Daytona Beach, Fla. – 8Star Motorsports and its star drivers sensationally finished second in LMPC and tenth overall in the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona – the opening round of the inaugural IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The Florida-based team lost almost two laps to the LMPC class-leading CORE Autosports machine as it completed a full rotation of its drivers – Tom Kimber-Smith, Enzo Potolicchio, Mike Marsal and Rob Huff – during the initial hours of daylight on Sunday morning (26 January).
The third caution was thrown when the number seven Starworks Motorsport entry spectacularly burst into flames while haring around Daytona’s high-speed banking.
With the blaze escalating quickly and completely engulfing the rear-end of the car, causing catastrophic and terminal damage, Kyle Marcelli was quick to bring the prototype to a halt on the apron, where marshals were on hand to extinguish the flames and recover the wreckage.
The most minor of mistakes or mechanical maladies would prove particularly costly during the final three-hour sprint to the finish, with little or no opportunity to recover any lost ground.
Huff took to Daytona International Speedway for the penultimate stint of the race and held third position in the LMPC classification while misaligned steering and heavily worn Continental rubber restricted his pace.
The 2012 FIA World Touring Car Champion soldiered on, before handing over to Kimber-Smith for the concluding leg of the 52nd running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
Dogged drives by both Huff and Kimber-Smith, despite the irksome steering issues, and neatly-timed caution periods brought 8Star back in touch with the LMPC class lead.
Kimber-Smith initially circulated in the 1m43s bracket and within three tenths of Colin Braun in the lead CORE Autosports ORECA.
But while the pair briefly switched positions as they completed their final routine pitstops and a late full course caution – the 16th of the race – bunched up the field, the ailing 8Star Motorsports contender was unable to mount a realistic challenge for the LMPC victory.
Stellar performances from all four of 8Star’s drivers and pristine work by the team’s crew ultimately catapulted it from the very back of the 67-car field to a highly satisfying and well-deserved second place finish in the LMPC class and tenth overall.
Looking upon the battle-scarred number 25 machine, 8Star Motorsports Team Manager, Gary Neal, said: “It has been a really long weekend with all the pre-race dramas, so it’s nice to bring the car home on the podium. The team had a few issues to contend with at the end and nobody was sure the car would make it, as it was getting very hot. But we made it!”
A smiling Enzo Potolicchio expressed delight at finishing second as he took the plaudits from supporters in the presentation area, saying: “It’s not as good as winning. But, hey! Second place is not too bad, given that it’s the first time with the car for the team.”