Today’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone marks the start of a new era for Tequila Patron ESM, as the Florida-based team embarks on its first full season of the globe-trotting sports car series.
It’s been a hectic start to the year for the Scott Sharp-owned squad, which will have run its third different LMP2 chassis in the matter of four months once it takes delivery of two brand-new Ligier JS P2 Hondas for next month’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Despite long hours by the crew, which are temporarily based in South London for the European leg of the championship, there’s been a high level of anticipation from the American effort, fueled in part by Patron Spirits President/CEO and ESM driver Ed Brown.
“It’s an exciting year,” Brown told Sportscar365. “It will be a lot of new fans for us. I think as you [saw at the Prologue at Paul Ricard], being an American team and flying these colors means a lot. It will be exciting from that that standpoint.”
Brown enters his first season racing abroad, joining Jon Fogarty and David Brabham in the No. 31 entry. Once Johannes van Overbeek returns to competition, expected next month at Spa, it will mark the first all-American driver lineup competing full-time in the FIA WEC.
The 2015 season represents a number of new challenges for Brown, a TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race winner, primarily with learning circuits.
Out of the eight races on the FIA WEC calendar, Brown has only previously raced Circuit of The Americas and Shanghai, the latter thanks to the team’s one-off race in the Chinese round last year used to familiarize themselves with the championship.
While they’ll have the knowledge of reigning GTE-Am World Champion David Heinemeier Hansson and Ryan Dalziel, who was part of Starworks Motorsport’s LMP2 title-winning effort in 2012, it will still come as a steep learning experience.
“This is going to be an interesting year my whole car,” Brown said. “Johannes is the only one that’s been to Le Mans, and other than Shanghai [and COTA], everything else is going to be new. It puts more pressure on me than those guys because they learn quicker than me. But with their help, it will be alright.
“It will be a difficult season from that aspect. One you’ve learned the track, you then [have to] get up to speed quickly as you’re going to race the next day. It will be interesting.”
Brown and all six drivers within the team will have to juggle different machinery as well, as they’ll start the season with its tried-and-trusted HPD ARX-03bs before moving to the Onroak Automotive-built LMP2 cars for Spa.
“Survival will be the word that I would use through Spa,” Brown said. “I think we just need both cars to finish both races, get points and then hopefully by the time we get to Le Mans, we’ll be sorted and ready to race.
“We’re as good of a team as anybody but these are the best of the best out here. I think we have a good chance.”
The arrival of ESM to the global stage has also brought an increased level of activation for its primary sponsor, Tequila Patron, as the company continues it rapid expansion through Europe and Asia.
“The WEC has been great,” Brown said. “We’ll do some things in their VIP [lounge] but we’re also going to do a party area at every race where consumers can buy cocktails.
“It will be a little hipper [than IMSA] as we’re going to do DJ music and it will go on all during the race.
“One of the things I’ve been telling all these series is that we all think people care about these cars for six hours. They don’t. They care about the start of the race and the last half-hour.
“So you’ve got to entertain them. And this is about bringing entertainment value to these people. So if we can entertain them all through the race and then they get to see the end of it, then you win.”
It will be a new adventure, on and off the track, for Brown, although he’s already looking forward to the prospects of perhaps being able to check off one of his lifetime achievements in June.
“Driving all these tracks is a lifetime dream of anybody’s,” he said. “But for me to drive every single one of them… I tell my guys that I’ll retire from racing when I’ve won Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans. I’d like to get Le Mans out of the way!”
But no matter the results, 2015 will likely be a memory that will last a lifetime for many of drivers and crew who are flying the American flag on the world’s stage.