No. 18 Era Motorsport LMP2 Carries Young Fan’s Colorful Inspiration to Victory
By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For Owen McEachern, the primary focus of late – like many others his age – has been counting the days until he turns 7 on March 1. About the only thing to shift him from that obsession came when the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 won its class at last month’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
That’s because the No. 18 entry was sporting a colorful and eye-catching livery inspired by a contest entry submission from the Canadian race fan. Owen’s drawing was selected over other entries from around the world to grace the car for the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener at Daytona International Speedway – and it came home first in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class.
The young artist wasn’t surprised with the outcome. When asked if he thought the car bearing his design was going to win the Rolex 24, Owen never hesitated in responding, "Yes," adding, "I was really excited (when it won)."
Owen’s journey to Rolex 24 victory started in March 2020, when his father, Jason McEachern, spotted the contest on IMSA.com. Eager to provide his children with activities during lockdown in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the lifelong IMSA race fan printed the blank template. Owen’s masterpiece featured the three primary colors from the front to back of the car, transitioning from blue to yellow to red.
"I just started coloring," he said and punctuated the work by adding a lightning bolt to the side of the car "because I liked it."
His father submitted the entry with a photo of Owen, and it was essentially forgotten after that. The original intent of the contest was to select a winner whose livery would appear on the No. 18 in last year’s Motul Petit Le Mans. But like many things in 2020, the plan was sidetracked until team officials decided to revisit the idea for this year’s Rolex 24.
"It wasn’t until about a month before the Rolex that I got an email out of nowhere that said, ‘You won,’" Jason McEachern said. "I said, ‘Excuse me? We won what?’ I had to jog my memory a little bit. I’m still pinching myself."
The McEacherns followed the race from their Toronto home as it unfolded and were elated when Paul-Loup Chatin took the checkered flag in the No. 18, besting the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA by 19.513 seconds in a spirited battle over 24 hours.
"They’re just really nice people and they deserve what happened to them," Jason said of the Era team. "There’s good karma, good work and some good people there.
"What Era Motorsport did – I know they’re a newer team – just putting this on and doing what they did for my son, I think they’re champions. To watch the car in the race and to watch their strategy play out and watch them cross the finish line first, it was unbelievable. My wife has a video of us from when they won, and I might as well have put rocket fuel in my tank. I’m blown away."
The Era Motorsport crew was just as blown away. Team owner Kyle Tilley was a co-driver along with Ryan Dalziel, Dwight Merriman and Chatin.
"To have pulled off the victory in one of the biggest sports car races in the world is unbelievable," Tilley said. "To have done it sporting Owen’s livery makes the story even more of a fairytale!"
It was the first Rolex 24 triumph for three of the drivers, the second for Dalziel. The 38-year-old Scotsman was the overall winner in a Daytona Prototype in 2010.
"From the moment I became part of Era, I could tell there was something really special, like a family atmosphere, and we for sure executed as a family," Dalziel said. "This is my second Daytona win and each one has been very special, but more importantly they came at times in my career where I really needed them. Both personally and professionally, this win feels amazing and I’m super proud to have done it with my buddy Kyle Tilley steering the team and additionally special for 6-year-old Owen, who got to see his great livery winning the race."
The McEacherns had been invited to attend the Rolex 24 to see Owen’s work in person but could not due to continuing travel restrictions. They hope to have a belated celebration with the team when the WeatherTech Championship visits Watkins Glen International in June for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.