The story behind ESM's Daytona win


During the 2014 season, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown took a decision to switch the focus of their Extreme Speed Motorsport United Sportscar entry on to the world stage, foregoing the final race at Petit Le Mans to enter the WEC round at Shanghai. Brown’s thinking was based around building a worldwide marketing platform for his Tequila Patron brand for 2015. Sharp agreed with Brown’s commercial thinking, also wanting to embrace more sophisticated LMP2 cars rather than IMSA’s Daytona Prototypes.

Intending to enter the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup meetings, a pointless return from the first two rounds at Daytona and Sebring caused them to focus solely on the WEC campaign. It proved to be a tough year as they changed cars three times, first from an unsuccessful new HPD ARX-04b to the ARX-03bs and then to a Ligier JS P2.

“We started with the Acura 04b and we had a disaster here at Daytona last year,” Brown said. “We had to switch to the older 03b for Sebring and Silverstone, then we jumped into a Ligier at Spa. None of us really had any time in the car and that was a tough weekend. We had made the podium in our first WEC race in 2014 and we thought we were going to be strong in 2015, but we got our butts kicked all year.”

All the hard work paid off at Daytona last weekend as Sharp, Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and talented young Brazilian Luis Felipe Derani scored a convincing Rolex 24 Hours win. “We knew at the Roar that we had a really good car,” Brown said. “We just took care of it the way we needed to and we knew we would be right there. The main goal was to assure that we were on the lead lap with a couple of hours to go.”

Team owner and leader Sharp discussed his team’s evolution. “ESM’s been in business for six years and when you have a supporter like Tequila Patron and Ed you want to deliver wins like this,” he remarked. “2015 was a bit of a rough year for us. We made a lot of changes as November rolled around and to see all that come together and be able to come out of the box strong and to win is just huge for us.

“We decided to take our team to the next level by merging them with Onroak. They provided us a lot of support with the Ligier chassis and obviously it’s already paying benefits. Every single person on the team has worked so hard to make this happen. Thanks to all of our core ESM guys, to the Onroak guys, Honda’s people and all the preparation and effort that went into it.

“We took the best ten guys from our team and pretty much mated them with some of the guys from Onroak. We moved our stuff from the UK to Onroak’s Le Mans shop and it’s pretty amazing that it all worked out.

“We rented one of Onroak’s cars and shipped it over here because both of our cars are being fitted with Nissan engines to run the entire WEC series. That’s not an easy change and we’ll start testing those cars soon.

“Winning here for Honda is huge. We had a rough year last year and we went to Honda and told them what we thought was the right decision to run the WEC this year with Nissan engines. But we said we were excited to run the new Honda engine here and at Sebring and I can’t say enough about them. Honda delivered on every front. The motor has got great power and drivability. It also made great fuel mileage today and was very reliable.

“Onroak was nice enough to loan us one of their engineers; Mathieu [Leroy] who did an incredible job today and he will part of our programme this year. Our plan was always to run Daytona and Sebring and that’s what we’ll do.

“I don’t think we’ll do Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans, which is really tough. Mike Shank will run this car at Le Mans and the Glen is only two weeks later. And Fuji is also only a couple of weeks after Petit Le Mans so it would be very difficult to do those races. I guess if we won Sebring we’d have to think about it, but logistically it would be very difficult.”

Added Ed Brown: “We came back this year and put our best people with Onroak’s best people and put together what we thought was one of the best teams we could. After today, we’re looking forward to this year. Sebring is our home track and we look forward to seeing how this car will do there.”

In closing I asked Sharp if it was possible to express his satisfaction for winning Daytona. “It’s more that I feel responsible,” he said. “People like Patron have blessed me and given me the opportunity to start and build the team. We’re spending a lot of money to do what we’re doing and to run in the WEC and that means you’ve got to deliver. We did that today and I know it means a lot to Ed to win this race. The team did what they needed to do today and that’s very satisfying for me.”

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