Performance Tech Riding Young Talents to Perfect Start in Prototype Challenge Class
Monday, May 1, 2017

Performance Tech Motorsports team principal Brent O’Neill entered the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season with a renewed optimism. After three years of being tantalizingly close to a win in WeatherTech Championship competition, recording four runner-up finishes and 13 podiums in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class in that span, O’Neill spent the second half of 2016 putting pieces in place to not only contend for wins, but the PC-class championship as well.

Two races and two wins later, O’Neill is in position to do just that.

Drivers Pato O’Ward and James French enter this weekend’s race at Circuit of The Americas seeking to continue a perfect start to the 2017 season, having won the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida in dominating fashion.

“Part of it is putting the right drivers and crew together,” said O’Neill. “From the middle of last year on we were working on that. My goal was to start 2017 on a new platform and we were able to pull it off. Now that we’ve had some success, we just want to keep that rolling.”

“Some success” is an understatement. With full-season drivers O’Ward and French joined by co-drivers Kyle Masson and Nicholas Boulle at Daytona, and Masson again at Sebring, the team’s No. 38 Ric-Man Construction/Neurospine Institute/Cardio Access/AIG Technologies/Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children ORECA FLM09 won the opening two races by a combined 24 laps.

O’Neill credits his talented crop of young drivers as one of the reasons for the early-season turnaround. The average age of the lineup that won the Rolex 24 was 22 years old, and two of the four drivers had never participated in a live pit stop prior to the race.

That was one of many challenges that the team had to overcome to win the Rolex 24. A crash in the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session earlier that month put the team behind even before the first official practice of the Rolex 24 weekend.

Following the test, O’Neill and the team took the car down to the bare tub back and rebuilt the entire car to get ready for the Rolex 24. Once the race weekend began though the quartet of young drivers and the team’s pit crew ran mistake-free, winning the race by 22 laps.

The encore came at Sebring when an even younger lineup with an average of 20 years old battled over the notoriously treacherous Sebring International Raceway to win the race by two laps.

“The biggest thing about this group of kids that we have right now is they really listen and pay attention,” he added. “They understand the entire package. It’s more than just being fast on the race track, they also have to be good with the engineers, they have to be good with the sponsors.”

With the PC class not competing in the most recent WeatherTech Championship race at Long Beach, the 17-year-old O’Ward and 24-year-old French now set their sights on making it a threepeat to start the season at Circuit of The Americas.

While French finished third in Austin with Performance Tech each of the past two season, O’Ward will make his first start at the track on Saturday, May 6.

That date also signifies another milestone for O’Ward. His 18th birthday.

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