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Starworks Motorsports Perseveres Amid Disappointment at Rolex 24

Hopes were high for Starworks Motorsport heading in to the 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the longest endurance event on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s 2016 schedule.
Fielding two Oreca FLM09s in the Prototype Challenge, the team had two strong driver lineups, capable of a podium result. Disaster struck for both cars, taking one completely out of the race, and the other far behind the leaders in 4th position.
“Naturally, the 24 hours was a wide range of emotions,” said Starworks Motorsport owner Peter Baron. “We were devastated that we had two solid efforts to win in the PC class, and both of those were over by the early evening.”

The No. 88 car of Sean Johnston, Mark Kvamme, Felix Rosenqvist and Maro Engel started 6th, but at the hour and a half mark, had moved up the field to run 3rd. In hour three, while running in the top three, the car rejoined the field on cold tires and lost control, requiring 30 minutes of repairs at the garage. The car rejoined, but just several hours later, went off course and had contact with the wall. The impact pulled out a mounting point for the nose cone, causing tub damage that would end the race for the car in hour eight of 24.

The No. 8 car of Alex Popow, Renger van der Zande, Chris Cumming and Jack Hawksworth started in 7th, but made its way up to 3rd in the first hour. At the end of hour four, disaster hit. As evening settled on the track, the No. 8 car stalled in the middle of turn one. As Chris Cumming worked with the team on the radio to try to get the car started again, the Delta Wing drove directly into the back of the Starworks Machine, lifting the car off the ground and causing the first major caution of the endurance event. Cumming was released from the medical center with a concussion, unable to participate in the remaining 20 hours of the race.

Cumming’s ineligibility to race, created an imbalance in the driver rankings, an important item for the No. 8 car to need in order to earn valuable championship points. Cumming, a Bronze, was needed as one of the car’s armatures, racing with Silver driver Alex Popow and Gold drivers Renger van der Zande and Jack Hawksworth.

“Our first thought was to get Alex back out there for the five hour minimum so that he and Renger could get points for the season,” said Baron. “After Alex got out of the car, we had a conversation about what we should do. First option was to retire, pack it up, and save cost. Second option was to add a silver driver to the car, but adding a new driver to the car would jeopardize a finish and risk the ar. The third option was to let Alex and Renger, the two full season drivers, finish the race, and unfortunately not use Jack.”

Determined to race to the end and earn valuable championship points, the team went with the latter option, with Popow and van der Zande sharing the driving duties for the remaining 19 hours. Sunday afternoon, the exhausted duo, with the support of a determined team, finished 4th in class. In addition to fielding two entries, Starworks Motorsports also supported the No. 50 Highway to Help prototype car, which finished the race in 8th position.

“Being Daytona, you just can’t give up,” said Baron. “As easy it is to throw in the towel early on, we just don’t have that spirit. I cannot tell you how proud I was of the team on the cars we presented for the race. We had crash damage, but no mechanical issues from flawless preparation for all three cars. Unfortunately, a sad Monday follows the weekend, but 4th is a result we can build on for the championship run for the 8 car.”

The next event on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will take place at Sebring International Raceway for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, March 16-19. The driver lineup will shift slightly, with full time drivers Alex Popow and Renger van der Zande returning to the No. 8, and David Heinemeier Hansson joining as the third driver. In the No. 88, full season entry Mark Kvamme will again be joined by Sean Johnston and Maro Engel. For event information, visit imsa.com.

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Starworks Motorsport Announces IMSA Full Season Lineup

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (January 7, 2016) – In preparation for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s first series-wide test, the Roar Before the 24, Starworks Motorsports has announced its full season lineup for the 2016 season. The Pompano Beach, Florida based team will return to compete in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, running the No. 8 and No. 88 Oreca FLM09s.

“We’re confident 2016 will be a strong year for Starworks,” said Team Owner Peter Baron. “For the first time since the new integrated series, we have been able to get our programs sorted for the season with two cars before the holidays. This has allowed us to plan and prepare for the upcoming season, which has been a weakness of ours for the last two seasons.”

