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’Neil 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.