Starworks Motorsport

2016 Sebring 12 Hours Prototype Challenge Preview

After looking at the main Prototype class yesterday Here , now it’s time to turn our attentions to the Prototype Challenge class. The opening Rolex 24 produced a surprise winner in the #85 JDC/Miller entry, after problems with the favourite #54 and #52 entries. This time around, will the normal order be restored or will Sebring spring another surprise winner?

#8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Alex Popow/David Heinemeier Hansson/Renger Van Der Zande

The two Starworks entries suffered with costly accidents at the Rolex 24, although the progress this #8 car made in the second half of the race showed that if they had not got involved in various scrapes they would of been a strong contender for victory.

This time out at Sebring the team will be looking to translate their pace and skill as a team into a podium placing.  They have one of the best driver line up’s in this class and the Starworks team are stalwarts at this top level of US Sportscar racing. This entry has to go into the race as one of the favourites for class victory.

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#20 BAR1 Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Johnny Mowlem/Marc Drumwright/Tomy Drissi/Don Yount

The #20 BAR1 entry was another PC tale of disappointment, as the class pole sitters hoped for victory in the centre piece race, but had to be content with a distant third. Whilst this would have initially seemed frustrating, it was still a decent points haul for this team as their rivals struggled.

The team will be hoping to achieve another podium placing this weekend in the sunshine state, and they have a solid experienced line up of drivers who can get the job done for this BAR1 team. Another points haul for their championship would be a good result, and they will be slight outsiders for a class victory.

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#38 Performance Tech Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: James French/Josh Norman/Kyle Marcelli

The #38 team were yet another PC team who struggled on the high banks of Daytona, as they eventually were forced out of the Rolex 24 thanks to reliability issues. The team will not let that dampen their progress however as they look to bounce back for round two this weekend.

The team is one of the smaller outfits in the class, but they have proved in the past they can mix it with the bigger and more prestigious teams within this class. The driver line up is a another solid one at this level, and this team may well sneak a podium place if the attrition rate matches what we say in Daytona. Do not discount this entry as an afterthought in this class.

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#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Tom Kimber-Smith/Robert Alon/Jose Gutierrez

The #52 PR1/Mathiasen entry was one that recovered from adversity to eventually finish second, only four laps down on the class winner at the Rolex 24. The team have a knack of attaining victories in the key long distance races and this team actually won the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup last year. This is a mini-series made up of the four longer distance races on the calendar.

Second gave the team a great points haul, especially as their primary rivals such as the #54 entry retired early on. The team will be hoping they can repeat their victory at this race last year, as this would put the team in a very good championship position after the early rounds of the WeatherTech series.  This PR1/Mathiasen entry has the perfect blend of youth and experience behind the wheel, so watch out for this car to fly with all three drivers at the wheel.

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#54 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Colin Braun/Mark Wilkins/Jon Bennett

The Rolex 24 at Daytona was a disaster for this usually dominant CORE Autosport team. The class champions from the past few years suffered an early engine failure which put them out. Now have some ground to make up on their rivals in the championship also, something they will look to do with a class victory this weekend.

The team and driver line up is the best in this PC class, and will be looking to reassert their dominance at the bumpy airfield of a Sebring circuit. The #54 will be one of if not the ultimate favourite for the PC class victory come Saturday night.

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#85 JDC/Miller Motorsport Oreca FLMO9-Chevrolet: Misha Goikhberg/Stephen Simpson/Chris Miller/Kenton Koch

The Rolex 24 was an almost perfect race for the JDC/Miller Motorsport race as they claimed the class victory by four laps over the #52 PR1 entry. Whilst the team had some scrapes in the race, they were the most reliable car which gave them the victory.

This team is another of the smaller outfits in the class, and their class win was a great story in Daytona, but can they do it again this weekend? All four drivers demonstrated their talents in Daytona, especially Stephen Simpson, so can they reproduce this at another sportscar classic run in Florida. This team showed on pace they can match anyone else in this class, so can they topple the bigger teams once again? It’s difficult to see but after Daytona anything is possible for this JDC/Miller team.

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#88 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Sean Johnston/Michael Lyons/Maro Engel 

The second of the Starworks entries is another high quality addition to this class for this years Sebring 12 Hours. The team are locally based in Florida therefore will feel confident going into this race. Whilst this car was out early on in Daytona, they will be another team hoping to bounce right back with a great result at Sebring.

The driver line up is yet another very strong one, and the team will have more than enough talent to grab the class victory, although a class podium and a good haul of points of the championship would also be a success for this team. This #88 car is a strong contender for class honours this weekend.

