Performance Tech Motorsports drivers Pato O’Ward and James French have clinched the final Prototype Challenge class drivers’ championship with their class win in Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, and need just one point at the season finale at Petit Le Mans to secure the team title as well.
The duo have had a near-perfect year: victories in all seven races, the fastest lap in each event, and having started on pole everywhere but Sebring en route to total domination of the category’s final year in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
While detractors will point to a small grid of just three full-time competitors in the class this season, open-wheel rising star O’Ward said the dominance the team has displayed all season backs up the accomplishment.
“People always fall back into: there’s only three cars in the category,” O’Ward told Sportscar365.
“I really wish there was some more competition, but if you look back into all the times that were set last year and the year before, we basically just shattered all of those.
“I think it really shows that the team has been working really hard. The setup of the car is really good. I think James and I have done our job and we’ve really tried to improve.
“Maybe people would look at it a little different if there were some more cars, at least I would.
“I feel like it would be way more fun if there were more cars and more competition, but I think we’ve tried to maximize everything that we have and I think we’ve pretty much achieved it.”
For French, the chance to clinch his first title with his first WeatherTech Championship win at his home track made the accomplishment all the more sweet.
“It feels pretty excellent to be honest,” said the Sheboygan, Wis. native. “This is the sixth time doing this race [at Road America] in this car, and [I had] no victories up to this point.
“I’m really happy to check it off the bucket list, get it under our belt, and it was such a great effort by everybody.
“I’ve never won a championship before so it’s pretty cool to get a first championship in this.
“We’ve been at it for a long time as a team, so to finally get a championship with them, everybody’s put in a ton of hard work, so to get a championship would be amazing.”
Holding a 35-point lead with one PC race remaining, the Brent O’Neill-led squad will need only to either score finishing points or earn the bonus point for fastest race lap at Petit Le Mans to take the team title.
The No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports entry remains with an extremely slim chance of dethroning Performance Tech and will need to win the race, post the race’s fastest lap and have the No. 38 Oreca FLM09 fail to score any points.
While a conservative outlook would be understandable given the circumstances, the allure of a clean sweep of the season has O’Ward and French motivated to close the season out in style.
The pairing will be rejoined by Kyle Masson for the final race.
“We’ve tried to do basically everything that we can,” said O’Ward. “We’ve gone seven straight wins in a row and we’re going for the eighth one at Petit Le Mans, and I think we can accomplish it.
“That would be a really cool objective to close that at Petit Le Mans: win the championship and nobody beat us.
“That would be pretty cool to say, even if there’s only three cars, there’s still merit to winning every single race, no mechanical problems, nothing.
“I think that’s going to be our goal, and I hope we really accomplish it.”