There’s a sense of celebration going on at Florida’s Performance Tech Motorsports. Owned and run by old school IMSA GTP racer Brent O’Neill, the squad found its name on the 24 Hours of Le Mans entry list for the very first time.
Its upcoming trip east in June to participate in the LMP2 class with Cameron Cassels, who earned the invitation after winning IMSA’s Akin award as the top pro-am driver in its LMP2 category, has been received as a special honor for the team. Across countless visits over the years to the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring, Le Mans has remained an elusive goal for O’Neill that will, finally, be achieved in the coming months.
“It’s really exciting for us, to be honest,” he told RACER. “I can’t take all my guys because I run in too many series, so really, the guys that work on the P2 car will be making the trip with us. And we’re going to team up with another team over there, so it makes financial sense for us. We have no visions of grandeur. Going over there your first time, you need to enjoy the experience. So we thought it would just be better to team up with another team, and lease a car and have them help us run the program. So everybody can’t wait to finally do Le Mans.”
O’Neill’s enthusiastic response to the invitation was shared by a former rival turned ally.
“It’s pretty cool to have [IMSA president] John Doonan send me a note that IMSA is excited for us; we’re a little team here, a privateer team that has always tried to do the right thing,” O’Neill said. “John’s words were, “Pretty cool to see a guy that started in Formula V back in 1970 is going to have his banner going up over a garage at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.’”
O’Neill credited the 51-year-old Canadian for his rapid ascension in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship after getting a late start in pro racing.
“For the ACO and IMSA to have an award like this to honor Bob Akin and give opportunities to Cameron is actually pretty cool. Cameron did a great job to win it, and here’s a guy that started racing just a few years ago and he’s now going to Le Mans. Do you know how many drivers walk around the paddock going ‘I wish I was going to Le Mans?’ I’m really happy for him.”
At the center of O’Neill’s elation is an acceptance of all the extra hours and effort required to add Le Mans to Performance Tech’s full LMP2 calendar in IMSA.
“I will tell you, it’s an overwhelming task,” he said. “Just to do the entry paperwork – it’s 12 or 13 pages to figure out – but that’s part of the experience.
“And when we started looking at it, we wanted to run our own car. We wanted to try to do this on our own, and I started looking at timeframes and money to fly cars back and forth. And I said no, that just doesn’t make any sense to me. So Cameron agreed; let’s just put a deal together with somebody over there that’s got two cars, and we’ll put together some guys that have some Le Mans experience and we’ll go from there.
“It really is pretty cool for a little team. We work hard, we’re not some of the guys that have money dripping off of us. And, it’s pretty cool for us to win this invitation and go do the race we’ve dreamed of forever.”