It’s no small challenge for Extreme Speed Motorsports to transition to HPD prototypes after campaigning GT Ferraris the past couple of seasons in the American Le Mans Series. But, with a little help from their friends at iRacing, the Florida-based team finished an impressive one-two in last weekend’s Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach — the first one-two finish in team history — in just their second race in the ALMS P2 class.
What about that help from iRacing? The ESM P2 cars had never turned a wheel on the streets of Long Beach, but drivers Scott Sharp and Ed Brown arrived in Southern California with scores of laps under their belts on iRacing’s developmental version of the 1.968 mile street circuit in the iRacing HPD-ARX-01c, a close cousin to the team’s HPD-ARX-03bs.
“Every bump, every little nuance that was on the iRacing track was there in the real thing.” — Ed Brown
“Any time you can get seat time is a positive,” Brown said, “but it’s especially important when you’re going to a track like Long Beach where we can’t test and – given the crowded schedule – we don’t get a lot of track time.”
The EMS cars qualified second and third in class at Long Beach behind the Level 5 Motorsports HPD of Scott Tucker and Ryan Briscoe thanks, in part, to the virtual seat time enjoyed by Sharp and Brown prior to the weekend.
“I’d raced at Long Beach in GTs, but driving on iRacing’s version gave me the perspective of driving the track from the right side seat of the car,” Brown said. “I also got used to carrying a ton more speed through the corners and, as a result, I had my reference points pretty well worked out before we turned a wheel on the track in practice. Every bump, every little nuance that was on the iRacing track was there in the real thing.”
“I’d run 10 laps, call my engineer on the phone and do a de-brief, make some setup changes, run 10 more laps, call him back, do another de-brief and so on,” he continued. “I spent about two hours straight running the track and talking with my engineer. We got the car to the point that it was pretty good, and a lot of the things we did to improve the perfomance of the iRacing car transferred to the real car this weekend.”
Sharp’s co-driver Guy Cosmo started the two hour race for the No. 01 Tequila Patrón HPD and, within 15 minutes of the green flag, grabbed the P2 class lead. Shortly after the 40 minute mark and during the first caution period of the race, Cosmo pitted for a driver change. Upon returning to the race, Sharp completed two laps before the caution flag waved a second time. Based on the team’s fuel calculations, the No. 01 machine needed to save fuel or pit a second time in order to make it to the checkered flag. Sharp pitted for a splash of fuel, which was enough to ensure the ESM entry reached the end of the race and claimed victory ahead of the sister car piloted by Brown and co-driver Johannes Van Overbeek.
“The setup issues we addressed with the iRacing car were the same things we found ourselves dealing with at Long Beach.” — Scott Sharp
“I was impressed by the similarities between iRacing’s HPD ARX 01c and our car,” said Sharp. “The feel is very similar and some of the setup issues we addressed with the iRacing car were the same things we found ourselves dealing with at Long Beach. And in the end, we wound-up running very similar lap times.”
A one-two finish in one of the most prestigious races of the year . . . in just the team’s second race with the HPD-ARX-03b? Sounds like a perfect weekend. Almost.
Funny, nobody from iRacing bothered to mention to ESM that iRacing decals have had something of a “checkered” history. In fact, from NASCAR Sprint Cup to GRAND-AM, the walls of the iRacing office are adorned with the bent, spindled and other-wise mutilated parts of cars that wore the iRacing colors. So if there aren’t any additional bits and pieces of the ESM Patron HPDs destined for the wall of shame, that’s a price iRacing is happy to pay. No doubt our friends at Extreme Speed Motorsports would agree.