8Star turns to open-wheel as they search for funding on the sports car side
Enzo Potolicchio talked exclusively with Motorsport.com about the current situation at 8Star, a team that wants to race, but also wants to do it right.
Many sports car fans watched the Rolex 24 with a question in the back of their minds, that being where is 8Star Motorsports? In last year's Daytona classic, the team finished second in the PC class. So why didn't they show up and try to one-up their 2014 performance?
Lack of funding
"We couldn't find the funding for the event and I didn't want to show up with a five-driver lineup," team owner Enzo Potolicchio explained to Motorsport.com.
People know us from sports cars but we started out as open-wheelers
Enzo Potolicchio on new Indy Lights program
"I'm a racing team and if I knew I wasn't going to have a chance at winning like we're used to, then why would I go? The PC class is now suffering a little bit and the budget just isn't there."
"With the merger, IMSA has done a good job but the budgets are too high and that's hurt all the classes. I think that's why they lost a lot of people including us ... Even some GTD teams are struggling and people are looking at other options."
Shifting focus to Blancpain and Indy Lights
So with the team's prototypes sitting inside the shop with nowhere to go, what else is the team up to? Well, they are being proactive and are expanding their racing horizons.
"We're going to be racing in Blancpain, which we will officially announce soon. We also have a new Indy Lights program and we were at the top of the charts during the last test. We're also actively advertising in Europe and magazines such as Autosport searching for different series in Europe but F1 isn't really an option. Here in the US, the IndyCar dream is more attainable."
Returning to their roots
Going from sports cars to open-wheel single-seaters may seem like a difficult change in a team's dynamic, but that's not the case with an organization such as 8Star.
"People know us from sports cars but we started out as open-wheelers, Enzo revealed. "We actually have a lot of experience there."
Team engineer Yves Touron added, "Everything is pretty much the same. We all have backgrounds in IndyCar and are all just going back to something we used to know. We haven't really changed in terms of people, it's a transition but it's going well."
8Star, a future IndyCar team?
Since they are putting a lot of their resources to use for a new Indy Lights program, could a step up to IndyCar be in the team's future?
"That's our goal and part of it depends on our drivers. We have Scott Hargrove that has done really well and Sean Rayhall who is one of our junior drivers and raced with us last year in the PC and we are looking for sponsorship to get him into an Indy Lights car and fight for the championship."
There's no bad luck in racing. Cars break for a reason ... It takes money to do it right
Team manager Gary Neal also has a background in IndyCar and understands the difficulty of the task if they were to go out and attempt to form a competitive IndyCar team.
"The budget to run the IndyCar Series is about five times what it is in Indy Lights, which is too much for us to contemplate right now," Neal told Motorsport.com.
"But that doesn't mean we can't establish ourselves in the IndyCar paddock. We're going back to our roots."
"I know Enzo has talked about in the past that the Indy 500 is on his bucket list and for me and my experience in IndyCar, you can't just jump into the Indy 500 and expect to be competitive, you have to get some miles under your belt first."
Praising Indy Lights and contemplating PWC
And that's exactly what the team is doing now with this Indy Lights program. In regards to the next generation car, all three members of 8Star praised the change.
"It's unbelievable, exceeding our expectations," said Enzo. "It's a really nice race car and drives well," added Touron. "It's a real race car," Neal concluded.
In my conversation with the team manager, the topic of the Pirelli World Challenge sprint series came up, a a form of GT racing many teams are watching very closely.
"We definitely have an eye on the Pirelli World Challenge," Neal revealed. "One of our drivers who did the endurance races with us last year is now going to compete in the PWC and so, it's on our radar. We have to do our home work though and last year, we actually went out to Long Beach to see how the series operates."
Still a chance to see 8Star back in TUDOR
Although things are looking good on the open-wheel side, what about those race-ready PC and Daytona Prototypes over in the race shop? The hope is still there that an 8Star-run prototype will take the green flag some time in 2015.
"We're definitely one of the top options in IMSA," Enzo said of finding customers. "We weren't able to finalize a deal before Daytona but there are people interested in running with us and I just feel that if I were to run, I'd want to have two Golds and two Silvers."
Although frustrated he was unable to take part in the season-opener at Daytona, Enzo didn't want to go if it meant sacrificing the integrity of the team and the level at which it is run.
"You'll notice a lot of cars on the grid (for Daytona) have five drivers and four of them are Silvers. I'd rather stay home than do that but we do have some people that want to do it right ... That's what I'm here for. I want to go to the race track only if I have a chance to win and with people who value how we operate. We operate at a really high level."
"There's no bad luck in racing," Enzo delcared. "Cars break for a reason ... It takes money to do it right."
Motorsport.com recently visited the 8Star Motorsports race shop. Check out the full photo gallery from our visit by clicking HERE.
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