While a number of U.S.-based teams are on a tight turnaround from the 24 Hours of Le Mans to next weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, the team with perhaps the biggest challenge is Tequila Patron ESM, which has some potential obstacles in its way to make it to the third round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
The Florida-based team, which got both of its Ligier JS P2 Nissans to the finish in the French endurance classic, has now shifted focus back to its Honda-powered Ligier chassis, which was on loan to Michael Shank Racing at Le Mans, but will be run by ESM at The Glen in just nine days’ time.
With different parts, crew and resources spread out on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s been a massive logistics operation to handle, even for the globe-trotting ESM team, a full-season competitor in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“To be honest, I was working on this Watkins Glen race for the past four or five days [at Le Mans], if not more,” ESM U.S. team manager Ian Jones told Sportscar365.
The race to The Glen began on Monday when the MSR-entered Ligier-Honda cleared post-race scrutineering and was handed over to the ESM crew.
It was then taken to OAK Racing’s workshop in the Le Mans Technoparc to be stripped down and rebuilt to IMSA specification.
Everything from WEC-specific wiring looms, data loggers and telemetry is being swapped out for the IMSA electronics, as well as the WEC-spec 2.8-liter Honda V6 turbo for the 3.5-liter IMSA variant, which has been held up in customs on arrival to France.
In addition, a complete rebuild of all components is planned, as well as a switch from Le Mans-specific low drag bodywork to the standard high-downforce aero package.
Jones said the plan is to have the car and a spares package fully prepped by Thursday morning, for its journey across the Atlantic, which will take a slight detour to avoid any potential hiccups.
“We cannot trust French port workers to not strike, so we’re taking it to London to fly out of the UK,” Jones said. “If they decide to strike, we don’t do The Glen. It’s that tight.
“So it goes Thursday overnight on boat to England. It’s due to fly Friday afternoon. Then it arrives in New York City Saturday afternoon.”
The car and spares, which will be placed on a next-available passenger aircraft to JFK airport, should clear U.S. customs by Monday and would then be transported straight to Watkins Glen the following day by a freight company, Jones said.
Prep work back Stateside for The Glen, meanwhile, began last week, with two of ESM’s Florida-based crew.
They’re scheduled to pick up sea-freight, sent earlier this month from France to Port Everglades, prior to the two transporters being dispatched for Upstate New York to be met by the air-freighted chassis and spares sometime next week.
“We’re hoping to get into [Watkins Glen] on Wednesday, strip [the car and spares] down, make sure it is what it is and everything’s ready. And then finish the car off, build the garage, meet the guys in the U.S, and start the Glen,” Jones said.
“Any delay in customs on the New York side and we’re going to be in serious trouble. That’s assuming we can get the car ready on the [European] side.”
While the team’s Ligier-Honda will remain in the U.S. through the middle of November, to take part in the Petit Le Mans, a lot of the equipment and spares used at The Glen will have to be sent back to Europe in time for next month’s WEC race at the Nurburgring, adding even more logistical challenges.
“I’m already planning ahead with the return,” Jones said. “We’ve got U.S. equipment, French equipment, on different carnets and expiring at different times on different licenses. It’s a pretty time consuming job.
“Keeping the team going into [different] countries is difficult enough. Just keeping things from getting caught up in customs is a full-time job. We’re working quite closely with First Air in London, which have been very helpful as well. But it’s a challenge.”
With wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring, ESM’s return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be met with some high expectations, but its arrival to Watkins Glen will no doubt be considered its first victory of the weekend.