Starworks veterans Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow will return as the two full-season entries for the No. 8 car, with Jack Hawksworth and Chris Cumming joining the team for the 24 Hours of Daytona. Hawksworth, who will run 2016 in IndyCar with AJ Foyt Racing, and Cumming were previously teammates, winning the IMSA Brickyard Indianapolis race in the LMPC class in 2014. No stranger to endurance podiums, 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and WEC Championship winner David Heinemeier Hansson will join van der Zande and Popow for the 12 Hours of Sebring in March and Petit Le Mans at the end of the season.

After most recently competing in the Ferrari Challenge, Mark Kvamme joins the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as the only full season driver for the No. 88.Coming off a highly successful 2015 season where he claimed FIA F3 European Championship,Felix Rosenqvist will come on board for the 24 Hours of Daytona. After winning the 2012 IMSA GT3 Cup Callenge in 2012, Sean Johnston took his talents overseas to Europe where he went on to finish 2nd in the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series’ 6 Hour at Paul Ricard, then winning the 24 Hours of Barcelona overall. FIA GT Cup 2015 World Champion Maro Engel and Johnston will join Kvamme to compete in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (NAEC), the four endurance races on the 2016 calendar: The Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, Six Hours of the Glen, and Petit Le Mans. For the remaining seven sprint races of the season, Kvamme will be joined by Ashley Freiberg, BMW of North America Scholarship Driver. In 2014, Freiberg became the first woman to win a race in the Continental Tire Sportscar Championship, at Daytona International Speedway.

During the winter, two more significant additions were made to the team lineup. Tom Brown, previously an engineer from PC and GT Le Mans team CORE Autosport joined the Starworks ranks, along with Kent Holden, who had previously been the crew chief at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates since the team’s inception.

“We have fantastic line ups all year in both cars, and have made massive improvements with the team in the off season,” concluded Baron.  “With all that we have accomplished in the winter months, I strongly feel we are now the team to beat in 2016.”
 
 Driver Quotes

Renger van der Zande // Full Season // No. 8
I am delighted to go racing again under the Starworks banner. I have built a great relationship with Peter and the whole crew. I feel that the last two seasons flew by and we are ready for a lot of success together in 2016. The Daytona 24 Hour line up is very solid and all the drivers seem in line with the same approach to attack this amazing event. To be racing together with Alex for the rest of the season is making me very excited as well. The races that I raced with Alex were a win or a podium so that is a good track record to keep up.

Alex Popow // Full Season // No. 8   
Not available for comment.

Jack Hawksworth // 24 Hours of Daytona // No. 8
I am really excited to be joining the Starworks team and be returning to the IMSA paddock and the Daytona 24. I know the preparation will be top draw and all the ingredients will be there for us to have a real run at winning this thing. I’m also looking forward to racing alongside Chris (Cumming) again who I have driven with on multiple occasions for the past two years, and joining Renger and Alex both of whom I have competed against. I can’t wait to get back to work this coming week at the Roar.
 
Chris Cumming // 24 Hours of Daytona // No. 8
When Peter and I began talking about this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and the driver lineup he was putting together, I think I needed about five seconds to say yes!  Renger, Jack, and Alex are all the strongest teammates a person could ask for, and with Peter and the rest of the Starworks team behind us, I think we’re going to be one of the cars to contend with.

David Heinemeier Hansson // Sebring, Petit // No. 8
It’s a real pleasure to join Peter’s Starworks squad alongside Alex and Renger for Sebring and Petit. I’ve been on the podium at Sebring three times, but have yet to win, so getting another crack at it with a strong line-up is a treat. I’m really looking forward to driving the revised LMPC car as well. Especially pleased about seeing 30 pounds disappear from the engine. After a whole season battling a heavy engine affecting balance, I’ve intimately aware of just how much better a car can drive when weight is taken out up high.
 
Mark Kvamme // Full Season // No. 88
I am honored and a bit nervous to be on such a fabulous team so early in my racing career.  Peter has assembled a group of professionals that are focused on one thing and one thing only – winning!

Felix Rosenqvist // 24 Hours of Daytona // No. 88
Daytona has always been a dream for me to drive since I’d visited the year years ago. It will be something completely new for me, but I think it’s the absolute best way to kick off the year. The race is so intense, and you really have to keep your eyes open all 24 hours. I think we can go for the Rolex as we have a strong driver line-up and winning mentality in the team!

