Bama Bound: Performance Tech Seeks Progression at Barber Motorsports Park
Performance Tech Motorsports will take its faction of IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda drivers to Barber Motorsports Park for Rounds 3 and 4 and the first ever appearance of the IMSA Prototype Challenge series at the Alabama course.
It has been roughly one month since the opening rounds at Sebring International Raceway. Performance Tech saw a fairly consistent and successful opening with Kyle Masson continuing his prototype challenge domination and LMP3 driver Andres Gutierrez making himself familiar with podium ceremonies.
Dr. Robert Masson stood out among the newcomers to the Mazda Prototype Challenge class with a pair of seventh-place finishes. Stephen Dawes and Howard Jacobs kept it steady with a set of ninth and tenth place finishes, respectively. The trio welcomed a new goal between races, the MPC Masters Championship. This championship is open to those competitors over 40 in the MPC class.
“There needed to be something to fight for,” said Performance Tech Team Principal, Brent O’Neill. “Something to win, you have to have a line of achievement. It makes sense that they introduced the MPC Masters Championship because there was already an LMP3 Masters Championship. No matter what you do, you have to have a carrot to chase. Whether you’re building your business or chasing a trophy for the mantel, you need a carrot.”
Barber Motorsports Park is a new track added to the IMSA Prototype Challenge schedule but each Performance Tech driver has experience on the course thanks to early testing. The difficult 2.38-mile track is narrow and features 17-turns surrounded by lush Alabama forests. With 24 cars set to grid each 45-minute sprint race, the track walls may feel as though they’re closing in on the competitors.
“It’s a great track to race at and it’ll be interesting to see how some of the new guys take to it,” O’Neill said. “I think the old Lites cars will actually be quicker than the P3 cars. The track is narrow and small so it won’t take much for carnage during the race. The Lites cars are smaller and easier to maneuver than the P3 so I give them the advantage here.”
Gutierrez will certainly have his work cut out for him in Alabama as 2015 IMSA Prototype Challenge Champion Kenton Koch returns to the series, this time in a P3. His experience in the P3 at Sebring may give Gutierrez the advantage despite being new to the series.
“We learn more about the P3 Ligier each day,” O’Neill said. “Andy is getting better at giving us feedback which really helps all of us and helps him become quicker. He’s already so fast in the car, at Sebring, he was two-tenths off of Nico’s (Jamin, current points leader) quickest lap. He’s in the learning phase right now. He’s young and doesn’t really have a ton of experience but he’ll get there.”
The overarching storyline to the weekend will be Masson. Masson has the perfect record in, not one, but two series thus far with wins in the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida and back to back victories in Rounds 1 and 2 of IMSA Prototype Challenge action. There didn’t seem to be anything or anyone that would stand in his way of reaching the top step of the podium in Sebring. It would seem self-demise would be the only thing to undo Masson, but with less work on his plate over the Barber weekend that seems unlikely.
“I think everybody will do a good job,” O’Neill said. “Hopefully we’ll see Kyle extend his lead and Andy will do great. I think the Masters understand more now. Sebring is always a lot to digest but they see now how different this is from club racing. It’s a lot more serious but I think they’ll enjoy it. I think everyone will do better and we’ll see continued progression.”
Fans can follow all the action on scoring.imsa.com and watch Race Two Saturday, April 22 from 12:50 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. EDT. Replays of the races can be found on the IMSA Youtube channel, IMSA Official. Visit prototypechallenge.imsa.com for series and race details.