Tequila Patron ESM showed its strongest run thus far in the 2017 season with its pair of Nissan Onroak DPis, earning a second place finish on the streets of Long Beach. Co-drivers Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp started sixth to earn their first podium of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
The team showed great improvement on the new program after a difficult first two races in Florida earlier this year. From the opening practice to the qualifying session, Ed Brown took four seconds off his best lap in the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi, to set his fastest lap ever at the Long Beach Grand Prix street circuit. Scott Sharp also showed strength in the qualifying session, setting a lap time to sit third, before pitting the No. 2 Nissan Onroak DPi to wait out the remainder of the session. To the team’s disappointment, the track improved and other competitors in the field found speed, shuffling the No. 2 to sixth.
Trouble appeared for Brown and van Overbeek on the start of the race in the opening lap, when another car had contact with the No. 22 car. The Nissan Onroak DPi suffered damage and parked in pit lane, unable to continue the race.
Scott Sharp and the #2 car had a clean start, keeping position as the field ran the opening 30 minutes of the race, keeping clear of any street racing carnage through two caution periods. With about an hour remaining, Sharp pitted in the third caution to give the driving duties to Dalziel. He rejoined in sixth, but a narrow escape from an incident in the hairpin turn moved him up to fourth. The Prototype field made its text round of pit stops, and the Tequila Patron ESM engineers made the strategy call to take fuel only, allowing Dalziel to exit pit lane in first place. Because of the extra pit stop for the Prototype class, the GTLM and GTD class ranked higher on the charts, forcing Dalziel to slice his way through the slower traffic. With 20 minutes remaining, Dalziel took the overall lead, setting the fastest lap of the race.
With a win in sight, all eyes were on the clock with five minutes remaining as lapped traffic allowed the No. 10 car of Jordan Taylor to close the gap to the leader. Dalziel continued to set the fastest laps of the race, but a lapped car held up the Tequila Patron ESM car, allowing Taylor to get by with three laps to go. Dalziel attempted to charge for a final fight, but traffic continued to hold him up to the checker flag, resulting in a second place finish.
While the result felt bittersweet after being so close to the win, Tequila Patron ESM earned their first podium with the new Nissan NISMO Onroak DPi program, showing significant progress over the last month. The next race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be held at Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas, May 4-6. For schedule information, visit imsa.com.
All around, it is a good result. If we came in this weekend thinking we were going to lead laps, be competitive and finish second, we would have been thrilled. To have led so many laps, see how strong we were, and just get ruined by lapped cars driving like morons is frustrating. We did everything we could do. The car was excellent and strategy was perfect. I feel bummed, but we will take second.
It was a big step forward for the team this weekend. We’ve been working on our reliability, and that went forward. The performance was better and it seemed like we were competitive in every session. The team did a great but risky strategy call to pit us under yellow and swap drivers early, but it worked out for us. Ryan did a great job. Sometimes traffic goes your way, sometimes it goes against the grain. Unfortunately that was it for us today.
I am happy for the team and happy for the No. 2 car. They had a good race. Traffic ended up costing us the win. As for the No. 22, that incident was definitely not what we wanted to happen. Street courses bring that on, and we’ll live to go race at Circuit of the Americas.
Johannes van Overbeek
I feel bad for Ed and the Patron ESM guys. We had a pretty good car. We were a victim of circumstance. Hats off to everyone on the No. 2 car. They had a great run. I feel bad for Ryan. He was the quickest car out there, but traffic didn’t swing his way. We’re making progress with the program and we’ll be sporty in races to come.
Source. KBru Communications