With an entry into next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Circuit of The Americas, the purchase of two new LMP2 cars and a targeted effort around the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, Extreme Speed Motorsports has been a team in the headlines lately, on and off the track.
The Florida-based squad has flown the flag for P2 cars this year in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which saw a maiden win for Ed Brown, the CEO of the Patrón Spirits Company, and co-driver Johannes van Overbeek at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May.
However, the balance between the DPs and the Le Mans-spec prototype, whether it’s ESM’s HPD ARX-03b cars or OAK Racing’s Morgan-Nissan, has been hit-or-miss all season, with the more powerful DPs having scored wins in seven of the nine races to date.
“It’s been frustrating and I’ve been pretty vocal about that,” Brown told Sportscar365. “It’s frustrating coming from the ALMS side because you know what this car is really capable of doing. Not being able to let it perform the way it wants to perform… it’s tough.
“I do think we’ve had some of the best cars in the world. I know my team is the best in the world… We thought it would be better at certain tracks but it just hasn’t been.
“Somebody asked me if we’re leaving the TUDOR Championship and I said, ‘I don’t know. But if I ever do leave, it’s not because of BoP.’ I’m not one of those type of guys that says, ‘Hey, we’re going to take our toys somewhere else because it hasn’t been a fair fight.’
“There would be a lot of other decisions based into that.”
While having been a staple in the North American sports car racing scene for the last four years, ESM is exploring its options for 2015, which could include a FIA WEC program around the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The team will get its first taste of the globe-trotting championship next month in Austin when it enters a solo HPD ARX-03b for Brown, team owner Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel, a car that was originally scheduled to take part in that day’s TUDOR Championship race.
“I don’t know if that one event will help us focus on what we’re doing in ’15,” Brown admitted. “I think we have a pretty good direction on what we’re going to do.
“I think it’s just going to give us a better understanding of what the WEC is all about and it gets us a little upper hand on the rules, how we need to set the car up and the competition of what we could possibly be faced with [next year].
“We’re definitely going to Le Mans [next year] so we need to get a little jump on what the rules are and how we do this.”
The second piece of the puzzle centers around new prototype machinery. ESM is set to take delivery of two brand-new HPD ARX-04b cars in November, with testing expected to begin shortly after.
Brown said no firm decisions have been made on the team’s 2015 program, although they already have a commitment to the four-round Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, which bears the name of the team’s principal partner and sponsor, in addition to Le Mans.
“We just have to look and see what’s going to happen,” he said. “WEC hasn’t even released their schedule yet. That’s a long ways off to make that final decision.
“We’ll be committed to the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup regardless in 2015. There might be a situation where we look at multiple races in WEC, I don’t know.
“I think we’d want to run at least one race of the WEC prior to Le Mans, especially with the coupe, being a new car for us.
“We’re going to have a lot on our plate come November just trying to get our hands around the new car. We don’t want to go to Le Mans and not be competitive.”
With Patrón recording record growth globally, Brown sees additional opportunities for the brand overseas, particularly in Europe, which could cater towards an expanded international program for the team.
“My business is growing in the U.S. but global expansion is where we’re at,” he said. “We’re in 135 countries and growing.
“The business is growing at 150 to 200 percent per year, outside the U.S. We’re trying to get the exposure for the brand, just like we did in the early days in the United States. It’s very important to us.”
For now, though, the accomplished executive-turned race car driver continues to enjoy his time behind the wheel and is looking forward to completing the TUDOR Championship season.
“I get better every time I get in the car. It’s been fun from that standpoint,” Brown added. “Laguna was a breakthrough. To be able to beat the best guys in the world, that was a lot of fun.
“I thought we were in good positions a couple of other times this year. It didn’t pan out that way but I think we’ll be really tough [to beat] at Petit with having Simon Pagenaud back in the car with us.
“I always told these guys that I’ll retire when these three things happen: I win Sebring, Daytona and Le Mans. When I get those three under my belt, I’m done driving!”