Mark Webber’s 1st WEC season to end in a very familiar place

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The World Endurance Championship wraps up its 2014 season this coming weekend at Interlagos with a six-hour race, and that will also mark the end of Mark Webber’s first campaign in the series.

Webber, now driving for the Porsche LMP1 factory team, knows the Sao Paulo track very well from his previous life in Formula One. The Australian took two of his nine career Grand Prix wins there, and also ended his F1 tenure there in 2013.

But now, he’s about to see the legendary Brazilian track in a whole new light.

“I always enjoyed driving there in Formula One,” he said in a Porsche release. “With the Grand Prix wins in 2009 and 2011, I have some very special memories of the place. The atmosphere is electric with the fans being very close to the track, different to modern circuits where the grandstands are farther away.

“At 4.3 kilometers, it means it is a small circuit and the WEC is a huge grid. It is a little bit of a shame they resurfaced the track, because the bumps were a special challenge that is taken away now. I think the 919 will like the track and, hopefully, we can push for our best result of the year there.”

Webber and No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley are coming off their third podium run of the season in the most recent WEC race in Bahrain.

That race also marked the first time that both sides of the Porsche 919 Hybrid program landed on a WEC podium, as the No. 14 team (Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb) finished second.

Now, Porsche has one more opportunity in 2014 to take the next step: Winning.

“We can be proud of having achieved three pole positions and five podium finishes with such a complex race car in such strong competition,” said Porsche’s LMP1 head, Fritz Enzinger. “Even more important for the future: The way we improved race by race shows that we’ve got the structures right. This goes for the technical concept, as well as for the driver line-up and the operational side with a team growing so well together.

“We have learned from every situation and tried our utmost to reduce the competition’s advantage in terms of experience. In case a small opportunity would open up to climb on the next and final step of the podium in Brazil, we want to be ready to take it.”

All of the Porsche LMP1 drivers have been announced today as confirmed to continue their current roles in 2015. Additionally, the marque says that it will field a third 919 Hybrid for next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans (June 13-14) and, in a tune-up for that race, the WEC event at Spa-Francorchamps (May 2); Porsche says no decisions have yet been made regarding a driver line-up for the third car.

Tequila Patron to end ESM and IMSA partnerships after 2018 season

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Earlier on Monday, Tequila Patron, a long-time sponsor in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both at the team level – they have a long standing partnership with Tequila Patron ESM – and the series level, announced that they will be ending their sponsorships at the end of the 2018 season.

After sponsoring Highcroft Racing in 2008 and 2009 in the American Le Mans Series, Tequila Patron and ESM formed a partnership in 2010 to launch their own team. Since then, they have scored overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Petit Le Mans. They have also competed internationally, in both Prototype and GT categories.

“On behalf of the entire Extreme Speed Motorsports organization, it has been an honor to represent such an amazing brand for the past 13 years,” said team co-owner Scott Sharp via a team release.

“I have the deepest gratitude for all of (Patron CEO and ESM co-founder) Ed Brown’s support. Together we have tackled various challenges, won races at each step, and built ESM into such an incredible team. Simultaneously, it has been thrilling to watch Ed and his team build the Patrón brand in a meteoric fashion and along the way become an icon in the motorsports world! We will miss not carrying the now infamous green and black livery, but the same passion for excellence will remain!”

IMSA President Scott Atherton also expressed gratitude toward Patron for their long-time involvement.

“IMSA and Patron Spirits have enjoyed a fantastic partnership for more than a decade. Tequila Patron rose through the IMSA ranks, from a high-profile team sponsor with Patron Highcroft Racing beginning in 2008, through its entitlement sponsorship of the Patron GT3 Challenge starting in 2009, and its presenting sponsorship of the American Le Mans Series beginning in 2010,” Atherton detailed.

He continued, “Tequila Patron continued in a prominent position as the American Le Mans Series merged with GRAND-AM to create the new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and has been our entitlement partner for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup since 2014 in addition to its longstanding support of the Tequila Patron ESM race team and its pair of Nissan DPi race cars.

“All associated with IMSA – competitors, promoter partners, series officials and fans – will miss the iconic Tequila Patrón brand next year. On behalf of IMSA, we thank CEO Ed Brown and Tequila Patron for all they have done over the many years to help us grow IMSA and the sport as a whole. We’re more proud than words can express to have counted Tequila Patron among our family of premium brand partners.”

Team co-owner Scott Sharp, in a story posted on SportsCar365, asserted that the ESM team has every intention of continuing in 2019.

“We’re working on a number of options,” Sharp said. “Obviously I think we’ve singly got the best team we’ve ever had, personnel-wise. Having been refining over the years and making selected additions, we’ve gotten ourselves to be super strong. The goal is keeping everyone together. We’re working through a few different options that will hopefully allow us to do that.”

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