Front-row start, early race lead for ESM's Ryan Dalziel
Strong qualifying efforts from both Tequila Patrón ESMand Michael Shank Racing came to naught Saturday at Sebring International Raceway, as all three Honda-powered sports prototypes dropped out of the 12-hour contest before the eight-hour mark.
Ryan Dalziel qualified the #1 Tequila Patrón ESM HPD ARX-03b Honda on the outside front row, second, for the 63rd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring sports-car racing classic, and claimed the race lead just after the first round of pit stops.
Crash, mechanical issues end the day for all three Honda-powered cars
Dalziel and co-drivers Scott Sharp and David Heinemeier Hansson remained in the thick of the battle at the front of the 43-car starting field until just prior to the four-hour mark, when the team lost two laps to replace the gearbox control unit. The #1 HPD returned to the circuit after repairs and continued to turn competitive lap times, but a rear suspension problem ended its run just past mid-distance.
Michael Shank Racing and drivers Oswaldo "Ozz" Negri, John Pew and Justin Wilson started fourth in their #60 Honda-powered Ligier JS P2, but Negri crashed heavily into the Turn 14 barriers while attempting to pass a GT-category Porsche, ending their Sebring race in just the second hour. Negri was not injured in the crash.
After starting eighth, the #2 Tequila Patrón ESM HPD ARX-03b Honda of Ed Brown, Jon Fogarty and Johannes von Overbeek worked its way steadily up the running order, moving into second place in the seventh hour. But in the eighth hour, a loss of turbocharger boost resulted in the retirement of the third and final Honda entry at Sebring.
Both ESM machines and the Shank entry utilize the production-based 2.8-liter Honda HR28TT V6 engine, developed for competition by HPD from the Honda "J35" series of passenger vehicle V6 engines, with improvements including twin turbochargers. Key production-based components include the block and cylinder heads, direct-injection fuel system, valve train components, drive-by-wire throttle, alternator, sensors and fasteners. The engine even utilizes a stock Honda oil filter.
ESM to make World Endurance Championship debut in April
The 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship resumes April 18 with the first of two temporary street circuit events, the Grand Prix of Long Beach for Michael Shank Racing, while Tequila Patrón ESM makes its World Endurance Championship debut April 12 at the famed Silverstone Circuit in England.
Allen Miller (Race Team Leader, Honda Performance Development) on today's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring: "Our weekend started off very well, with competitive practice times, two cars qualifying in the top four positions, and all three Honda-powered cars in the top eight. But the race just didn't go our way today. The MSR Ligier Honda sustained major damage in Negri's crash, and we're grateful he escaped injury. Just as he had done last year, Ryan Dalziel led the race and his co-drivers in the #1 car continued to run fast, even after an issue with the gearbox control unit. But a problem in the rear suspension eventually ended their run. Finally, the loss of a simple five millimeter bolt in the plenum assembly caused the #2 ESM car to lose its turbocharger boost, leading to its retirement. So unfortunately, we didn't achieve the results we wanted today, but we'll regroup and come back again next month with both MSR at Long Beach and Tequila Patrón ESM at Silverstone."
Scott Sharp (#1 Tequila Patrón ESM ARX-03b Honda): "We broke something in the steering system. It would take a long time to fix and we didn't come to Sebring for points, we came to win or podium, and that [opportunity] is gone. We have a big workload ahead of us [preparing for the WEC test at the Paul Ricard circuit in France next week]. We don't want to risk the cars. We made a decision before the race - if any significant issue put us behind the wall or we lose a bunch of laps, we would park the cars. The guys worked so hard to get us ready for Sebring and we were hoping for a podium finish or a win. The decision to use the ARX-03bs was a late one and the entire Tequila Patrón ESM crew and HPD worked countless hours to get the cars ready. Thank you to everyone on the Tequila Patrón ESM and HPD teams for their efforts."
Oswaldo Negri (#60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda): "We had a couple of issues in the opening segments. I had to come into the pits and do a couple of adjustments to the chassis and was close to going a lap down. I was pushing very hard trying to stay on the lead lap. I got behind a GTLM car and I thought he let off and gave me the way, but then he started to turn into the corner and I thought I was going to hit him. So I tried to avoid it and went over the curb and when I hit the curb, that's when the car took off and spun the other way. It's one of those things. Maybe I should have been a little more patient and passed him elsewhere but in the heat of the moment, you have to push, push, push. I'm just bummed for the Michael Shank Racing team that worked so hard changing over to a new engine yesterday."