Extreme Speed Motorsports Moves to ALMS P2, Level 5 Likely to Follow

By James Fish
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 15, 2013 Last Updated: February 15, 2013
Related articles: Sports » Motorsports
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Scott Sharp drives the P2 Highcroft Acura at St. Pete in 2008. (Dr. Sherwood Liu/The Epoch Times)

Scott Sharp drives the P2 Highcroft Acura at St. Pete in 2008. (Dr. Sherwood Liu/The Epoch Times)

Scott Sharp’s Extreme Speed Motorsports announced Wednesday that the team will be moving from the American Le Mans series GTE class to P2 for 2013 and 2014, the first season of the merged North American Sports car series. Following ESM’s announcement, Daily Sports car said it expected an announcement from Level 5 for two cars in P2 in 2013.

This gives the formerly empty P2 four solid entries for 2013 and also provides for at least two confirmed entries for the following season, which will force the new series management to balance P2 with Daytona Prototype.

Scott Sharp is no stranger to prototypes. He drove in both P21 and P1 with Highcroft Racing, finishing second in 2008 and winning the championship in 2009. Sharp left Highcroft in 2010 and formed Extreme Speed Motorsports, driving GTE Ferraris with friend and sponsor, Patrón Tequila CEO Ed Brown.

ESM tested both its updated 2013-spec Ferraris at the ALMS Sebring Tuesday and started testing immediately.

ESM tested both its updated 2013-spec Ferraris at the ALMS Sebring Winter Test earlier this month. The team took possession of two HPD-ARX-03bs (one new, one ex-Starworks) Tuesday and started testing immediately. ESM will debut its new prototypes at the 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 16.

“I’m very proud that ESM will move to the P2 class, effective immediately. We will have two Honda ARXs for next month’s ALMS season-opener at Sebring,” Sharp said in an ESM press release.

“We enjoyed our three-year run in the GT class with Ferrari. If the GT class is a strong factory-supported class and you are not a full manufacturer entry, everything falls on the shoulders of the team. As a result, the independent teams are at a serious disadvantage compared to their factory-supported counterparts.

“For ESM to win two races last year, finish second in the GT championship and beat the top factory GT teams in the world is a huge testament to the time, effort, energy and dedication of everyone at ESM and Tequila Patrón.

“Moving to P2 is a new chapter for us at ESM and a homecoming for Tequila Patrón. We feel we have a terrific opportunity to learn and develop the P2 car this year, and that will put us in an ideal position going into the merged season of 2014.”

Sharp at the wheel of the P1 Highcroft Acura at St Pete in 2009. (Jeff Chen/The Epoch Times)

Sharp at the wheel of the P1 Highcroft Acura at St Pete in 2009. (Jeff Chen/The Epoch Times)

The ESM driver lineup will remain the same: Sharp will be paired with Johannes Van Overbeek in #01 car, while Ed Brown and Guy Cosmo will share the #02.

Neither Van Overbeek not Brown have any experience in prototypes, but Van Overbeek has been driving in ALMS, Rolex and SCCA’s World Challenge since 1999; adapting should be no trouble for the 39-year-old American.

“This is the first time I will race prototype machine now that ESM will compete in the P2 class. I’ve raced in a lot of really good GT machinery, but I’ve never been in a purpose-built racing car,” he said. “I’m anxious and excited for the opportunity.

Brown, 50, has been racing in Grand Am and ALMS since 2009, but only in GT cars. He will be counting on the experience of co-driver Guy Cosmo, who has been driving prototypes in Rolex and ALMS since 2003. Cosmo, at 35, has 184 race starts, dwarfing even Van Overbeek’s substantial 114.

“This is a little bit of a homecoming for me,” Cosmo said. “My very first American Le Mans Series race in 2003 was behind the wheel of a LMP1 Riley & Scott prototype. That was the only ALMS race I did that year. Then I returned in 2005 driving a LMP2 entry with the three-rotor Mazda.”

Brown was excited after his first test laps in the new car. “I’m really looking forward to seeing Tequila Patrón back on a prototype car this season, especially from behind the wheel of one.” he said.

“We’re excited for the future. I think the team evolved so quickly in the GT ranks that we did things in the category that we never thought were possible against the factory teams. We just felt like this was the next best step as a team to move forward, race in P2s and really take that forward into the new series next year.

“This is a huge step for me as a driver. I just got out of the car for the first time and I really enjoyed it. There is going to be a little bit of a learning curve on positioning in the car because I’ve never driven a car from the right side, but everything else was there in front of me. I really did enjoy my time in the car this week.”

The ESM announcement might have drawn two-time ALMS P2 champion Scott Tucker and his team Level 5 Motorsports back into the fray. Tucker had originally intended to sit out the season because there was no competition. According to Daily, the team will be for Sebring and the rest of the season now that there will be someone to race.

 P2s for 2104

The most important part of the ESM’s entry in to the P2 class is the pressure it puts on the management of the merged 2014 North American sports car series. Prior to the ESM announcement, the prospective prototype grid for 2014 included only Daytona Prototypes. Hopes that ALMS P2 teams would enter the top class of the new series came up empty, and with them, hope that modern racign cars would be represented in the new series’ top class.

Now the new management will have to balance the performance of the primitive, overweight DPs, with the more modern P2s; more important, the new merged series will still have some relevance to the rest of the prototype sports-car racing world.

There will be several European P2 cars at the 2013 Sebring 12 Hours. Now it is possible the same could happen in 2014. More important, the North American prototype class will not be totally cut off from international competition rules; the new management will find it harder to ignore the rest of the world, and modern technology, when drawing up rules for the next generation of prototypes in 2016.

The 2013 American Le Mans Series 2013 season starts with the 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 16. Tickets are available through Sebring Raceway’s website.

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