Six for Six
Performance Tech Motorsports made it six for six at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
James French and Patricio O’Ward took home another win in the Prototype Challenge class in Round 7 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The PC class has competed at six of the seven events and Performance Tech has been at the forefront of every race. Even taking home pole at five races, Sebring International Raceway is the only track French didn’t take that honor.
French began the race from the top spot. On the start, he received a tap from the No. 26 BAR 1 PC. The tap nudged French out of the way, and the No. 26 found clear ground ahead to take the lead. A lap and a half later French regained the lead. As French often does, he proved good things come to those who wait.
“The No. 26 got me at the start, it’s funny though because he told me he was going to do that. I don’t know if he meant it or not but he did it,” French said. “I was following the prototype field through (turn) one, and there was a bigger gap in front of him, so he got ahead. I think I followed him for a lap and a half before I passed him on the outside of eight.
“Which was a pretty dicey place, probably not the best idea. We had a little contact there, and I think it damaged something with the power steering. The steering got pretty heavy afterward. That was pretty much the most eventful part of my stint, after that, it was just hanging on to a heavy wheel. It was still fun out there, maybe a little hard on the shoulders.”
The Mosport race featured more hurdles than previous competition provided for O’Ward. O’Ward took over for French near the halfway point of the Grand Prix. O’Ward had smooth sailing at the start of his stint; he didn’t skip a beat when it came to turning consistent laps as he made his way through lap traffic. It was during traffic the first hurdle came his way.
As O’Ward passed a GT Daytona car going down the back straight, a Prototype went to past on his other side. He was sandwiched between the two cars when he came upon a dead tire in the middle of the track. O’Ward had no choice but to drive through the tire, damaging the splitter and the nose of the car. He immediately pitted after the incident and the crew sent him back into the race three-fourths of a lap later. O’Ward entered the race second in the PC class after being nearly two laps ahead of the competition.
Then the rain began to fall. Teams and drivers made the call to either take or forgo rain tires. O’Ward went without; the decision was validated shortly after as the rain passed quickly and the track began to dry. O’Ward steered clear of incidences on track that would result in the race ending under yellow and him passing the checkered flag in first place.
“When I got into the car my goal was just to warm up the tires and brakes,” O’Ward said. “But I got into a situation where I was getting passed by a P car, and I was passing a GTD car. I was stuck right in the spot where there was a dead tire on the straight away that was there for, what? At least 25 minutes.”
“It was there for most of my stint honestly,” French said about the dead tire. “It was stupid that it wasn’t removed earlier.”
“It was stupid not to have removed the tire from the middle of the track,” O’Ward said. “But it was sitting there. I had to drive right through it; broke the nose, broke the splitter. I had to come in to change it, and we went back out in second. Then it started raining, and people came in to put rains (tires) on. When I came in to do a splash of fuel, they asked what I wanted.
“I risked it and stayed on slicks. Everyone else regretted putting rain tires on because they came in for tires again after the track dried. That’s where we overtook the first place in the PC class. It was slippery when we started again. The cars in front of me were racing aggressive, so I stayed back. Then it started raining again, and the safety car came out. From there it was just about bringing the car home, there was 10-minutes left.”
Team Principal Brent O’Neill is still focused on the perfect season, but he did take the time to reflect on missed safety measures of this race.
“Unfortunately, the Bar 1 car made contact with James at the start, and we had no power steering from there on,” O’Neill said. “James and Pato ran the entire race with no power steering. Then Pato hit the dead tire head on; we’re lucky no one was hurt, and it was just the car. The guys had fixed the nose and splitter before a lap was up. It was a good weekend for everybody at the end. Everyone did a great job. We’re looking forward to Road America.”
Performance Tech Motorsports’ next IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race is Sunday, August 6 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase. French’s hometown track is the penultimate race for the PC class with their final event being the Motul Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Georgia. The 20th Anniversary Petit Le Mans marks the final race event of the PC class as part of the WeatherTech series.