Starworks three car effort gains valuable points for the season ahead.
Despite experiencing steering gremlins with the 8 car during practice sessions for the Rolex 24 last week, Renger van der Zande qualified the car in P2 on Friday. Within minutes of the race start on Saturday afternoon, Renger set the fastest lap in class and was competing with the Starworks sister charger #7 for the PC 1-2. He held on to the lead until the driver change with Mirco Schultis who soon reported an issue with the car during his initial stint.
The 8 car was brought to the pits soon after the first Red Flag for the major incident between #99 and #62 on the third hour. The team looked to rectify a suspected steering rack problem and forty five minutes and several laps later, Eric Lux took the 8 car out for his first run.
Sam Bird jumped in to the cockpit at 9:00pm and set the car’s best lap - a 1:43.016 seconds on lap 189 - making up lost laps albeit running in eighth place. Renger was next up in the Oreca PC, but when the team tried to look under the front bodywork during his first pit stop, it refused to budge. He was sent back out again rather than waste any more time during his epic triple stint. The front nose was replaced successfully during the next driver change to Mirco who maintained P7 until Eric jumped back in to car for the long run until dawn.
Mirco returned to driving duties just before sunrise and was P6 in class when the crew’s closing strategy suddenly had to change. With just two hours of the 24 left to go, the 7 car retired from the race due to a motor fire, so it was decided that all four 8 car drivers would share the final stint in the remaining Starworks PC.
Eric Lux, #8 Starworks PC: “We wanted the win and we had the car to beat. I think we had the fastest time in PC too. Unfortunately though, we had a lot of fluid leak from the steering rack throughout the race straight on to our feet. We lost 31 laps looking in to the problem. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do, but we wanted to be safe and take a look. We went back out and managed to make up half the laps, but then we kind of reached a plateau about 14 or 15 laps. We went in to close and I think maybe we had a blown header or something of the sort because we were down on power, turning revs but no wheel speed. So I am glad that we were able to finish and get fifth, but disappointed we didn’t get the win because that is what we were aiming for.”
- 7 Starworks Oreca-Chevrolet - Prototype Challenge class: Drivers: Alex Popow, Isaac Tutumlu, Martin Fuentes, Kyle Marcelli, Pierre Kaffer. Result: P42 overall, P6 in PC class, total laps 612 (of 695), best lap 1:44.228 (lap 331, Kyle Marcelli).
A fuel pressure issue in the #7 Starworks Oreca Chevrolet PC reduced track time for Pierre Kaffer on Friday afternoon, however he still managed to set the eighth quickest time in the closing minutes of qualifying for the Rolex 24.
Within an hour of the race start on Saturday, Pierre was running 1-2 with the sister 8 car. Martin Fuentes then took over driving duties and pushed the 7 car from P5 in to top 3 in class just ahead of the first Red Flag. After a superb stint he swapped with Isaac Tutumlu at the start of the fifth hour who then took over the class lead after 124 laps.
Alex Popow was next to drive the #7 Oreca until the midnight hour when Kyle Marcelli undertook his first racing laps. He ran a solid stint in P3 and set the fastest lap before alerting the team that he thought the car was down on power. Making a stop, the team checked under the rear deck to investigate, but nothing appeared to be amiss, and put it down to possible tire build up or oil on track.
A determined drive by Martin in the early hours of Sunday morning meant that the 7 car ran P4 in class, only 12 laps down from the overall race leader. Pierre was next to take to the track before handing over to Alex Popow as the sun came up.
In a mighty push, and after stints in both the 7 and 78 cars previously, Alex drove to P2 in class until the 20th hour of the race before handing over to Kyle for the last time. The team had come back from adversity, three laps down in the morning, to be only a few seconds away from the lead lap when the motor expired. The 7 car had been in a good position for a push for the win and had a solid podium result secured before it came to a flaming stop on the back stretch less than three hours from the chequer.
- 78 Starworks Riley-Dinan – Prototype Class: Drivers: Scott Mayer, Brendon Hartley, Alex Popow, E.J.Viso, Sebastián Saavedra. Result: P62 overall, P17 in P class, total laps 457 (of 695), best lap 1:40.707 (lap 141, E.J. Viso).
Straight from the shop with no testing at the Roar, the #78 crew had a lot to do ahead of the Rolex 24. Following a titanic qualifying lap by Brendon Hartley which put the Riley-Dinan P3 on the timesheet, a post-qualifying penalty, for ‘ride height infringement’ and an ‘unapproved manufacturers aerodynamic’ part, sent the car to the back of the grid for the start of the 24 hour race. The Flying Kiwi drove a storming opening stint, overtaking more than 60 cars from 64th position to run in P2 by the end of the first hour of the Rolex 24 on Saturday afternoon. Alex Popow was next up in the 78 car and ran P5 until the first Red Flag.
During the resulting pit stops over an hour later, Scott Mayer took over driving duties, with E.J. Viso jumping in at 6:40pm. A stop and go penalty dropped E.J. down to P10, however within a few laps he had climbed up to P6 overall and set the 78 car’s fastest lap. Narrowly avoiding debris from an incident, a trip over the grass meant an enforced pit stop for the #78 for a quick clean and splash-and-dash as night fell. Pushing through the early dark laps, E.J. brought the 78 back up to P3, but after a couple of pit stops had slipped to P8 only to regain positions back to P2 before his driver change with Sebastián Saavedra.
Maintaining P2 for most of his stint in the dead of night Sebastián stopped out on track with what was ultimately terminal motor failure caused by a seized oil pump for the #78 Starworks at half race distance.
Peter Baron, team owner, Starworks Motorsport concludes: “This one hurts a lot. Throughout the race we thought each car had a shot for the win, each car had the speed and the things we were worried about like the splitter, suspension, ride height, never turned out to be an issue. And then we had two motor failures and some contact and a steering issue on the 8 car. It looked like we were competing for the lead with two hours to go with the 7 car when that motor blew up and caused the fire, which capped an emotional day. I am happy that we got the 8 car home, with fifth place points and it was Mirco’s first time finishing a 24 hour race, so we have something to build on.”
The next event on the series calendar is the test at Sebring International Raceway, February 20-21, with the second round of the Tudor Sports Car Championship at Sebring, March 12-15, 2014.