The #2 Starworks Motorsport Ford-Riley is now leading the Rolex Series team championship on 194 points.
Scott Mayer, Pierre Kaffer and Brendon Hartley achieved the #8 Starworks first podium today, finishing in third place at the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International, NY. The 2 car of Alex Popow, Sébastien Bourdais and Ryan Dalziel ran a near perfect race until wet weather disrupted team strategy and the trio finished in eighth place at the chequered flag.
Running at The Glen for the Sahlen’s Six Hours commenced in dry conditions on Friday, but the rain soon arrived on Saturday resulting in a Daytona Prototype qualifying wash out. The grid was therefore determined by team championship points, with the 2 car taking P3 on the grid and the #8 Starworks P12 for the endurance race on Sunday morning.
Alex Popow started in the 2 car and was up to second in to turn one and up in to the lead out of the Bus Stop. After 30 minutes, and with Alex still out in front, Scott Mayer brought the team’s sister car in to the pits for driver change with Brendon Hartley and a full set of tires. Closing in on the 5-hour mark saw the #99 DP knock Alex out of the lead, damaging the #2 Starworks and forcing it to return to pit road for a premature stop.
Brendon was charging through the field, setting consistently fast laps, and running up in P12 at the first DP pit window. At the half–way stage ‘Seabass’ Bourdais took over from Alex in the 2 car, who had been running in P6, while Brendon brought #8 Starworks in from the race lead for a ‘splash and dash’ to then rejoin the action in P7.
Pierre Kaffer made his DP race debut at the 8 car’s next driver change and under the fourth caution of the day had a great stop by the Starworks team to return to the track in P7. Seabass continued to push in the 2 car and took the lead (from lap 100) with just over two hours remaining.
Pierre had taken the 8 car up to P4 when rain started to fall on several parts of the 3.400 mile track. As teams started to change to wet tires, Seabass stayed out in the #2 Starworks and built up an impressive lead to over 17 seconds. As the wet conditions grew worse cars on slicks began to slide off track and the last full course caution of the day was lit. Seabass was forced to come in for wet tires and a driver switch to Ryan Dalziel, while Pierre in the 8 car now sat up in P2.
The last driver changes of the day came within the final hour of the endurance event. Brendon stepped in to the #8 Starworks when all the DP leaders came in to the pits for slicks and quickly took lead of the race. The team took a gamble and kept Ryan out in the 2 car on wet tires, unsure of exactly how long the rain would last.
As the track went green for the final stint, Ryan remained out on the drying track, but the cars on slicks were able to pass him on the high load areas, forcing a change in team strategy and a return to the pits for a tire change for #2.
Although it was an incident filled final 15 minutes of the race, there were no yellows to help the 8 car which was now running light on fuel. Brendon had to pit again before taking the chequer in third place, with Ryan coming home in a somewhat disappointing P8.
It is the first podium for #8 Starworks regular drivers Scott Mayer and Brendon Hartley, and new Starworks team mate Pierre Kaffer who joined the pair for this event from the World Endurance Championship. The 8 car is now 10th position in the team standings, with Brendon Hartley in eleventh on the Drivers’ table at this point in his first Rolex Series season.
Peter Baron, Team Owner: “There were two bright spots today; we are now leading the championship and the 8 car got its first podium. Unfortunately we also had a strong 2 car, but the rain got the better of us. It rained pretty hard when we pitted under the yellow and with a lot of people going out on slicks we were hoping that the yellow would go quicker. But it stayed out an additional two laps and, with the track also drying so quickly, we realised we were in a bad position at that point.
It was disappointing for the 2 car to finish 8th as we could have had another strong finish, but fortunately the sister car driven by Scott, Brendon and Pierre achieved its first podium today. They all drove a really great race and were as quick as the leaders at times; the whole team did a good job today, we just got caught out.”
Scott Mayer, #8 Starworks: “It is a great result for the 2 car. Congratulations to Pierre on his first run in a DP and to Brendon for a great job once again. Thanks to all the Starworks guys; we go to Indy with a good feeling for the rest of the season.”
Brendon Hartley, #8 Starworks: “I am really happy to finally get a podium in the Rolex Series. Starworks gave us an awesome car and we were able to charge through from the back. For the last two stints we left the old tires and tried to saved a massive amount of fuel hoping we could get to the end, but with 10 minutes to go we had to box for a splash of fuel which dropped us to 3rd.
I am very happy with myself, Pierre, Scott and every member of the team. It was also really nice to have my Dad here to watch the race and join the celebrations too.”
Pierre Kaffer, #8 Starworks: “Scott made a good job at the beginning and Brendon did really very well. I felt very comfortable considering it was my first time in a DP car; the only problem was the very short time to practice! I had to adapt my driving style, uncheck all of the boxes I have learned in the past, but in the end I think I drove ok. I
It started to rain at the end of my second stint and I think it was key that I made the call to stay out on slicks until the yellow. Brendon then took over in the car and we were a little bit too short on fuel as we had waited for the yellow that didn’t come, so we dropped back from the lead to P3. But overall I am very happy; I was made to feel very welcome by Peter and everyone in the Starworks family so I hope to be back in the car again soon.”
Alex Popow, #2 Starworks: “Our result is a shame because the team did such a great job today, but the rain played us a bad hand. We took a gamble, we tried it, it didn’t work, however the team is now leading the championship and we are leaving The Glen in better shape than when we arrived. We have to be positive and take only good thoughts with us going in to Indy where we know we can be strong and hopefully take one step further.”
Ryan Dalziel, #2 Starworks: “It is not the finish we were hoping for but we are leaving the weekend leading the championship and that is a huge gain at this point in the season. We are now going to Indy where we were very strong last year, so hopefully we can extend our lead and obtain that elusive win.”
Sébastien Bourdais, #2 Starworks: “It was a great race for the #2 at the Glen and it is too bad we didn’t get the win we deserved. I enjoyed my run and it was fun to lead for so many laps. The team did a superb job with strategy to get me to the front, but the car was fast enough to stay there!
When the rain started it was super tricky, and leading the pack is never easy in these conditions, but I was really happy to make it stick. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the right call on tires for Ryan at the end and that cost us the win. Anyway, Alex and Ryan are now leading the championship, and I wish them the very best for the rest of the season.”
The next round of the Rolex Series is the Brickyard Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, July 26, 2013 4:00 PM ET.