8Star Motorsports again showed its potential to be one of the top teams in the Rolex Grand-Am Daytona Prototype field but the day at Road America proved to be another learning experience instead of another podium finish for the first-year team.
Stephane Sarrazin was piloting the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette DP and in eighth place when engine trouble ended the team’s day with just 44 minutes remaining. An early spin put the No. 4 Corvette DP a lap down but Sebastien Bourdais drove another strong race, including the fastest lap of the race, to bring home a ninth-place finish.
Pit stops and driver changes 40 minutes into the race saw Michael Valiante jump into the No. 3 and Bourdais take over the controls of the No. 4. Valiante was 12th and Bourdais 14th, one lap down, when the entered the action on lap 19.
Both drivers had moved up a spot at the one-hour mark. Bourdais pitted on lap 37 at the 1:17-hour mark and the No. 3 came in three minutes later for a driver change from Valiante to Sarrazin. The first full-course caution of the day came out at the 1:32 mark (lap 43) with the No. 3 in 10th and the No. 4 in 12th. Green-flag racing resumed on lap 48 (54 minutes remaining) with Sarrazin seventh and Bourdais 12th.
The race for the No. 3 team ended just two laps later when the engine let go. In a strange turn of events, the main beneficiary of the full-course caution was the No. 4, which was given the wave-around to get back on the lead lap. He came down pit road under caution with 23 minutes remaining for a final splash of fuel from the 8Star pit crew and returned for the final restart in the ninth position.
Unfortunately, Bourdais only had time to get halfway around the track before racing resumed and was never able to make up the difference. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, however, since he ran the fastest lap of the race, 2:01.252 minutes at 120.186 mph, on the 70th and FINAL lap of the race. The No. 3 team finished 12th in the DP class.
The No. 3 8Star Corvette DP remained sixth in the DP team point standings with 219 points. It’s now 15 points out of fifth place and 32 behind the point-leading team.
The 10th race of the 2013 Rolex Grand-Am Series Daytona Prototype season is Saturday, August 17 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. Green flag for the SFP Grand Prix 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio.
Stephane Sarrazin (No. 3 Corvette DP): “It was very strange. I was running a good pace and the engine just stopped. It’s a shame because we had a good race strategy for a strong finish but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Michael Valiante (No. 3 Corvette DP): “Enzo did a great job and handed the car over to me in a good position. We made up one or two spots during my stint. Overall, we were running pretty well before we lost the engine. I’ve been with 8Star for four races now and we’re coming together as a team. There’s a lot of potential in the Corvette DP.”
Enzo Potolicchio (team owner, No. 3 and No. 4 Corvette DPs): “The engine change is going to make the 8Star team work that much harder getting ready for Kansas. We’re making progress with our Chevy Corvette DP. Bourdais had a great run and just needed another caution to get caught and really make a charge because he was running as fast as the leaders. I think we’ve improved the car in the low downforce setup and we’ll continue to work hard to get back on the podium.
Sebastien Bourdais (No. 4 Corvette DP): “I don’t know what happened to the track. When I went out, it was a total disaster. It was loose. It was understeer. It was pretty horrible. Then I heard that everybody was struggling so I just tried to do the best I could and my lap times were comparable to the other guys. It looked like, in the end, we were pretty decent and then we started fighting with the leaders and I nearly got the lap back by pace but it’s tough because you can’t take a chance on the leader when you’re a lap down.
I passed Cameron on his out lap but got bottled up and he got me back … you can’t race the (leader) so I tried to do the best I could. After the pit stop, I thought we had a shot because my out lap was pretty decent but we ended up losing a (lot) of time. I don’t know what happened there but it was definitely surprising and disappointing. And then the yellow looked like it was never going to come but it did and we got our lap back.
It’s too bad Grand-Am didn’t do their usual and let us pack up for the restart. We needed half a lap to catch up but weren’t able to and that’s what took us out of the race. The wave-around is one thing but you need to be packed up on such a long track to stand a chance. On top of that, I came up on the 43 exiting the pits and lost a few seconds … it was not meant to be.
Having to deal with all the GTS and still get some pretty good lap times is an indication that we were making the right decisions on the setup of the Corvette DP. When the track was greasy, the car wasn’t very good but, when it cooled off, the car was really good. The car was fast but you need to have a flawless race. We’ll keep digging and see what we can do in Kansas.