ESM “working on a number of scenarios” to replace Patron
Extreme Speed Motorsports boss Scott Sharp says he’s pursuing several options to keep the US sportscar team open once primary sponsor Tequila Patron withdraws at season’s end.
The inaugural 1996 Indy Racing League co-champion and 2009 American Le Mans Series champion has revealed he is already talking to potential backers for 2019 after Patron's announcement on Monday that it will end its deal.
The owner/driver explained that there was a clear intent for this year's Sebring 12 Hours-winning team to continue its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program with the Nissan Onroak Daytona Prototype international design.
Sharp told Motorsport.com: "We want to keep racing the current cars because we've done a good job this year, particularly from a chassis perspective.
"We are working on a number of other scenarios that would allow us to continue. ESM does have other sponsors and we have been in a dialogue with them about stepping up, because we did see this announcement coming."
Sharp stressed that Patron's announcement would not affect this year's IMSA assault. He explained that ESM was planning to field two cars at Road America in August after slimming down to one entry for the round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park earlier this month.
Patron, which was purchased by Bacardi earlier this year, is ending its involvement in all North American motorsport.
As a result, IMSA’s ‘championship within a championship’, the North American Endurance Cup – the Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, Six Hours of Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans – will lose its title sponsor.
Sharp thanked Tequila Patron for its long-time support of his career. "Thirteen years is pretty amazing, so I can't be anything but appreciative," he said.
Patron first backed Sharp in Indy cars in 2006 and then moved over with him to sportscars and an American Le Mans Series assault with Highcroft Racing and Acura in '08. That partnership, together with David Brabham, yielded the American Le Mans Series LMP1 title in 2009.
Sharp subsequently set up ESM for 2010, initially to race in the GT ranks with a Ferrari, the driver roster including Patron CEO Ed Brown.
The team scored back-to-back victories in the Daytona and Sebring enduros in 2016 with a Ligier-Honda JS P2.
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