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That wraps up my look at the seven car Prototype Challenge Class for this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours, soon I will be posting my preview of the ultra competitive GTLM class. I would like to say a huge thank you once again to IMSA.com and Motorsport.com for their information and high quality pictures that grace this article. I would also like to say a final thank you for reading this and any comments below would be greatly appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Starworks Motorsport Preview

The build up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona is always a stressful time for both the teams and the drivers competing. The opening round of the revamped WeatherTech Sportscar Championship always brings questions for the longest race of the year, and this year will be no different.

With this in mind, the Florida based Starworks Motorsport team were kind enough to give me an insight into their thoughts and preparations for the race. The team have two entries in the Prototype Challenge class and have a good chance of winning the class this year. They let me ask their drivers Renger Van Der Zande of the #8 car and newcomer Felix Rosenqvist of the #88 about their preparations for this race and their future plans. Here are there responses, starting with Van Der Zande first.

Q1)First of all, how have your and the team’s preparations for this race been going so far?

Its better than the other two years before. I am at the track now and the car is ready, the plan is sorted and we can start thinking about the details already now. It’s good.

Q2)What do you think are your chances of claiming the class victory going into the race?

The line up on our car is great–actually the best in the field. Jack and I have both been very fast in this class compared to the other pro’s and for the silver rated drivers Alex and Chris are literally the fastest guys. This gives confidence but we still need quite a bit of luck too, as a 24h race is very very long.

Q3)Now, you’ve made the American sportscar racing scene your home for the last few years, how was the transition from the European single seater/racing scene to the American sportscar scene and are their any similarities/differences between them?

Endurance racing is much different than formula cars. Here we can damage the car and start repairing and get out again. As the races are long you can still grab valuable points or good end results. There is a lot of strategy to think about. I like that part a lot more over sprint racing where the short races can be over because of very small details.

Q4)Your signed up for the full WeatherTech Sportscar season, but who do you think are your closest rivals for the class championship?

Core is always fast and their car is always reliable. Speed-wise we are on top, and we now have to raise the reliability to win the championship.

Q5)Your going to be competing in the Dubai 24 Hours, Rolex 24 hours and Bathurst 12 Hours within the same month, what are the challenges of competing in three very tough races within the space of a month?

It’s just an awesome preparation for the rest of the season. And very nice to kill the cold wintertime is Florida, the emirates and Oz.

imsa-daytona-24-2016-8-starworks-motorsports-oreca-flm09-jack-hawskworth-chris-cumming-renThe #8 Starworks Motorsport entry of Renger Van Der Zande in action during practice. 

And here are Rosenqvist’s responses also.

Q1)How have both your and the team’s preparations been going for the race this weekend?

It’s all quite busy and you have to use every minute you can to jump in the car and get comfortable with all the buttons and tools etc. I think you’re always abit nervous going into something new like this, but I’m sure once you get your first stint out of the way it will be much more clear!

Q2)Now, how has your transition been coming from European F3 to the Prototype challenge class, especially learning the Daytona circuit also?

It’s a very different car, but I think I benefit from having formula experience since the car has a fair bit of downforce. In the end it’s just another car with 4 wheels, and you get used to it after you get some laps in.

imsa-daytona-24-2016-88-starworks-motorsport-oreca-flm09-mark-kvamme-sean-johnston-maro-enThe Florida’s team second entry is Prototype Challenge is this #88 car. Both have a good chance of class victory come Sunday afternoon.

Q3)With your next career move unclear at this present time, would a move into sportscar racing be something that is appealing to you?

It’s for sure something I’m looking at. There are many good options out there, I just have to sort of find out what would be the best move for me!

Q4)What do you think your car’s chances are of claiming a good result this weekend?

I think we have a very good shot at the win and it’s just all about keeping cool until the last hour, if you can be on the lead lap then with an undamaged car – there you go!

Q5)At the moment, is this a one-off race for you or could we see you returning to the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship later in the season?

There’s definitely a possibility. The Petit Le Mans has always been one race I wanted to get off the list.

Both drivers appear to be quietly confident going into the race, but are also respectful of this long distance race where anything can happen. We will have to see this weekend if the Rolex 24 hours is going to be cruel or kind to the two drivers and their respective cars.

I would like to thank everyone at Starworks Motorsport for their co-operation and their drivers Renger Van Der Zande and Felix Rosenqvist for taking the time to answer these questions. Finally I would like to thank first of all Kelly Brouillet at KBru Communications for her help in setting up these interviews and to motorsport.com for the high quality photos you see in this article.

What are your thoughts on the chances for the Starworks Motorsport team going into the 2016 edition of the Rolex 24 hours? Please feel free to comment below and thank you for reading.