Extreme Speed Motorsports is aiming to continue its Prototype program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year despite Tequila Patron’s exit from the organization, according to team owner Scott Sharp.
The Florida-based squad was founded in 2010 alongside Patron Spirits CEO Ed Brown, who retired from driving last year prior to Monday’s announcement that the company would no longer be sponsoring ESM and exiting motorsports altogether at the end of the year.
While the “handwriting was on the wall” for a while, Sharp said he’s now actively working to retain its current Nissan Onroak DPi effort for 2019.
“We’re working on a number of options,” Sharp told Sportscar365. “Obviously I think we’ve singly got the best team we’ve ever had, personnel-wise. Having been refining over the years and making selected additions, we’ve gotten ourselves to be super strong.
“The goal is keeping everyone together. We’re working through a few different options that will hopefully allow us to do that.”
Sharp said they’ll “more than likely” remain with its existing Nissan DPi package, which claimed victories in last year’s Motul Petit Le Mans as well as the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
“The team has done a good job, even though we’ve had a little rough [patch],” he said.
“Our existing engineering structure is getting more and more out of the car and I think we’ve still got some gains to be had. I think we can still be very successful with what we have.”
Whether ESM will remain a two-car team, however, is unclear and will come down to financing, according to the former IMSA champion.
With Brown and Patron having funded the majority of the team’s current program, including the IMSA-mandated marketing commitment on behalf of Nissan, Sharp is hopeful the Japanese manufacturer will step up its involvement next year.
Its current deal with Nissan is strictly on a customer engine-supply basis, with the team also having funded the bodywork developments to the Ligier JS P217-based prototype.
“At the end of the day, [Nissan] has been pretty impressed with the job we’ve done and have exceeded their expectations,” Sharp said. “We’re certainly hopeful they will take more of a forefront role in regards to the IMSA advertising [requirements].”
Sharp, meanwhile, said he’s unsure of Brown’s future with the team, stating that he’s currently on a “sabbatical” from racing.
He was, however, quick to praise the company for its support dating back to his drive with Highcroft Racing in the 2008 American Le Mans Series season.
“It was an amazing run with Patron,” he said. “For a second you can’t be sad. You have to be really thankful.
“So many sponsorship deals are two or three years long; I’ve been with them for 13 years. You have to be deeply appreciative.”
ESM Back to Two Cars for Road America
Sharp, meanwhile, has reaffirmed that it will return to a two-car program for the remainder of the WeatherTech Championship season.
The team was forced to scale back to a single Nissan DPi entry at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park following a string of engine-related failures that depleted Nissan’s stock of spares.
A subsequent turbo-related issue for Ryan Dalziel and Pipo Derani in the CTMP race ended in another retirement, meanwhile.
“NISMO has really jumped on it and recognized a couple of the deficient pieces,” Sharp said. “Those are being replaced on all of the engines. We’ll have primaries and a couple of spares back in time for Elkhart Lake.”
Sharp said he’s looking forward to returning to the site of the team’s breakthrough first victory with the DPi package last year.
“There’s still some really good tracks coming out for us,” he said. “We won at Elkhart and Petit [Le Mans, last year]. They’re great tracks for our cars. And we’ve historically been pretty good at Laguna too. We want to finish strongly, that’s for sure.”