On Tuesday morning, Tequila Patron ESM announced their endurance drivers for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Regular drivers Ryan Dalziel, Pipo Derani, Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek will be joined by Nicolas Lapierre and Olivier Pla. The team has not made specific car assignments as of yet for the two European pilots.
Team owner Sharp is very happy to have the two champs onboard for 2018.
“Tequila Patrón ESM is ecstatic to announce that Nicolas and Olivier and will be joining our Tequila Patron North American Championship efforts in 2018,” Sharp stated. “Both have shown super strong speed on almost every track and every type of car they have driven. They are truly both among the top echelon in sports car racing and will be tremendous additions to our team.”
Lapierre is looking forward to his new part-time gig in the Nissan DPi.
“I’m delighted to join Tequila Patrón ESM,” Lapierre stated. “I have already taken part in a few IMSA races and I’ve always loved it. In a few occasions, I raced against Tequila Patrón ESM and I know how competitive the team is. We will have a strong package next year.”
Since the Grand-AM/ALMS merger, Lapierre has made two starts in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both for DragonSpeed. Lapierre’s best finish has been a fourth in the 2016 Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
This year, Lapierre has split time between DragonSpeed’s No. 21 ORECA 07-Gibson in the European Le Mans Series and Signatech Alpine Matmut’s No. 36 Alpine A470-Gibson in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Combined between the two series, Lapierre has one class victory (COTA in the WEC) and six podium finishes. He is currently on a streak of five consecutive WEC LMP2 podiums dating back to the Nürburgring in July.
For Pla, the move to the Nissan DPi is a move to one of the best teams in the series.
“I’m delighted to join the Tequila Patrón ESM team for the endurance races in the NAEC,” Pla said. “Racing against ESM in the past I know what they are capable of and I think we will have everything to perform at the very best.”
In Pla’s case, he’s very familiar with the Nissan DPi, or at least what underpins it. The Nissan DPi is based on the Ligier JS P217, a chassis that Pla served as the primary test driver for. There are likely few drivers who know as much about the Ligier JS P217 as Pla.
In 2017, Pla made six starts in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Two were for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing in the GTLM class, where he posted a best finish of fifth in class at Sebring. The other four came for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports (Watkins Glen, Road America, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta) in their Ligier JS P217-Gibson. Pla’s best finish was a fourth at Watkins Glen, but he also turned in the fastest lap of the race at both Watkins Glen and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Pla has two career victories in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (2014 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park with OAK Racing and the 2016 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta with Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian).
Outside of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Pla has spent the 2017 season driving the No. 66 Ford GT in the FIA World Endurance Championship alongside Stefan Mücke and (for the first three races of the season) Billy Johnson. He currently sits 10th in GT World Endurance Drivers’ Championship points with a third-place finish at Spa being his best run of the year.
Expect an announcement from Tequila Patron ESM on the car assignments for Lapierre and Pla at a later date.
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