Patron Spirits International President and CEO Ed Brown has vowed to continue support of Tequila Patron ESM, despite his recent retirement from prototype racing.
Brown announced last month that he would be taking a step back from driving, in order to focus on his growing business commitments, prompting questions over the long-term future of the Florida-based team’s title sponsorship.
“I’m committed to ESM, I’m committed to racing,” Brown told Sportscar365. “People always think because I’m not racing… I had a team a long time ago, way before I raced.
“Whether I’m driving or not driving doesn’t have a function on what this team is doing. Our job, as this team, is to be the best team we can be.”
Brown has been replaced by rising star Pipo Derani in the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi beginning with this weekend’s Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, in what creates a formidable pairing in the young Brazilian and team veteran Johannes van Overbeek.
The increasing level of competition in the new-look Prototype class, with additional DPi manufacturers set to enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, was also a determining factor, Brown said.
“Part of my job is to make sure that I’m putting the two best cars [on track] with the best drivers I possibly can,” he said.
“The days of the Silver-[rated drivers] are over in prototype racing. Now you have to put the young guys in here that get paid to to do this.
“The only way we’re going to be the team that I want us to be is to have the best drivers behind the wheel.
“I think putting Pipo in with Johannes for the balance of the year… who knows what our driver lineup will look like next year. But I think it gives us a very good chance, in both cars, to do very well this year.”
With a commitment to its Prototype program through at least the end of next year, Sharp, Brown and the ESM team have high expectations for the future, also in expanding the team into the GT ranks with customer programs.
Brown is planning to take part in selected races in a yet-to-be-determined GT3 car, which he feels will provide a better balance between his work and racing commitments.
“I knew I was going to step away from prototype racing after this year,” he said.
“My business is exploding again, and I felt like I couldn’t manage both of them. I could manage the business but my head wouldn’t be at the races. If I couldn’t do that, then I didn’t want to race any more.
“So it seemed like a pretty good time to say ‘enough with this’ and figure out what the next steps are.”