Tequila Patron ESM’s return to the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2016 will have a different look and feel behind the scenes, with the American squad joining forces with OAK Racing for operations of the race team.
The expanded partnership with the French constructor will see OAK/Onroak personnel join selected existing ESM crew in the team’s WEC program, with ESM operating out of Onroak’s Le Mans base during the European portion of the season.
According to team owner Scott Sharp, the move will strengthen its overall program as the team targets LMP2 class wins and the world title in 2016.
“Onroak’s been an incredible partner already for us,” Sharp told Sportscar365. “They were tremendously open from the inception of buying the cars.
“We’ve added one of their engineers onto our staff the last few races, which has helped a lot. They’ve been amazing to work with. I think a natural extension is that we’re going to collaborate next year.
“We already wanted to move from the UK to the Le Mans area, to be close to them for parts reasons. We’ll move to Le Mans, use our cars and parts, and bring some of our people.
“A collaboration works well for us, works well for them. We’ll be able to lean on them for the intimate knowledge and experience of the car. We expect it to elevate the whole program.”
The team, largely made up of ESM’s longtime U.S.-based crew, was notified of the change during the Shanghai weekend earlier this month.
While having yet to finalize the exact numbers, Sharp said they will be retaining some of its existing crew to work alongside the OAK/Onroak engineers and mechanics next year.
“We’re still working through the particulars of that but they’ve got a pretty well-oiled machine,” he said. “But at the same time we want to keep the core of our team together as well.”
Philippe Dumas, team principal of OAK Racing, is expected to become ESM’s new WEC team manager.
The development casts further questions over the future of the OAK-run G-Drive Racing outfit, which head into this weekend’s season finale in Bahrain leading the LMP2 championship.
It’s understood principal backer, Roman Rusinov, has been in discussions with other teams to take his G-Drive backing to, although a deal has not yet been reached.