2012 was a breakthrough year for teenage racing driver Tristan Nunez. From the looks of things, 2013 will far surpass 2012.
Shortly before his 17th birthday, the Florida teen became the world’s youngest sports car champion, dominating the 2012 IMSA Prototypes Lites season. A few days later he became an international champion by beating the world’s best Formula Ford drivers at the Walter Hayes Memorial in England. Two months later, he drove in his first endurance race, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
Nunez started 2013 with a ride in one of the nation’s most important endurance races, the historic Grand Am Rolex 24 at Daytona, driving a GX Mazda sponsored by Visit Florida. He was back in that car for the Grand Am of the Americas in early March.
Next weekend the high-school junior will compete against the world’s very best endurance racers in the world’s very best cars at the American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the most prestigious and important endurance race on the continent.
Nunez will be behind the wheel of Performance Tech’s #500 Prototype Challenge Oreca, again sponsored by Visit Florida.
“I am so proud to carry the colors of the number one travel destination in the world, Visitflorida.com, at Sebring this year,” said Nunez in a statement. “We’re also carrying the No. 500 in celebration of Florida’s 500th Anniversary and plan to take them to victory circle.
“I also hear Ponce de Leon will be making a special appearance,” he joked.
Nunez has plenty of reasons to be in a good mood. At an age when most teens are just getting their drivers’ licenses, Nunez has already kicked off an illustrious career. Getting a ride in the Sebring 12 Hours is a lifetime goal for most drivers; for this driver, it will be only his third endurance race.
Nunez will be competing with multiple Le Mans winners Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, plus a host of past winners of Sebring and Petit Le Mans, national and international champions—41 of the quickest sports car drivers in the world today. The speedy teen takes his place in this field in what will be his third race as a professional.
The rest of the year looks equally as exciting: Nunez could be driving the Performance Tech Oreca for the rest of the ALMS season.
“We have a great shot in the PC class this year,” said Nunez. “Sebring was where it all started for us last season with the poles and wins and just was a huge shot in the arm for our entire season. I’m looking for that same type of momentum for this season with Performance Tech.”
Nunez and Performance Tech started their successful teamwork at Sebring in 2011, when after an excellent Sebring Winter Test, the then 15-year-old finished second in his first Prototypes Lites Race, the youngest driver ever to stand on a Lites podium. A year later Nunez won both Lites races at the Sebring 12 Hours weekend, becoming the youngest IMSA Lites race winner. He went on to win 11 of 14 races, taking 12 poles and setting seven track records.
Nunez will be joined in the cockpit by the very fast David Heinemeier Hannson, who finished second in the ALMS P2 class in 2012, and 2010 IMSA Lites champ Charlie Shears.
Part of whether or not Nunez can drive the Performance tech PC for the entire season depends upon securing sponsorship from the Champion® Spark Plugs “Search for a Champion” contest. He is a finalist, and very much needs the daily votes of all his supporters. Visit http://www.alwaysachampion.com/contest/entry/1384129 to help out.
The 61st American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 16 will be the last truly international Sebring 12 Hours for at least a couple of years. It is most definitely not a race to miss. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or at the Sebring Raceway website.
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