Still Perfect, Also
Performance Tech Motorsports made it four for four after winning the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge class at Raceway at Belle Isle Park.
James French set the No. 38 Ric-Man Construction / Neurospine Institute / Cardio Access / AIG Technologies / Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children on pole for the start of the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic. Neither he nor Patricio O’Wardlooked back after setting a four-second gap in qualifying. O’Ward crossed the finish line one lap ahead of the competition.
French maintained the lead throughout his stint during the first half of the race. The only drama on track for French came nearly an hour before the race when he picked up some debris on the recon lap. The Performance Tech crew was able to quickly find and resolve the issue.
Of course, race starts on a street course are not for the faint of heart. French found himself stuck in the midst of Prototype traffic from the beginning. Wayne Taylor Racing, undefeated in the prototype class, charged from behind as French focused on clean racing and not allowing the competition to slip ahead of him. He held on tightly and soon found his place and pace on the track.
“Even though we started off from pole we had a pretty interesting start with some of the prototype points leaders mixed in with us,” French said. “It was kind of a confusing setup at the start. I took the inside at the start which was a pretty good advantage, I think I picked off maybe two of the prototypes. It all settled after the start but I had some pretty good battles going on around me.
“It was smooth sailing after that. I had to save some fuel, which can be difficult but that worked out. I focused on getting through traffic cleanly and not trying to ruin anybody’s race or my own. I made that happen and was able to pass off the car to Pato with all four corners attached. On a street course, that’s a great day.”
O’Ward took over after the races only caution came out. The opportunity to pit came a few laps earlier than scheduled forcing O’Ward to immediately begin fuel conservation. Conserving fuel is fairly new to O’Ward but much like every other challenge that has come his way this season, he handled it with skill. O’Ward was given a little room to let loose for three laps of his stint, just enough to earn the fastest lap of the race with a 1:25.664.
O’Ward passed the checkered flag in first place and with the fuel light on.
“It was a different race because pretty much the whole race we were saving fuel,” O’Ward said. “We wanted to do the race in one pit stop so we conserved. I think we would have pushed more if there had been more yellows but there was only the one. In my stint, I basically had to coast the whole way through and try to save as much fuel as I could. I did one flyer to try for the quickest lap of the race. I’m pretty happy with the result and how the race went. We’re looking forward to Watkins Glen and bringing this momentum with us.”
Team Principal Brent O’Neill wasn’t just focused on the PC class this weekend, he was focused on every car and wall on track. Street courses are unforgiving, they lack runoff space and therefore also lack room for error. Every battle and every turn become a potential danger.
“You feel a lot of pressure from everything here,” O’Neill said. “We were quicker than our competition for sure. But here you’re racing the walls, the GTD class, and the P class. In a blink of an eye, your race can be done. It was a good race for the guys. We had to run Pato in fuel conserve mode and we had James drive in fuel conserve mode for half of his stint. Pato is still learning about fuel conserving but he did a good job. We talked him through it and he did everything we asked of him. James did a great job, as usual, they’re both so quick in this car it’s really amazing.”
Performance Tech’s next stop is Watkins Glen International for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in Watkins Glen, New York. This will be the third installment in the Tequila Patròn North American Endurance Championship. The team collected the two previous TPNAEC wins in its home state of Florida. Performance Tech will be joined by its IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda development lineup. Endurance driver and current IMSA PC points leader Kyle Masson will feel the heat to keep Performance Tech perfect in both series.
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