After a challenging start to their first full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Tequila Patron ESM’s Johannes van Overbeek is hoping for a turnaround in fortunes in the team’s home race.
Saturday’s Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas marks the one-and-only WEC race on U.S. soil, and a return to the site of the Florida-based team’s series debut in 2014.
“Coming to COTA is fun,” van Overbeek told Sportscar365. “It’s the only opportunity for many of our friends and families to be there, which always gives you a little bit of a boost.
“We’ve been to the track before in a P car, not this particular one. Patron has a big presence here. It’s a great track.
“The guys did a great job in the WEC [race] last year and podiumed so I’m hoping that everything we’ve learned up to that point we can apply to COTA and have another podium result.”
One year later and a lot has changed within the Scott Sharp-owned organization.
ESM made the radical shift from full-time IMSA competition to the globe-trotting WEC series, which has seen an influx of new staff and driver additions for the ramped up effort.
There’s also been changes on the hardware, with ESM starting the year with the HPD ARX-04b before reverting to its tried-and-trusted ARX-03b for two races prior to the debut of the Honda-powered Ligier JS P2s at Spa.
For van Overbeek, who has been with the team since its inception in 2010, this year has seen its share of curve balls, but the motivation to succeed hasn’t been lacking.
“Our team has faced some really tough challenges, having three chassis in a year,” he said. “That’s been tough, trying to figure out what the cars like and don’t like.
“Learning the tracks, especially when the first couple of sessions are wet, is really challenging. Because when qualifying comes, you have to be fully on it and you can’t [run] safely without some dry running.
“It’s not been without its challenges but challenges always make you stronger.”
The biggest year-to-year difference has been the chassis, with the team still coming to grips with the Onroak Automotive-built LMP2 chassis.
It’s required a totally new approach, both from a setup and driving perspective, from what the team had been used to with its previous bespoke HPD prototypes.
“Switching to the Ligier, there’s new parts, there’s new wheels, there’s new everything,” van Overbeek said. “For the mechanics: How does it come apart and how does it go back together? How do you check the oil?
“All these little things that you don’t even think about. How hot do you run the brakes? How do you manage that?
“We’re sort of the outlier, with the exception of Shank, in running a Honda powerplant [in the Ligier].
“OAK and the Ligier people have been super helpful but we can’t always use the help they provide us because it’s a completely different package with different characteristics.
“It’s been really tough but everyone’s got their head up and we’re pushing forward.”
While currently unable to challenge for class wins, as it still comes to grips with the new package, van Overbeek said motivation hasn’t been an issue within the team.
And with its previous knowledge of the 3.427-mile circuit, ESM’s best chance to shine could come this weekend on home ground.
“The way I look at it, all I can do is go out and do the best job I can do and if everyone has the same mindset on the team, we’ll have the best result possible,” van Overbeek said.
“Getting a good result is always good. Doing it at COTA would be especially sweet just with being a home race, friends and family and the Patron participation.”