With the start of the FIA World Endurance Championship season less than eight weeks away, Tequila Patron ESM is in full prep mode as the Florida-based organization embarks on the full globe-trotting championship for the first time.
The Scott Sharp-owned squad, which becomes only the third U.S.-based team and the first multi-car American operation to take on the FIA WEC full-time, has had its work cut out for them, not only with the debut of two brand-new HPD ARX-04b LMP2 cars, but also finalizing the logistics required for its 12-race, three-continent tour.
“I put together a calendar for everyone and showed them how many days they’ll be gone and for how long. There’s not a lot of open days left,” ESM’s Director of Operations Robin Hill told Sportscar365. “But everyone’s up for it so we’re looking for it.”
While having taken part in the FIA WEC rounds at Circuit of The Americas and Shanghai last year, the 2015 season represents a new challenge, with the team having had to source a European base, equipment and additional crew for the endeavor.
For the first half of the season, the team will be based at Dave Price’s former workshop in Great Bookham, England, just south of London, and will operate much like a European team, with a leased transporter and a handful of ESM staff being permanently based in the UK.
“We’ve restructured the [staff] a little bit,” Hill explained. “We had some change in personnel towards the end of last year, so we have a couple of English guys on board, which will be great for once we go over there because they can keep an eye on things and keep it ticking over when we’re not there.”
Unlike some U.S. teams that had joined forces with a European-based team, or simply left the operational side to a different entity, Hill said ESM has opted for an entirely internal effort, in order to eliminate any potential headaches.
“We thought about partnering up with another team but any time I’ve ever gotten involved in anything like that has always been a disaster,” he said. “Because they’d want to do it this way or they want to go this route and they want to do this.
“So one person will steer the ship and that’s the way it should be and that’s what we’re going to do.”
With the team kicking off its year at Daytona and Sebring for the opening two rounds of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, it’s resulted in some further logistical challenges, particularly with getting the cars from Florida to France for the mandatory Prologue pre-season test at Paul Ricard in the matter of four-day window.
“The logistics going from Sebring to [Paul] Ricard is a lot of work after the race,” Hill said. “It all has to ship on Sunday to be there for Tuesday [customs] clearance so we can get it to the track on Wednesday. Then we’d spend a day unloading it all and prepping it to run around on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s going to be a bit of a logistical nightmare and I’m sure we’re going to have some tired boys on our hand but everyone’s up for it and game to do it.”
Hill said the majority of the crew will remain in Europe to prepare the cars between Paul Ricard and Silverstone, with a short break before Spa-Francorchamps and then the immediate build-up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
While having the experience of a fly away race last year, wrapping together a full championship attack is another task altogether, yet one Hill is looking forward to delivering.
“Shanghai [last year] was a one-off event for us, which was easy for us in the fact that we hadn’t run Fuji first. So I think [the full] season will still be a bit of an eye opener.
“It won’t be so much at the beginning of the season because we’ll get through the [Paul] Ricard test and then straight to Silverstone but we’ll have a break until Spa and there’s a break before we go to Le Mans.
“When we do these other ones… from COTA to Fuji then to Shanghai and Bahrain, trying to get that turnaround time an that stuff sorted out. It’s going to be hard to do for sure but all the other teams manage to pull it off, so it can be done.
“It will be an interesting learning experience for sure.”