Sharp, Patron ESM enter “immensely different” second WEC season

Photo courtesy of IMSA

The 2016 season couldn’t have started any better for Tequila Patron ESM, with overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida.

Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani spearheaded the driving lineup, along with solid performances from Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek with Ed Brown also completing minimal laps in the team’s No. 2 Ligier JS P2 Honda.

Things will be a tad different once they head from North America into the FIA World Endurance Championship, for the team’s second season in the LMP2 class.

The Ligier JS P2s that they ran from Spa onwards last year are now a tried-and-true package, after a scramble to build the cars to even ensure they were ready for Spa. The Ligiers were the third different chassis the team used last year, after the HPD ARX-04bs at Daytona and previous generation HPD ARX-03bs at Sebring and Silverstone.

For 2016, the team has Nissan engines replacing Hondas, a primarily French crew from OAK Racing (Onroak Automotive) on board and a slightly altered driver lineup. Sharp, van Overbeek and Brown will continue in the team’s No. 30 car with Derani, Ryan Dalziel and Chris Cumming in the No. 31 car.

“It’s gonna be really competitive. I’m excited with the moves we made,” Sharp, also the team owner, told NBC Sports at Sebring. “I think the Nissan engine is the one to run in the WEC from a weight perspective.

“The big move for us is collaborating with Onroak and their car, with the success they’ve had already to go testing in (Motorland) Aragon. It’s so smooth and orchestrated, it should be a solid season.”

The team has tested there and at Circuit Paul Ricard for the Prologue in late March.

As Sharp explained it, despite those differences, familiarity in knowing the tracks and process should make things better this season.

“It’s immensely different. It was a such a cluster for us last year,” Sharp said. “Three different chassis. Going to all these new tracks.

“As a driver with a lot of experience, I’d been to the tracks here so many times. Elkhart (Lake, Road America), it’s like I’ve been there 20 times. For us it was almost like a young driver going to tracks against guys that know it so much better. That’s what we did last year.

“It was so frustrating, because you’d spend all week learning and understanding and playing catch-up. Now it’s like, you want to hit the rewind button and be like, ‘Can we start over now?’ For us, it should be so much easier this time around.”

Sharp also said Patron ESM has played by the rules with proper gentlemen Silver-rated drivers, in Brown and Cumming, while other teams have opted for the “fake Silver” to fill out the car’s lineup to the regulations.

“There’s five or six really strong combinations at least. One factor people are talking about is we have two legitimate Silvers, whereas some cars have a Silver in, and a lot of organizations wouldn’t rate them a Silver.

“But here we’ve got two different things completely compared to the U.S. We’ve got different engines and tires on the car, and we’re stoked to get it going.”

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change