Sean Johnston // NAEC Races // No. 88
It’s with great excitement that I’ve been able to put together a deal with Peter and the Starworks team for the 2016 NAEC Season.  After three seasons of racing primarily over in Europe, I’m ready to come back to the U.S. and show everybody what I’ve learned!  I raced at Daytona in an LMPC car last year, and am stoked to have a full season in front of me in this equipment.  And to be able to do this with Maro Engel, (my Blancpain Endurance Series teammate last year) is awesome, and I’m looking forward to getting to know and working with Mark Kvamme as well.  This feels like a really strong lineup to me, and I’m excited to see what kind of results we can produce together this season!

Maro Engel // NAEC Races // No. 88
Racing at the Daytona 24h has always been something I’ve wanted to do, and to be able to do it with Starworks and Peter Baron is a great feeling for me as their success speaks for itself. I am already looking forward to getting to work with the team and my team mates to hopefully add to the team’s successes. I would also like to thank Mercedes-AMG for allowing me to take this opportunity. I have heard so much about American racing and the fan culture that I can’t wait to get a taste of it myself now.

Ashley Freiberg // Sprint Races // No. 88
I am thrilled to be able to drive with Mark Kvamme in the Starworks PC car for the sprint races this year! I had spent time with Mark last summer while he was racing in Ferrari Challenge, and I think he will surprise some people this season! To also be a part of a team as top-notch as Starworks is very exciting to me and I look forward to working with everyone this year!

About Starworks Motorsport
Established in 2010 by Peter Baron, Starworks Motorsports is a sports car racing team based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The team entered the history books in 2012 by becoming the first LMP2 Champions in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the first North American team to win an FIA World Championship in 46 years. The team also won the 2012 GRAND-AM North American Endurance Championship and led with the most laps in a Daytona Prototype. These milestones concluded an incredible Rolex Series season, with victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first Rolex Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, plus a second place finish at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and a third in the Six Hours of the Glen. Alex Popow won the Jim Trueman Award by a landslide and the team was crowned Sports Car Team of the Year by the SPEED Channel. The team came fourth in the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series (DP) and also competed in two ALMS races (one as RSR Racing) in the LMPC category.

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Victory for Starworks at Six Hrs of The Glen

June 30, 2015: Starworks Motorsport picked up their second consecutive Prototype Challenge race victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, 26-27 June, 2015, on the back of winning at the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers last month. The #8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca Chevrolet FLM09 has now won the most races of any car in any class since the start of the new TUDOR United Sportscar Championship in 2014.

Dutch racing ace and Starworks regular Renger van der Zande was joined by team veteran Alex Popow and California-born Mike Hedlund as regular co-driver Mirco Schultis was not available for the fifth PC round in New York. It was Renger’s fifth career TUSC victory and Alex Popow’s ninth win across TUSC, American Le Mans and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series’, and the first for Mike Hedlund, who is currently competing in the Pirelli World Challenge.

The Starworks Motorsport team was fast straight out of the trailer at Watkins Glen International with even its dry set up translating well to the wet when the rain came. Renger was the fastest PC driver in practice two on Friday and with Qualifying cancelled on Saturday due to wet conditions the grid positions for Sunday’s race were set by Championship points.

After setting the quickest class time in the wet warm up on Sunday morning, it was down to Mike Hedland to commence the six-hour enduro in the #8 Martini liveried challenger from P6 on the grid.

Peter Baron, Team Owner, Starworks Motorsport:

“Mike did a perfect job in very trick conditions. A light rain was falling at the start and he managed his best on slick tires. He hung in there while many others were having problems and so once the track dried out, about 30 minutes in, he was on it for the next hour. Alex got in under yellow and kept the momentum going, running in P2 the whole time. It was exactly what we needed. Renger’s finishing stints will be talked about for some time. He was in a class of his own out there in about the worst rain and trying conditions you could get. He never put a wheel wrong and brought it home with the win and 4th overall.”

