The Performance Tech Motorsports team will move into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype class with an Oreca 07 Gibson next year, following its dominant season in the last year of Prototype Challenge en route to the title with James French and Pato O’Ward (with Kyle Masson for the long races).
Team principal Brent O’Neill courted Oreca from the summer and worked towards putting together a deal, and now will add another of the capable LMP2 chassis to the Prototype class grid.
“We know everybody going into this. Everyone is expecting to see Dallara or Ligier but we look forward to continuing the relationship we’ve built over the years it was the right choice for us,” O’Neill said. “It’s a big step for everybody but it’s a less steep curve to continue with ORECA because we’ve been working with them all along. ORECA was a part of our success this year.
“They did great through this process. We’ve had fun getting people excited about the new car. This, the car announcement, played out well for both of us. Everyone was asking ORECA who the car was for and our team was excited. But we’re happy to announce with them and excited to get to work.”
Oreca’s David Floury, its technical director, added: “We are really glad to partner Performance Tech in moving up to LMP2. The team is strong and has shown it in LMPC and we have developed a very good relationship through the year. ORECA will for sure support as much as possible to help Performance Tech continue to achieve success.
“I think they chose the right car for two main reasons. Firstly, the ORECA 07 is known for quality and has proven its speed and reliability. But besides this, it is a good base for teams that are entering the category for the first year to achieve great results. JDC in the USA or Graff in Europe has really demonstrated this in 2017. The second point is that Performance Tech and ORECA have developed a strong and successful relationship through years. This will enable to gain valuable time and speed up the process.”
Drivers weren’t named but with O’Ward keen on an open-wheel return full-time after doing two Indy Lights weekends last year, then testing in October, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see French and Masson in this car full-time.
Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”
The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.
“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”
Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.