TUDOR Championship: Tequila Patron ESM reverts to ARX-03b for Sebring

Following a somewhat challenging debut and teething issues with its new LMP2 coupe, Tequila Patron ESM and Honda Performance Development have decided to temporarily park the new HPD ARX-04b, with ESM reverting to its tried and trusted HPD ARX-03b for next weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

The Florida-based squad, which is coming off a back-to-back test with both cars at Sebring last week, additionally is planning to debut Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 cars beginning with the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season at Spa-Francorchamps.

ESM will start the FIA WEC season with both ARX-03bs, including an appearance at the mandatory Prologue pre-season test at Paul Ricard at the end of this month.

The decision behind the move to delay the global launch of the Wirth Research-designed LMP2 coupe is to provide further developments to the car prior to its FIA homologation. It ran under a draft homologation at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

It’s understood HPD expects for the car to return to action by the end of the year, possibly in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, in advance of offering it to customers in 2016.

“The 04b is going to need some more work,” team owner/driver Scott Sharp told FOXSports.com. “It wouldn’t be smart to homologate the car right now in its present condition because it would be frozen.

“From that standpoint, it’s better to take a step back, continue to work and develop the car and get it to its full potential and think about homologation.”

HPD Vice President and COO Steve Eriksen added: “We are naturally disappointed that we are not yet ready for homologation, but we cannot homologate a car that is not yet meeting all of its targets.

“Unfortunately, the time needed for remaining development is at odds with Tequila Patron ESM’s planned prototype sports car racing efforts this season. We have made the difficult decision to change course at the 11th hour.

“We look forward to continuing to support Tequila Patrón ESM in its efforts to win races and championships and fully support their revised direction.”

Sharp said the transition back to the 03b has been seamless, and he hopes to put on a competitive showing both at Sebring and Silverstone with the pair of open-top cars.

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“It’s like putting on an old pair of shoes,” he said. “We jumped in the car last week at Sebring and we were immediately down to good times and were super comfortable. We have strong setups on the car. I think that’s a pretty easy move for us.

“Obviously, I don’t think that car is quite as quick as the new coupes out there but for hopefully reliability and longevity, for Sebring, that will work out well.

“We’ll probably have to race that car at Silverstone as well, which we’re hoping the short straights there will help aide the car’s competitiveness there. And hopefully starting at Spa, we’ll have two new Ligiers.”

All six of ESM’s drivers: Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, David Heinemeier Hansson and Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Jon Fogarty, remain part of the effort for Sebring and the FIA WEC season, as previously announced.

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