It’s a weekend that the Starworks Motorsport team want to forget. Championship contenders in the 2 car, Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel, finished P13 in the penultimate Rolex Series event at the Mazda Raceway while the team’s sister 8 car of Scott Mayer and Brendon Hartley spun from P8 with 10 minutes to the chequer of the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival race.

#2 Starworks BMW / Riley: Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow
#2 Starworks BMW / Riley: Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow

Photo by: Jeff Davidson

The Fort Lauderdale squad arrived in Salinas, California after a shakedown of new parts in the 2 car following the impact at Kansas last round. It was #8 Starworks Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley who threw down the gauntlet for the team by setting the fastest time in final free practice on Saturday morning. In the late afternoon, the 8 car qualified P14 with Scott Mayer, while Alex Popow qualified P8 in #2 Starworks.

Both cars made a good start to the 2 hours and 45 minutes long race on Sunday afternoon. The first full course caution arrived 30 minutes in, with Alex running P7 and Scott in P13. With all DP’s entering pit road when the stop window opened under yellow, there was a flurry of initial driver changes. Ryan Dalziel and Brendon Hartley took over driving duties in the #2 and #8 Starworks BMW-Riley’s respectively - Ryan rejoining the race in P7 and Brendon in P13.

The track went green with two hours remaining and the Starworks cars maintaining positions. Ryan's frustrations on receiving a stop and hold penalty in the 2 car for contact with the #9 Action Express Corvette on lap 45, plus a drive through penalty for then speeding in the pit lane were exacerbated by a low-gears issue which meant that he then dropped to P15, two laps behind the leaders. Meanwhile Brendon was making headway through the field and was up three places in the 8 car to run P10 by lap 49.

The next set of pit stops came at the one hour to go mark. Ryan brought the 2 car in for fuel and a full set of Continental tires. Brendon was running in P8 when a full course yellow came out with 25 minutes left on the clock. With the mid-field now bunched up and eager for a sprint finish, the race went green with only 16 minutes remaining. However, whilst battling in the pack for position to possibly P6, Brendon made contact as he passed the outside of #42, Dane Cameron, and spun backwards in to the tire wall to end the 8 car’s race.

The resulting final full course caution went green with 3 minutes remaining. Ryan brought the #2 Starworks home in P13 - the third race in a row where bad luck has hit the Championship contenders.

Peter Baron, Team Owner: “It was the worst day of racing we’ve had in quite some time. All the bits on the 2 car were new, so we have no idea what caused the first and second gears to be sheared off. We’ve never had a gearbox issue like that before. The 8 car was unfortunately caught in a racing incident - it could have been a good points run for them, but we just had no luck today.”

Ryan Dalziel, #2 Starworks: “It is hugely disappointing, but you have to keep your head up. Although it’s not the final race of year, our Championship hopes are probably over. We have not had a gearbox failure before and so need to find out what caused that. With bad luck in three races now and three things going wrong for me today, hopefully that’s the end of it. We want to end the season on a high and with a good result in Lime Rock.”

Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel are now sitting in sixth position on the Drivers’ Championship table with 284 points – just 20 points from the top of the leader board (#2 Starworks is fifth in the Team Championship). Brendon Hartley is currently ninth with 252 points (#8 Starworks is eighth).

The final round of the Rolex Series is at Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, CT on September 26-28, 2013 with the race broadcast LIVE on 9/28, 1:30 PM ET on FOX Sports 2.