IMSA Spotlight: James French
Driver: No. 38 Performance Tech Oreca FLM09
You and your team have won four straight races to start the season. Have you been on a hot-streak like this before in your career?
“I have had multiple wins in a row while competing in club racing, but I’m not sure a streak ever reached four. In IMSA, this season brought the first ever victory at this level, so this kind of momentum is very new to me here.”
It is the final year of the Prototype Challenge class in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition. What has the class meant for you and your career?
“The PC class has been absolutely amazing for the in the last four years. I began with little experience, and was able to learn throughout the seasons from talented co-drivers like David Ostella, Kyle Marcelli, Conor Daly, and our current drivers Pato O’Ward and Kyle Masson. As well as that, I have had coaching from Gerardo Bonilla and Jonatan Jorge during that time.”
To what do you attribute your growth in the series as a driver?
“By being surrounded by all of those talented people, combined with the talent and dedication by everyone involved in the Performance Tech family, I was able to grow into a more competitive, confident, and overall better driver.
“Of course, I still have a lot to work on and improve, but the prototype challenge class has been an amazing way to learn most of the best circuits in the United States, in an incredibly fun and capable car.”
How difficult is it to balance your school work and your racing commitments?
“Balancing school and racing weekends was a huge challenge for me in my junior and first round of senior year. Junior year was also my first time doing a full season of any type of racing.
“In that year, I had to learn seven new tracks, while trying to get through a full schedule of some of the toughest classes in the engineering program. Many times I was forced to choose only one to focus on, and more times than not I chose racing.
“I figured that school wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Also, I realized being unprepared or unfocused for a race weekend could risk my safety as well as other competitors. That meant fitness and practice were always top priority, and school became secondary.
“As of this semester I was finally able to put school behind me, and I have no regrets with how it played out. It took a bit longer and more work than it should have, but it makes it that much better to be done.”
Where would you like to see your racing career go in the coming years?
“With the PC class ending, myself and Performance Tech will have to decide what direction we want to go in the future. It seems like the current Prototype class is pretty strong in IMSA, but it also seems like the BoP does not really allow P2-spec cars to be competitive against the DPi format.
“That of course causes some hesitation there, but it still would be the ideal direction. Beyond that, I’m honestly open to any doors that open in the U.S. or overseas.
“It has been my career goal to compete in the 24 hours of Le Mans, so of course that is something I hope to do as soon as possible. There are other tracks I’d love to drive as well, so maybe WEC would be a good fit.
“It’s always hard to plan though in racing, so it’s tough to say what will happen. All I know is that regardless of what it is, if I’m still driving a car for years to come, I’ll be happy.”