The Winning Habit
Performance Tech Motorsports has spent its existence training to be victors.
Over the past two decades, the team has evolved its work habits, moving beyond just building mechanically sound cars and training a technically advanced crew. Team Principal Brent O’Neill took the time to assemble a cast of individuals that care about their work and consider the team outcomes above personal success. Performance Tech showcased these attributes by claiming the top step of the podium at Sebring International Raceway for the Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advanced Auto Parts. Its second win at one of North America’s roughest road courses.
The routine of a winner is one that is both calculated and practiced. Mike Berk, full-time Performance Tech Motorsports crew member, spends his days in the Deerfield Beach shop going through tedious checks to ensure every inch of the car is performing to its utmost ability. Whether it be a twenty-four-hour race or a two-month break Berk ensures the team is optimizing its time and emulating the work process of champions.
“For most teams preparing for an endurance race is much more thorough and in-depth than a sprint race,” Berk said. “For us, the two are always the same. We inspect everything in extreme detail. We check every bearing, every connector and the ECU’s to make sure everything is perfect.
“A small issue can cause big problems over a long period of time. The crew also is prepped the same for every race. At the start of each year, we decide what everyone’s jobs are, almost like a playbook. From there, everyone knows exactly what they need to be doing and when. There is little room for error because we get into a rhythm.”
Dustin Phillips, Car Chief of the No. 38 Centinel Spine LMP2 works alongside Berk meticulously combing through the details of the car. While Phillips considers each race as challenging as the next, he notes that Sebring International Raceway and the Twelve Hours of Sebring present very unique challenges to the crew.
“The obvious difference between the 24 Hours of Daytona, the sprint races and the Sebring Twelve Hour are the bumps,” Phillips said. “The line, ‘Respect the bumps,’ has a different meaning to the crew. Attention to detail is so critical. Every suspension component, every fastener, every bearing is examined before assembly and closely monitored throughout the race weekend. We made it out of the 24 in great shape which made prep for the Twelve Hour was pretty straight forward and routine.”
While the team experienced a near picture-perfect race weekend at Sebring International Raceway this year, they aim not to expect these outcomes. The team learns from the more unfortunate occurrences such as a burnt clutch in the 2017 Twelve Hours of Sebring to better create a pattern of achievement. Berk believes the occasional loss puts racing into perspective and prepares the crew for the unpredictable.
“Every time we hit the track we aim to win like any other team,” Berk said. “But finishing a race like the Twelve Hours of Sebring or the Rolex 24 at Daytona is a testament in itself. Walking away from Daytona in second could feel like a loss for us, but instead, we took it as a great feat. Being repeat winners at Sebring is incredible, especially after our outcome last year.
“We did everything we could mechanically speaking but still had issues with the car that led to on-track contact. When something like that happens, it helps us to learn the car better. We break it down into as many pieces as it can go and inspect it. Then we create a plan on how to fix it and what to do if it happens again.”
Winning the Twelve Hours of Sebring twice, in two different classes, in three years is a milestone very few teams in the paddock can claim. Performance Tech Motorsports did not achieve this by chance, but rather by impeccable preparation. When walking around the paddock the night before a race roaming fans are guaranteed to find the crew working late into the night. When not at the track many team members are working in the shop on both prototypes and streetcars growing their mechanical skill set and keeping themselves sharp.
“We had no offseason this year,” Phillips said. “With that in mind it makes it hard to feel refreshed and prepared headed into the season but we have a great core group of highly skilled mechanics with adaptable schedules. That has been and will continue to be the key to our success this year.
“Performance Tech is a full-service race shop with so much more happening than what you see in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship or Prototype Challenge paddocks. No one on our crew will ever be 100 percent satisfied with our race prep. We are always making adjustments down to the last minute.”
Due to its strong foundation, Performance Tech can afford to look past weekly podiums at the bigger picture; the championship. The 2019 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season consists of eight races for the LMP2 class. Within those eight races is the Michelin Endurance Cup consisting of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advanced Auto Parts, Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen and Motul Petit Le Mans. In addition, Performance Tech also is competing for the Truman/Aiken award that would grant them a coveted invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“If we can finish every race and get good points, we are achieving our goal,” Berk said. “We can continue to develop the drivers, the car and the crew over the season to work towards a championship result. If we have no issues, the drivers are happy and Brent is happy then I can assure you the crew has done their job.”
Coming off of their maiden season with an ORECA 07 LMP2, Phillips is confident the crew and drivers are now acquainted with the car. Alongside Berk, he believes this year is all about the championship.
“We have a great team vibe right now,” Phillips said. “Everyone is performing well and meshing together at the same time. I just try to keep everyone focused on the end goal; points. Championships are not won in the first race. We need consistent solid results all year.”
Next up for Performance Tech is the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio May 3-5. This race kicks off the sprint race portion of the season with the format switching to a two hour and 40-minute race. The No. 38 Centinel Spine LMP2 WeatherTech Sportscar Championship entry will run the 2.4-mile road course alongside the teams IMSA Prototype Challenge LMP3’s. For a detailed schedule visit http://imsa.com.