STARWORKS LAUNCHES SENSATIONAL START TO WEC CAMPAIGN WITH LMP2 CLASS WIN AT SEBRING
Starworks Motorsport produced the ultimate David v Goliath performance to upset the odds with a display at 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring fuelled by Fresh From Florida that stunned the motor sport world. The Fort Lauderdale-based team completely built their Honda Performance Development ARX-03b car in just nine days – but that only tells half the story.
The crew worked 24-7 just to get the car to the green flag. It was still in bits as they arrived in Sebring on Monday. But team principal Peter Baron’s hand-picked squad worked miracles to give the drivers – Enzo Potolicchio, Ryan Dalziel and Stephane Sarrazin – a car they could not only race, but take the challenge to their rivals. They had needed Starworks’ Continental Tires Mustang and Grand-Am prototype crews joined in to get the car to “basecamp”. But then the squad at Sebring used every minute until the green flag to fine-tune the Venezuela-backed car. That meant the drivers were only able to basic installation laps early in the week, and had to work on the set-up ahead of the race. French ace and former Peugeot works driver Stephane proved the car’s potential when he qualified in 12th place overall and second in the LMP2 class. He then took a short first stint before handing over to Venezuelan Enzo Potolicchio. Orlando-based Scot Ryan Dalziel took the third stint as the Starworks team worked their way through the traffic in the massive 64-car field round the bumpy former air base.
In the end, Enzo produced a stunning display to keep the car in touch with the front-runners before Ryan fired in a succession of hot laps that closed the gap on the class leader. And it was left to Stephane to out-gun Joao Barbosa and take the class win with just two of the works-backed Audis ahead of him.
Team principal PETER BARON said: “It’s really an amazing story. I cannot thank the crew enough for all the hard work and late nights they put in to get the car ready. We were still unpacking boxes to finish the car six days before the race. We had a few gremlins which kept us from testing, which really meant our first laps to work on the car’s speed were Thursday. Our engineers did an unbelievable job with only a handful of laps to make the car’s speed capable of winning, and our drivers were priceless. We basically had no spares for the car and any damage could have sent us home. Our drivers did an incredible job in the race keeping the car up there all day, and free of damage. I cannot thank Enzo enough for his faith in us to pull this off. Enzo did an amazing job, putting in competitive laps with limited practice, and he made an heroic effort off the track working with his sponsors to give us the opportunity to represent his sponsors from his home country of Venezuela! “
What the drivers said: ENZO POTOLICCHIO insisted the win was a victory for teamwork and the togetherness at Starworks. He said: “To think that, a couple of weeks ago, we didn’t think we were going to make it here because so many parts were missing and then to get third overall and first in class is amazing. The work that Peter Baron does, and the motivation he brings to the team, is huge. He is surrounded by really good people in the team. It is a blessing having Ryan and now Stephane in the team, bringing all my dreams to reality. I was really happy with my first stint. I thought I should have done better with my second stint, but the last time I was here was in 2001 with a small Formula Ford 2000. I had just 18 laps before I went out, so I have to be happy with the result. Ryan pushes me a lot to get better, but this is unbelievable.
RYAN DALZIEL insisted the win had thrown down the gauntlet to their FIA World Endurance Championship rivals. He said: We have had podiums in three out of four races so far this year – it is crazy. This really caps it all though. It just proves how realistic our challenge is going to be at the Le Mans 24 Hours. That is what this is all about – we wanted to get to Le Mans. The WEC was the choice we took. It didn’t guarantee our entry but it gave us a good chance to show what we could do. We want to go and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We have obviously started off winning the 12 Hours. It puts us in the lead in the championship, but we have to stay focused. We have a lot of work still to do. I had spent late nights down and early mornings at the workshop, but the work the Starworks guys put in was just unbelievable. I was down there at the start of the week and I thought there was no way we would be a car running, but when I got there and saw guys on our Mustang team, guys on our WEC team and guys on our Rolex team – they were all dirty with grease as they tried to get the car here. And they did it. We didn’t have the fastest car out there, but we definitely had the most consistent and we had great team effort.”
STEPHANE SARRAZIN admitted he didn’t think he would be tasting glory so quickly after Peugeot pulled out of endurance racing. He said: “After the 18th of January, I was left without a team and that was very difficult for me. It was a hard time because I lost a big family. I had been with Peugeot for five years, but now I have a new team with new targets, a new challenge and new team-mates. To get third overall was just amazing. I pushed very hard during the race. The last two hours was just like qualifying. I would never give up. The mechanics did a great job. I did 20 laps before we started but I had never driven in P2 before, so it is a very good start. I am very happy to be with this team. It is a cool team that gives the maximum.”