There were a number of firsts in Sunday’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.
While Extreme Speed Motorsports notched its first overall victory and the first for a P2 car in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, it was also Ed Brown’s long-awaited first career win.
The Patrón Spirits CEO, who only began racing in 2009, had the immense pressure of starting from the front row, thanks to co-driver Johannes van Overbeek’s pole-winning lap on Saturday.
Huddled around the likes of Michael Valiante, Christian Fittipaldi and teammate Scott Sharp, Brown held his own in the opening laps and never put a wheel wrong, before handing over the No.2 HPD ARX-03b to van Overbeek at the 22-minute mark.
“We were trying to over-analyze the start,” Brown said. “I said, ‘Listen, I’m just going to hit the throttle as hard as I can and whatever happens down in Turn 2 happens.’ Instincts took over and I went.
“I settled in and I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to keep those guys behind me and we’ll just drive it.’ We had a pretty good plan of what we were going to do.”
ESM’s strategy to pit the No. 2 car early, while under green flag conditions, proved to be a pivotal factor, which saw van Overbeek claw his way into the lead just 16 laps later.
While the race, which ran caution-free, changed hands with cars on different strategies, van Overbeek managed to get back out in front to take the win, thanks to a team effort from one of the few Pro-Am pairings in the Prototype class.
“This is my first win and I don’t think it has sunk in yet. To beat the best drivers in the world, I’ll take that,” Brown said. “We’ve worked really hard and my teammate works really hard with me. For me, it’s more of just having the confidence that I can run with these guys.”
Remarkably, Brown only started racing prototypes last year, when Sharp’s Florida-based team made the late switch to HPD P2 machinery for the 2013 ALMS season.
With the help of renowned driver coach Ross Bentley, the 51-year-old made considerable gains through last season, which included starts in IMSA Prototype Lites, to help get extra track time and crucial prototype racing experience.
It all paid off on Sunday, with a breakthrough overall win, in a class stacked with some of the biggest names in sports car racing.
“I’m a really competitive guy and keep on working on it,” Brown said. “But to be honest, I was racing Porsche Cup cars, then moved up to the Ferraris and that was like jumping into a big pool of sharks. This hasn’t been any easier.
“But this car suits me and it suites my driving style. I get better and better every time I get in it. I’m glad [we got the first one] and I hope a bunch more wins come. I’ve got the best teammate and the fastest guy on the track. I think if we don’t make mistakes, we’ll win some more races.”
Aside from the retirement of the team’s No. 1 car of Sharp and Ryan Dalziel due to gearbox failure, it was a banner weekend for the ESM team, which also announced it has ordered a pair of brand-new HPD ARX-04b coupes for 2015.
“Our crew guys are the best and they work tirelessly,” Brown added. “We put a lot of hard things on them, changing from the GT class to the P2 class [last year] at the last second and then having to switch to a completely different tire compound and try and get our hands around that as quickly as possible.
“They were actually asking if we could keep the open-top [HPD ARX-03b] for another year just in case and I said no! [with a laugh]. But we know they will do the hard work and we’ll be able to race [the new ARX-04b coupes] next year.
“But we’ve got a lot of racing left to get done this year.”