Inception Racing enters 2023 looking to expand on a breakout season that resulted in the No. 70 McLaren 720S GT3 and drivers Brendan Iribe and Jordan Pepper winning the GTD class of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup — one of three international championships the team founded by Iribe achieved in 2022.

Last October, Iribe completed a double stint to start the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta before immediately flying to Europe to compete in a GT World Challenge Europe race the following day. While Iribe was in the air, his No. 70 McLaren teammates Pepper and Sebastian Priaulx wrapped up the Michelin Endurance Cup crown with a second-place finish in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale, before Iribe flew off to join longtime driver coach Ollie Millroy and Frederik Schandorff at Barcelona to clinch the World Challenge Europe Gold Cup.

While Iribe, Pepper and the Inception Racing McLaren didn’t win any of the WeatherTech Championship’s four long-distance races in 2022, they did finish second twice and led at four designated mid-race junctures throughout the season when points were awarded. It was enough to deliver the Michelin Endurance Cup title and build momentum for the full-season campaign this year.

The new season got off to a solid start in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, where team founder Iribe shared a third-place finish with Schandorff, Millroy and Marvin Kirchhofer. And while Iribe is again contesting multiple GT3-based championships around the world this year in Inception McLarens, his priority is running the full 11-race WeatherTech Championship slate for the first time.

The Daytona podium was satisfying for Optimum Motorsport, which prepares the McLarens that Inception Racing fields in IMSA and elsewhere. Optimum is based in northern England, while Inception leases a U.S. facility in Buda, Texas, from Esses Racing.

“I think it started pretty well, and we can be happy with a good result in the first race,” Optimum team manager Bas Leinders said. “The IMSA championship is unusual the way it starts with the biggest race of the season. (In) most series, you start with some smaller races, and then in the middle or at the end of the championship is the 24-hour race or the longer races. It’s not always easy and it takes a lot of effort to get prepped for that race.

“But everything went quite well. It was the second time we were participating at Daytona and that made it a bit easier. We were hoping to go for the win, but unfortunately the opposition was a little bit too strong. But I think we can be happy with third position.”

The Inception McLaren finished 16.485s behind the GTD class-winning Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 at Daytona. Leinders said the team was delayed slightly during its planned brake change but added that was not the reason the No. 70 was not in position to challenge the Aston for the win at the end.

Millroy noted that the Inception car turned its fastest lap of the race just six circuits into the 24-hour contest before mysteriously losing pace.

“For whatever reason, from a mechanical point of view, we did lose a bit of performance,” Millroy said. “By the third hour, none of us could get within a second of our earlier pace, which is still being investigated. At this level, you can’t lose a second like that and expect to win, unless you are very lucky. Had everything at the end of the race been like it was at the beginning, I think we would have had a much stronger chance. But with the Astons performing at the level they were at, we needed to be at 100 percent. It’s weird feeling disappointed about a podium.”

While Kirchhofer’s appearance in the Inception McLaren at Daytona was a one-off, Schandorff will team with Iribe to run the full WeatherTech Championship schedule, joined by Millroy for the remaining endurance races. Millroy is Iribe’s main co-driver in Europe and Asia. However, Millroy expects to attend most of the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup races to support Iribe when he does not have other driving commitments.

“I’ve been with Brendan and his journey right from Day 1 when he was first doing track days in a street car,” related Millroy. “I’ve seen his transition through GT4 and GT3 and now being at the front of IMSA races. For him, it’s tough as a Bronze-rated driver because he’s up against Silvers in the sprints. So I get a lot of pride out of his performance, and that motivates me to work really hard whether I’m in the car or out of the car.

“It can sometimes be a challenge to do both jobs (driver and coach) well. To make sure I’m getting the most out of Brendan, coaching and mentoring him, but also not forgetting about my own performance. When we get to a sprint race and I’m just coaching, I can focus a lot more on the tiny details to make sure Brendan is maximizing his skill set.”

Even though Inception is not specifically targeting the Michelin Endurance Cup as it did in 2022, Leinders admitted the team is still keeping its eye on that prize even though the chief focus is on the GTD season trophy.

There were times in last year’s campaign when Inception based strategy on the scoring system for IMEC competition, where points are awarded at several intervals throughout each of the four races (Rolex 24, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and Motul Petit Le Mans).

“At Watkins Glen, we definitely went for the strategy to get the points halfway through the race,” Leinders said. “But it also panned out as really good strategy for the end of the race. So, the two can go hand in hand. We still keep an eye on the endurance championship and want to score those points if we can.

“At Daytona this year, we weren’t always in the best position to score those points, but we still scored good points for the endurance championship,” he added. “If we can win it again, we will try, definitely. But the overall points at the end of the race are most important for us this year. If we need to make a choice, we will go for the overall points.”