tim

      January 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      Core has a very solid line up for the NAEC. But I agree once the regular races hit they will be further down the order. Who knows. JDC ran very well last year.

      • Dan

        January 10, 2018 at 10:48 pm

        JDC has two drivers that define the term sneaky silvers and had little competition as the Mazda withdrew and ESM suffered reliability issues. Now that Joest run the Mazdas, ESM has gotten the ligier sorted, Penske have arrived with the Orecas and their is fourth Dallra Cadillac on the grid, I suspect Performance Tech along with Core and JDC may just be competing to be the best of the rest. I just can’t help but feel they are wasting time and millions of dollars hoping to luck out and win.

        • thomas

          January 11, 2018 at 9:42 am

          Pretty unfair to backhand JDC like that. The way they drove at Mosport, they had everyone covered.

        • Andy Flinn

          January 11, 2018 at 12:27 pm

          Dan, regarding JDC, did you bother to watch any of The Glen or Mosport DPi races last year?

          They’ll only be stronger with GAINSCO (2007 and 2009 Grand-Am DP champs)backing this year.

          Also, did the VFR Ligier “luck out anf win” at Laguna last year?

          • Try harder Andy

            January 11, 2018 at 2:55 pm

            What will Gainsco provide them other than a paint job? Nothing else is coming across but Stallings bringing that sponsor money, the team is not coming in to help with their knowledge of DPs.

  2. Formula Fox

    January 10, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    I think James would be happier with Pato, but hopefully Masson won’t take out top caliber teams in the class like he did to Rebellion at Petit last year, perhaps his straight face is more of a bit of guilt underneath…

    • Who took who out??lol

      January 11, 2018 at 9:59 pm

      Nick Heidfeld:
      “It’s very unfortunate and disappointing to end the race like this. I exited T1 and the next thing I felt was a hard impact. I hit a car that exited the pit lane which was in a dead angle and totally invisible to me. This unfortunately ended the race for both of us. Even though I couldn’t do anything to avoid the incident I am sorry for the team as till then we were going strong.”

  3. David Chaste

    January 10, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    Pato O’ward decided he would have a better chance of ending up champion in Indy lights rather than here, and he wants to chase his real passion.

  4. David Chaste

    January 11, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Some of the guys in independent teams have speed no one realizes because they have only driven in sub classes.

    Misha was in usf2000 and would have been in indycar with more backing. Stephen simpson was in champ car. Chris miller at petit lemans was able to keep highly ranked gp2 driver alex lynn at bay in sebring.

    Now with these 2 racing against drivers we know about it would give everyone a chance to really gauge them.

    In the spirit of daytona cadillac matt mcmurry in pc was never the fastest guy. So we’ll found this year.

    But they can all really surprise. Chris miller, goikhberg and simpson are all rated silver but in truth they are really gold level drivers.

    This year we’ll see sbout masson and french.

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