One of the newcomers to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is O’Gara Motorsport, which graduates to top-level IMSA competition in 2016 after a championship-winning season in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America series.
While founded only two years ago, the Tom O’Gara-owned team continues its meteoric rise by debuting the new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 in the new-look GT Daytona class, driven by defending class champions Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell.
Sportscar365 caught up with O’Gara to get his thoughts on preparation for Rolex 24 at Daytona and to look at the year ahead, which is set to see the team expand to two GTD entries by mid-season.
Do you see your move into the WeatherTech Championship as a natural progression?
“Yeah. The plan was to run Super Trofeo and GT3. That process has been in place for a while. We paid close attention.
“I’ve been enthralled with CORE autosport in how they run it. [CORE COO] Morgan Brady was someone who spent a lot of time with us. Every time I’d walk around the pits, I’d go to CORE, look at what’s going on.
“We knew where we wanted to get to, so we started reaching out and talking to people. Then the goal was to keep in touch with Townsend and Bill and let them know what the development was in terms of how the car was going.
“Once we got that direction of where we were headed, that opened a lot of doors professionally, people we’d like to have who maybe would not have been very interested, but when they heard Townsend and Bill were coming and all the talk of Lamborghini was there…”
Given the delivery schedule, has it been a scramble to get ready for Daytona?
“Talk about jumping into the deep end of the pool! The car only came 30 days ago and the amount of work that needs to get done is incredible.
“Coming here to Daytona, because it’s the most prestigious race and tortuous race, I certainly would have liked to have had a few sprint races ahead of this than diving into this part of the pool right away because there’s just no slack in the road.
“Everything has to be beyond perfect. Access to spare parts, technical information… That’s still dribbling in.
“This whole testing program is getting truncated and compressed. I feel like a 100 gb file that’s been compressed down. It’s a learning experience but we have great people.”
How’s the support from Lamborghini and is it similar to what you receive in Super Trofeo?
“The Squadra Corsa end of it has been great and Grasser Racing Team is contracted by Squadra Corsa. They’re willing to expand that engineering capability and export it over here, particularly for Daytona. That has really been huge.
“They’re not Porsche or Audi but what they’re not exemplifies what they are, which is small, nimble, dreamy. The result of those things is pretty exciting is what comes out of it. It’s not a top-down driven command system.
“Right now, you kind of wish there was more of that but if it was more like that, I don’t think we’d be where we are. So they leave a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the team to be inventive, to be problem-solving.
“But they’re there 24/7 to support you in it. But they’re not a big organization. But that’s what makes them Lamborghini.
“Being Italian is a lifestyle, not a nationality. That kind of flare that goes with it; it’s like they’re a special forces operation. It’s low headcount but a great product.”
What are your goals for the Rolex 24?
“To win. That would be reasonable (laughs). The performance of the car has the capabilities. I was at Monza last year and watched it.
“We certainly have a team that we’ve created that can pull together and win this. The drivers individually are great.
“Townsend and Sweedler have been together; [Edoardo] Piscopo and [Richard] Antinucci have been together, so it’s taking those two teams and binging them together.
“I really think we can win our class. We have to stay out of trouble for 23 hours; we have to be careful. We understand what it takes.”
Have you established any long-term plans for the team? Are you interested in anything beyond IMSA?
“It’s being the most professional organization we can be. We’re the largest dealer in just about all the [luxury] brands, definitely in the United States and generally in the world, and we realize there’s always changes.
“These are car manufacturers. I’m not a Porsche dealer, so it’s not likely I’m going to go out and start racing Porsches because we use this as part of our brand extension.
“Creating a professional team creates all kinds of opportunities. If you need to go to another brand — if that’s what needs to happen — it’s best for you and best for your origination.
“We’ll build a professional race team that will go where the best interest of the people and the brand are.”
“We’re a dealer in Southern California, so [IMSA] is the biggest stage that’s there for us. We think that racing, and what the France’s have created in IMSA, fits in perfectly for what we’re trying to do.”