“This was a great momentum builder for us,” continued Peter. “Our car has been fast the last few events and we now have two wins in a row. We are only five points out of the Championship lead and feel we have a shot at the title. To say we are excited to get to CTMP is an understatement. It was a shame Mirco could not be with us at The Glen and we are grateful to him and Mishumotors for giving us the chance to push on while we wait for his return at Mosport. ”

Mike Hedlund, #8 Starworks Motorsport:

“We unloaded a fast car and every time we went out on track it was better, wet, dry or mixed, it was fantastic! I was a little nervous at the start because between the time we decided to start on slicks and the time they rolled us out of pit lane the rain had started to get heavier. It ended up being the correct call, although the first stint was perilous! We started the race from P6 and I think we made it up to P2 by the end of the first lap. I couldn’t keep up with Conor Daly and settled in to push as hard as I could without any risk of going off or getting hit while trying to save fuel. Once the car was up front we were able to manage the rest of the race. Our pit stops and strategy calls were perfect and Renger was brilliant toward the end once it became a boat race! Thanks to all our crew guys and girls, Peter Baron, Mirco Schultis, Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow for having me along at The Glen.”

Starworks Motorsport is now third in both the TUSC Prototype Challenge Team Championship (152 points) and North American Endurance Cup (with one round remaining). Renger van der Zande is fifth in the Prototype Challenge Drivers’ Championship on 126 points. The next round of the TUSC is the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix presented by Hawk Performance, 10-12 July, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, ON.

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Starworks Claims Dominant PC Win at Belle Isle 2015

 

June 1, 2015: Starworks Motorsport was back on top at the ‘Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers’ at Belle Isle Park last weekend when the driving duo of Mirco Schultis and Renger van der Zande claimed the PC class win in the #8 Martini liveried Oreca Chevrolet FLM09.

The fourth round of the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, 29-30 May, was a flawless weekend for the Fort Lauderdale squad who unloaded a perfectly prepped car to immediately post the fastest times in both morning practice sessions, in the wet and dry, without putting on new tires until qualifying on Friday afternoon.

Mirco Schultis achieved his best ever qualifying position to sit on the second row of the grid in third for the start of Saturday’s 100 minutes enduro. When the lights went out the opening lap saw plenty of turmoil. As cars from all classes scattered over the front straight ahead of Mirco he got hit very hard and lost the left rear of the 8 car’s floor and part of its sidepod. Despite the damage, the team decided to keep Mirco out and he was able to keep position, close to the leaders, and drove an impeccable stint from then on.

A full course yellow and the pace car came out just as the minimum time was reached. Mirco pitted and Peter Baron’s team performed a faultless pit stop and service, which included pulling out broken carbon bodywork parts lodged in to the car. With Renger van der Zande now behind the wheel of the #8 Oreca the team was able to make up a position in the pits and re-join the action behind the 11 car of Bruno Junqueria in third.

The last hour of the race saw sporadic rain showers with the track puddling up and drying out, producing a chaotic sprint finish. Renger expertly passed the 11 car which then spun on the following lap trying to keep pace in turn 1, collecting the 52 car to bring out the penultimate full course caution.

Shortly after the restart, Renger passed the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports for the lead and never looked back. He pushed hard to produce a massive lead whilst managing the 8 car’s Continental tires and despite a late yellow bringing yet another wet restart with about 10 minutes to go, took Starworks Motorsport’s first win of 2015.

Mirco Schultis, #8 Starworks Motorsport:
“This was my first race on a street course and I loved it. I was incredibly pleased to put our car on P3 in qualifying and was very happy with my stint in the race. Being a Chevrolet enthusiast myself, racing with a Chevy engine and winning the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic Race in Motor City is just amazing.”

Renger van der Zande, #8 Starworks Motorsport:
“There was a lot going on! Changing conditions made it very exciting on this street track. I loved it, from the first meter out of the box and we ran in P1 most of the time. Mirco did a great job and I reckon this was his best race of us driving together. The team gave me an amazingly fast car and the ride was one big pleasure. We have a great team of people at Starworks and that was evident in a very fast pit stop. So thanks to all of the crew and it was an honor to drive the car home to victory lane.”

Peter Baron, Team Owner, Starworks Motorsport:
“It was really cool to see Mirco drive on his first street course. That was, no question, the best we have seen him ever drive. Renger shined during his specialty of driving on a wet track with slicks to bring home our first win of the year. All parts of the team performed perfectly – the crew with the prep work and pit stops, the drivers with the speed on the track and no bad luck for us, finally! I have to say seeing the car cross the finish line as the winner after the first three races of the season with terrible luck was a relief rather than pure joy. But it did put tremendous wind in our sails and we cannot wait to get back on track and go after the Watkins Glen Six Hour win.”

