Valiant return of Honda ARX-03bs Ends Too Soon
SEBRING, Fla., – March 21, 2015 – In a race where most teams have months to prepare, Tequila Patrón ESM accomplished in two weeks. Tequila Patrón ESM and Honda Performance Development made the decision to enter the ARX-03b prototypes into the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race – the 63rd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida in the second week of March. A bold and promising decision since the ARX-03b was a race-proven prototype that earned the Florida-based sportscar team a runner-up finish one year ago.
In the end, the 12 Hours of Sebring was just not the race for Tequila Patrón ESM. A rear suspension issue and loss of boost dashed the team’s hopes of a podium finish at its home track today.
The Florida-based team made gains during practice sessions on Thursday and Friday. Then Ryan Dalziel rallied the team when he qualified the No. 1 Tequila Patrón HPD on the front row. The No. 2 team didn’t fare as well in qualifying with a starting position of eighth, but adjusted the car’s setup to mimic the No. 1 machine.
Tequila Patrón ESM entered the race cool and confident. Dalziel took over the race lead with just 45 minutes on the race clock. He led until pitting for the scheduled driver change to David Heinemeier Hansson. Dalziel was one of two drivers to post 1:52 laps times in the first segment of the race. He also logged several of the prototype class’ fastest laps during his stint.
Impressive in the ARX-03bs, Heinemeier Hansson kept a top-10 run during his stint. In his maiden race in the open cockpit chassis, Heinemeier Hansson also set some of the fastest prototype class laps during his stint. He pitted for driver change to Scott Sharp.
Sharp experienced issues with the on-board systems. After radioing the crew and attempting on-track diagnosis and repair, Sharp pitted and the team replaced the ECU under caution which resulted in a loss of two laps. Sharp then lapped the circuit quicker than the prototype leaders. Although down two laps, there was more than nine hours on the race clock. There was plenty of time to reach the front of the field.
Dalziel climbed into the No. 1 machine for his second stint. Near the halfway mark of the race, Dalziel radioed the team and indicated he was having handling issues. He drove to the Tequila Patrón ESM paddock where the crew removed the bodywork for further inspection. The team determined there was an issue in the rear suspension. At this point the No. 1 was nine laps down and would retire from the race.
Johannes van Overbeek started the race for the No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM team from the eighth position. The crew adjusted the No. 2 setup to match its sister car which required the No. 2 drivers to adapt to the new setup. Van Overbeek battling a bit of understeer early in the race but maintained a 1:54 lap time, just two seconds off the leader’s pace.
The race’s second full course caution was the prime opportunity for a pit stop and driver change. Ed Brown ran a strong race in the heat of the day, reached his race-high of eighth position before scheduled driver change to Jon Fogarty.
Fogarty logged consistent lap times and was swapping fast lap times with Sharp during his stint. In his first race with the ARX-03b, Fogarty found a solid pace and was credited with leading one lap. He would pit and van Overbeek began his second stint.
By now, the No. 1 team had retired and the No. 2 team was charging to the front of the field. Van Overbeek reached second position and radioed the crew stating he had lost boost. He pitted for the crew to inspect the race car, completed his stint and turned the car over to Fogarty. In a brief final stint, the race car lost additional boost and Fogarty brought the race car to the Tequila Patrón ESM paddock where team officials decided to retire the No. 2 HPD from the race.
An early end to a promising weekend, but the Tequila Patrón ESM team is not disappointed. In two weeks, it prepared to race cars that had not seen competition since last November. Two of the six drivers had never driven the race cars, who then posted fast lap times during the race. The 12 Hours of Sebring is a long race at a facility that is rough on both racer and race car. The team sought podium finishes and may have walked away empty handed in the trophy department, but full of promise and expectations for the upcoming races ahead.
The 12 Hours of Sebring marks the eve of Tequila Patrón ESM’s European adventure. The team put its best foot forward this weekend and now launches into the second phase of its 2015 season – the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC). Immediately following tonight’s race, the crew packed its race cars and entire paddock into boxes to ship to Europe.
Tequila Patrón ESM will participate in the FIA WEC pre-season test, The Prologue, at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France, on March 27-28. In less than a month, Tequila Patrón ESM will compete in the 6 Hours of Silverstone, the first of FIA WEC eight international races on the schedule.