Performance Tech moved to the top class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge, grew the IMSA Prototype Challenge program and suffered a loss no one saw coming. Team Principal Brent O’Neill and his crew have never let a challenge slow them down; the 2018 season was no exception.
“Keeping up with the constant changes is one of the biggest tasks over the course of the season,” O’Neill said, “Especially this year taking on the new project of the LMP2 car. We had a lot of adversary with Frankie passing and having to let go an employee of ten years. You have to stay after it and working on it while making sure you’re ahead of it. It’s really a delicate balance.”
The passing of long-time crew chief and dear friend Frankie Parzych shook the team down to its roots. Parzych was the first employee at Performance Tech and helped build the team alongside O’Neill and his wife. On any given race weekend, he could be found simultaneously working on the Performance Tech LMP2 and the six IMSA Prototype Challenge entries all while smiling and making jokes.
Parzych left an unfillable gap in the team; however, just one week later the iconic red and black Performance Tech haulers rolled into VIRginia International Raceway ready to compete. The race was plagued with pop-up rain storms which kept the team on its toes as cars slid around track. The Performance Tech drivers and crew navigated the weekend’s added tensions and emotions to walk away from the penultimate race with two podium finishes and four drivers in championship contention.
“The guys that work around us and worked with Frankie all put in an extra effort because Frankie wouldn’t want us to stop,” O’Neill said. “It would have been easy for us to say we lost Frankie, call it a day and go sit on a beach somewhere, but it’s not what anyone wanted to do. We aren’t those people.”
The team spent the month following VIRginia International Raceway introducing new crew members to the team. The new crew were quickly taught the importance of adaptability while preparing for the season finale at Road Atlanta. Onlookers would understand if the team had stepped back, but Performance Tech persevered.
For the first time in the history of IMSA Prototype Challenge there were seven possible entrants that could win the MPC championship, three of which were Performance Tech drivers. With just eight points separating the top contenders the freshly refined Performance Tech team entered the weekend fueled by sheer determination. The team’s hard work paid off as Stephen Dawes, Sidney, New York, and his No. 22 A.I.G. Technologies MPC finished second in the season finale.
Cameron Cassels, British Columbia, No. 75 LMP3 finished first in LMP3 Masters, clinching the Masters Championship.
“For us to go to the Petit Le Mans and have the results we had was really something,” O’Neill said. “We had pace and the cars were quick. We were able to help Cameron win the Masters Championship, which he really deserved after sticking out such a rough year. Dr. Masson should have won the MPC championship but it just wasn’t in the cards. Someone somewhere decided he wasn’t going to win so no matter what we did it just wasn’t happening. Through it all, nobody wanted to quit. Frankie wouldn’t quit. He wouldn’t want us to quit. We decided to go and do what had to be done and we’ll be back again in 2019 ready to go.”
Performance Tech faced harsh challenges on track at the higher level as well. The 2018 season was the first year the team ran an ORECA LMP2 in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship Prototype class. Event after event the team showed pace, only to watch the weekend end early due to an unfortunate racing incident or bizarre parts failure.
Amidst the hardships the team welcomed new achievements. They qualified fourth overall in the Rolex 24 at Daytona against legendary competitors such as Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and United Autosport’s Fernando Alonso. Performance Tech went on to finish eighth overall in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, its best finish of the season.
After years of experience, O’Neill knows that seasons such as this past one is the backbone strong teams are built upon.
“We certainly always had aspirations to be in the prototype class with an LMP2,” O’Neill said. “This first year was a tough one. We had some big crashes and issues. It was a struggle but at the end of the day it makes you a better person and a stronger team because it teaches you to keep digging for more.”
The checkered flag may have fallen on the 2018 race season at the Motul Petit Le Mans, but the work is far from done. Performance Tech has already begun the tedious process of tearing cars down to their bare chassis in order to rebuild them as if they were brand new. With the addition of pre-season tests, the days before the Rolex 24 at Daytona are dwindling quickly.
“There is no off season this year,” O’Neill said. “We’ve already started over. The second the Petit Le Mans ended the 2019 season started. You need to be working on the next season as soon as possible to get ahead of the curve as quickly as you can. It’s a race to the next race.”
Source.Performance Tech Motorsports