Tequila Patron ESM is set to expand into the GT3 ranks next year with Ed Brown, who has vowed to continue driving despite his retirement from prototype racing.
The Patron Spirits International President and CEO, who was forced to miss his planned final prototype race in last weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen due to emergency back surgery, has outlined plans to test up to four different GT3 cars in the coming months prior to a selected-race program in 2018.
Brown said he has plans to evaluate a Ferrari 488 GT3, Mercedes-AMG GT3, Audi R8 LMS and Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, and hasn’t ruled out taking part in the inaugural California 8 Hours Intercontinental GT Challenge race either, as a primer for next year.
“From there I’ll figure out what car and what I’ll actually do,” Brown told Sportscar365. “I’m looking forward to hopefully getting into [some] GT cars in a couple of months if my back will let me and see how it is.”
The yet-to-be-determined program would mark a return to the production-based ranks for the Scott Sharp-owned team, after last competing with a Ferrari 458 GT3 car in selected Grand-Am races in 2013 (pictured above).
It would be an expansion of the operation, with its two-car Nissan Onroak DPi effort confirmed through at least the end of 2018 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“For a while now we’ve been open to running some kind of GT program, side-by-side,” Sharp told Sportscar365. “With the competition there and the flexibility of a car like that, whether we could field a PWC team or we’d run a car in GTD.
“I think it gives you some options. You could run it elsewhere. You can do some big races in Europe so it gives you a lot of different options there.”
Brown said he hasn’t determined the amount of races he’d like to do next year, or who his co-driver would be, although admitting it wouldn’t likely be anything more than a four or five-race program.
He indicated longtime co-driver Johannes van Overbeek could join him for the SRO-run enduro at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October, should Brown be fit to race.
“I’m hoping my back will let me do it, so I can get a little taste of what it’s like because I’ve never raced [in a SRO event]. I’d like to see what it’s about,” Brown said.
“Right now, everything is open. It could be a piecemeal of different series and I cherry-pick the tracks I’d like to go race at. Laguna is one of the ones I like.”
While running a Nissan could “definitely” be an option, given the team’s customer relationship in the Prototype class, Brown said it could depend on North American availability of the new-generation GT-R NISMO GT3, which has not yet been detailed by the Japanese manufacturer.