With bold liveries and bold moves throughout its first five years, the newly renamed Tequila Patron ESM is no stranger to shaking things up.
And the team is doing so once more for 2015, with likely its boldest new agenda yet.
The Florida-based squad has a new team name, two brand new coupes, two new drivers, a new shop and a new primary series it will be competing in this season.
What isn’t changing is the team’s focus, as it seeks to build on its race-winning pedigree as one of North America’s leading teams with an LMP2 chassis.
The unified team focus occurred out of the box at last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 test, where all of ESM’s six drivers – Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, David Heinemeier Hansson, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Jon Fogarty – shared the team’s No. 2 HPD ARX-04b coupe, albeit not by design.
The team’s second new coupe, the No. 1 car, came to Daytona International Speedway but spent the weekend in the garage being built up by a mix of ESM and Honda Performance Development personnel.
Still, combined, the six drivers banged out more than 160 laps in the No. 2 car and were within two seconds of the leading times, which made for a very productive weekend.
“It is amazing we’ve had six guys in one car and handling it all where we’re not to the point of fine-tuning for any one guy,” Sharp told Sportscar365. “We all have the same comments and same feelings, and that’s pretty rare.”
Team chemistry is important, and as Dalziel related, having this group of six will be key throughout the year as they’ll spend so much time beyond the track traveling to all the FIA World Endurance Championship events around the world beyond the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races in North America.
“I’m looking forward to splitting up to working together well as a trio,” Dalziel said. “But initially, we’re all getting on really as a group.
“When you spend as much time as we do in airports traveling as we will be in 2015, having good personalities is half the battle. ‘JvO’ and I travel together a lot, and I imagine Jon will be too.”
For van Overbeek and Fogarty, 2015 will mark a reunion for the two of them after they had driven together at Flying Lizard Motorsports nearly a decade ago.
The pairing now share what will be the No. 2 car for the Patron Endurance Cup races with Brown, and as Fogarty related, getting back together with his former teammate was akin to riding a bike after a long hiatus.
“We had a great time and had a successful run in ’05-’06,” Fogarty said. “Then we each had our stints with other teams.
“Being back together is great. It’s like we’ve spent four days together here and we’re instantly comfortable, just back in the swing of things.”
Both Fogarty and Dalziel come from a recent history in Daytona Prototypes, although Dalziel’s career has featured the opportunity to drive a more diverse range of machinery.
The Scotsman, who’s new to a P2 coupe, said the vision from this car has been better than expected.
“It’s way different to a DP car,” he said. “With the seating position where it is, it really limits how much you can see. But with this car, the visibility at the front and sides is very good. For such a small cockpit, it actually feels quite spacious.”
Fogarty enters the team new to both the P2 car – he only has a single P2-spec start at the 2012 Twelve Hours of Sebring – and to the world stage as a whole.
“What’s really exciting here is we’re right next door to the Ligier,” he said. “And the cars are massively different.
“I was under the impression P2 had migrated to a more spec design, and while some parts are, the cars are hugely different design philosophies. Hopefully ours is better.
“But the fact there is room for engineers to work with the design of the car, to be a part of that is pretty neat.”
Both Fogarty and Brown will be rookies at June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, while van Overbeek returns for the first time since 2008, when he competed with Flying Lizard.
Meanwhile the No. 1 car of Sharp, Dalziel and Heinemeier Hansson will see the latter two as the Le Mans veterans.
Sharp will make his first Le Mans start in nearly 20 years; his lone appearance came with Wayne Taylor and Jim Pace in 1996, and they failed to finish.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona is, of course, the inaugural 24-hour race for the new car. Expectations might get downplayed given the newness of some parts of the program, but there’s still plenty to fight for.
“We have top speed but just need to work on the mechanical side of the car, and get some grip in the infield,” Dalziel explained.
“But to be within two seconds after just literally turning its first laps at Daytona, not an easy place to be fast at, is a promising start.”