Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Patricio – or Pato – O’Ward and fellow talented teen Kyle Masson delivered as good a debut as could be done at the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona. O’Ward, the 17-year-old Mexican set the fastest race lap as part of Brent O’Neill’s dominant quartet in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09, en route to the class win in Prototype Challenge.
He’ll join James French for the season in that car, with Masson confirmed for the remaining rounds in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup veterans. Masson will run a Mazda Prototype Lites (MPL) chassis in IMSA’s Prototype Challenge series this year, a separate supporting division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Those three plus Nick Boulle won the PC class at the Rolex 24; a story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Dave Kallmann on French is linked here.
The PC class within the WeatherTech Championship has an eight-race schedule this year, with the four endurance races joined by rounds at Circuit of The Americas, Detroit, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road America.
“We had opportunities arise going into Daytona and if we had a good showing we could get Pato’s deal done,” O’Neill said. “He’s really just awesome, he and James will be great together. It’ll be a good pairing and a plus for us is that we have two silvers that are really fast. It gives us options in the pits with what we can do with strategy.
“The only thing we’ll really be working on with Pato is how he still loses sight of time during the race. He comes from the format of 45-minutes races. He’s from the sprint race mentality so every once in a while, you have to tell him to reign it in. But he’s so professional in the car. He doesn’t throw the car off and he turns competitive lap times. They’ll be awesome teammates and I know James is excited about it. They’re both great kids.”
“The PC car is so different than what I’ve driven before,” O’Ward said. “It’s heavy but it’s not a slow car. It was impressive when I drove it. The PC has 540 horse power, roughly I think. It’s an enjoyable car to drive. In the rain, it’s not so enjoyable. With the cold weather and rain in the Rolex 24 it was difficult to handle. That’s more the weather though not the car. It’s not as physical as I thought it would be. It’s the only open cockpit car in IMSA. So, it’s cool to be a part of the last year of the class.”
“As a unit we all worked really well together at Daytona and we had great pace. I think keeping the group that swept Daytona together is a smart move and I am ecstatic about the opportunity to stay with them,” Masson added.