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O’Ward Aims to Build on Early Season Success

Pato O’Ward is riding a wave of momentum after wins in Prototype Challenge, Indy Lights…

Photo: Performance Tech

Pato O’Ward may reside in Monterrey, Mexico, but he has made Florida his home for the last two weeks.

The versatile young racer is completing the second leg of a unique triple-header this weekend at Sebring, one that started a week ago during IndyCar’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend.

Just a few days after scoring his first career win in the 2018 Indy Lights championship on the streets of St. Pete, O’Ward added another triumph by winning in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda race at Sebring alongside Leo Lamelas in the No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier JS P3.

He will also be driving the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with co-drivers Kyle Masson, Joel Miller, and James French.

It’s a unique challenge for O’Ward, who turned heads at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona by qualifying fourth in Performance Tech’s debut in the Prototype class.

This week he’ll look to do the same, juggling sessions in the WeatherTech Championship and making his IPC series debut.

“It’s definitely been a busy week, I haven’t been home in two or three weeks,” said O’Ward. “We did awesome at St. Petersburg. We were really, really, fast. I got my first win in Lights on Saturday… this week I’m back at Sebring.”

O’Ward and the Performance Tech team is looking to improve on their performance at Daytona, after having nearly two months since the Rolex 24 to get more acclimated to the new car.

“In Daytona, I honestly think everyone is still in shock,” said O’Ward. “I don’t know where we pulled that lap out… we were definitely quick, but we weren’t expecting to be fourth at Daytona. It’s a new car for everybody. All the mechanics are new to it, all the drivers are new to it, the team owner is new to it.

“There was a lot to be learned before Daytona, but I think we’re sitting in a more comfortable place right now. They know more about the car, the balance, and Oreca is giving us a lot of support. I’m sure we’re going to be up there and I’m hoping we can make it even better than Daytona.”

O’Ward said the P2 and P3 cars he is driving this weekend are similar, adding that the LMP3 cars are a good stepping stone for aspiring WeatherTech Championship drivers.

“It’s a pretty quick car honestly, I’m surprised at how quick it is,” he said. “The power is different, but drivers can get an idea about what the vision is like.

“Whenever someone gets into a closed-cockpit car it’s super different than an open-wheel or IMSA Lites car because you have a blindspot right at the apex of the corner, so you have to guess where you’re going.

“The more laps you do the more comfortable you start getting. It definitely gives you an idea of what a closed-cockpit prototype feels like, and you just have to add a little downforce and more power to that and you’ll get to a P2.”

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