With a new worldwide LMP2 formula emerging, as well as manufacturer-driven efforts in North America, Tequila Patron ESM is evaluating multiple options for its 2017 prototype program.
The Florida-based team, which heads into this weekend’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Nürburgring sitting fourth in the LMP2 championship race, could make a move back Stateside, although according to team owner Scott Sharp, nothing has been determined at this stage.
Sharp revealed that a full-time return to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition would depend on a deal with a DPi manufacturer, something they’ve explored with multiple manufacturers so far.
“We’re all waiting to see how things shake out,” Sharp told Sportscar365. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of manufacturers there right now [for 2017].
“More or less, I think there’s a pretty bright future on the horizon for DPi, because it seems like it makes a lot of sense and would be very attractive to manufacturers.
“But it also seems like something that would take a little while and a lot of people will sit back with a ‘wait and see’ attitude.
“You need manufacturers as a partner or else you can’t go and play. We’re doing the same.”
For now, Sharp said the most realistic option would be to continue in the WEC, for what would be the team’s third full season in the globe-trotting championship.
It would, however, also come with a new car, as its current Ligier JS P2 Nissan, which is permitted to race in 2017 under grandfathering rules, would be at a significant performance deficit to the new 2017-spec LMP2 machinery.
Sharp said their relationship with Onroak Automotive and OAK Racing, which has taken an increased operational and technical support role with the team this year, has been strong.
Its switch from Dunlop to Michelin tires for this weekend’s race is an example of both groups working together on possible 2017 options.
“They’re really good guys and we’re really impressed with Philippe [Dumas], the whole team for [the partnership],” Sharp said.
“I think it’s hard at times with the Silver situation [in WEC] that it’s pretty unfair, for someone like Ed [Brown], but hopefully [they] get a handle on it. I think everyone is aware of some of the issues.”
No timeframe for a decision on the team’s 2017 plans has been established, according to the team boss.
“We haven’t set a deadline right now, and we haven’t really thought about it that much,” Sharp said. “We started off the first two races really strong and we want to make sure we go back there.
“I think we’re going to be [at] some real high-downforce tracks which should be good for our package.”