To say it’s been a hectic start to the year for Tequila Patron ESM could be considered an understatement, as the Florida-based team has not only faced the logistical challenges of its first full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but also going through a revolving door of LMP2 machinery.
After debuting the all-new HPD ARX-04b in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Scott Sharp-owned squad reverted to its tried-and-trusted ARX-03b cars for Sebring, as well as the opening round of the FIA WEC at Silverstone, after the decision was made to delay the homologation of the highly anticipated Wirth Research-designed coupe.
The delay in the ARX-04b led ESM to ordering two brand-new Ligier JS P2 Hondas, which after a remarkably quick six-week build process from Le Mans-based Onroak Automotive, make their race debuts in this weekend’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
“I just can’t say enough about Philippe Dumas, Jacques [Nicolet] and everybody at Onroak,” Sharp told Sportscar365. “They told us they thought they could get it done and possibly have two [cars] here for Spa.
“To think they were basically a number of days ahead of schedule, got us shaken down, have most of our spare parts here… It’s a monumental job. They’ve busted their tails to make sure we were squared away. They’ve just been incredible to work with.”
Sharp and the team are coming off a singe-day shakedown with the two cars at Magny-Cours on Monday, fitted with the same Honda HR28TT V6 engines that started the FIA WEC season, prior to heading directly to Belgium.
While it marks ESM’s third different LMP2 chassis in four races, Sharp feels it’s a fresh start in many ways.
“It’s been rough for the team,” he said. “I feel we’re somewhere in November starting over in a lot of ways. But those were the cards we’re dealt and I think we’re really excited to be with the Ligier.
“We want to continue to build our relationship with them and learn about this car. This is our car for now.”
What has Sharp excited about the Ligier-Honda package is that it’s already a proven commodity, having shown race-winning potential in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, both in the hands of OAK Racing and Michael Shank Racing.
How that translates to the FIA WEC, which utilizes a slightly different Balance of Performance, particularly with a smaller sized air restrictor, remains a bit unclear heading into this weekend in the ten-entry strong LMP2 class.
Yet, with the goal of being on top form at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the next round of the championship, Sharp is looking to leave Belgium with solid results, but more crucially, experience with the cars.
The team owner/driver will be joined by Ryan Dalziel and David Heinemeier Hansson in the No. 30 entry, with the all-American lineup of Ed Brown, Jon Fogarty and Johannes van Overbeek set to pilot the No. 31 car.
“We needed to have a race under our belt. You don’t want to go to Le Mans not having that,” Sharp said. “I’m very grateful that the team has worked hard, everyone at Onroak and we’re able to have a race weekend.
“Hopefully we can do really well but certainly more than anything, get that full race of experience and figure out what little areas we need to work on during the short break before we go to the test day.
“If we can get through this weekend, get the drivers up to speed, get the engineers comfortable, I think we can go into Le Mans with a very good chance. It looks a lot brighter to us than it maybe did two or three months ago.”