Starworks Motorsport is currently fifth in the Prototype Challenge Team Championship with 116 points. Mirco Schultis and Renger van der Zande are joint sixth in the Prototype Challenge Drivers’ Championship on 90 points.

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Win at Petit Closes Rollercoaster Year for Starworks

 

October 7, 2014: There were tears of joy and relief when Starworks Motorsport claimed the PC class win with its #8 Martini liveried Oreca Chevrolet FLM09 in 17th annual ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta last weekend.

The Fort Lauderdale based squad has concluded a difficult year by finishing third in both the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup and the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, with Dutch driver Renger van der Zande ending his first season as runner up in Prototype Challenge class and team mate Martin Fuentes, in the sister #7 Bomberg Official Starworks car, close behind him in third.

The triple race winning driving duo of Renger and Mirco Schultis were joined by Alex Popow for the 10-hour enduro in Georgia, with Martin, Ryan Eversley, Adam Merzon and John Martin coming home a commendable fifth in class in the team’s sister 7 car at the chequer of the 2014 season finale.

The #7 Starworks race challenge commenced with Martin Fuentes pulling an excruciating triple stint; two hours and 15 minutes of drive time to ensure that he would receive Championship points for the race. Adam Merzon was next to jump in to the cockpit to complete his first racing laps, and a solid double stint, in a Prototype Challenge car. Unfortunately, Adam got collected by a GT towards the end of his run which cost the 7 car a few laps.

“It was great to see Ryan Eversley in one of our cars and he did a great job cranking off fast laps and keeping us in contention,” Peter Baron, team owner said. “Considering his very limited time testing in practice, Ryan showed solid pace and the whole 7 car crew did an awesome job; it ran the 10 hours flawlessly and when it was all over we were happy to secure a top-five finish for the two PC rookies.”

The weekend did not run smoothly for the 8 car, with technical issues setting them back during free practice and qualifying. An all-nighter by the team on Friday ensured that the car was ready for the race on Saturday morning, however it was to start from the back of the 51-car grid.

“Our awesome crew only managed three hours of sleep on Thursday and then pulled an all-nighter trying to find a mysterious electrical gremlin that was not allowing our 8 car to even start!” continued Peter. “There are an unbelievable range of emotions when you go from thinking you’re not even going to make the race at 4.00am to the car running flawlessly and winning one of the toughest races of the year. Our drivers also did a fantastic job and put us in the perfect position to do so.”

With three-hours left on the clock on Saturday night Peter decided to completely change the 8 car’s race strategy – a gamble that made all the difference to the outcome of the race. “We were praying for it to go green the rest of the way. We knew after our final stop, with 45 minutes to go, we were the only car at that point that could make the finish on fuel, so we managed our pace to ensure that when the lead cars pitted, they would come out behind us.

“Renger did a fantastic job of keeping the gap where it needed to be to the 8Star car, right at the 30-second mark. Naturally we were worried when Sean [Rayhall] had a dramatic lap with 17 minutes to go, so we pushed to build a gap big enough for us to be ahead when he made his final stop. We knew the 52 car was close, even with the yellow, but once the race went green with only a few laps to go, it pitted immediately and Renger came on the radio and said “The 52 car is pitting! We are leading!” It was unbelievable. I was definitely watery eyed after this win. I have always been a huge fan of the Petit and to get a win there in our first PC attempt is fantastic, especially in the manner of how we did it!”

Renger van der Zande, #8 Starworks Motorsport, said, “It feels amazing to win this race, which was a real thriller. We had all kinds of trouble throughout the weekend and when the car got fixed at 6.00am on race day we were fastest in warm up. It was not easy when my right headlight gave up and my vision was very poor in the dark. Most of the corners are right-handers, so I was guessing my steering-in points most of the time. Overtaking also became a big challenge as the drivers couldn’t see me coming from behind. Being in the car for over six hours was tough and a great challenge at the same time. The Starworks team did a perfect job and I am very happy to win together with two top team mates, Mirco and Alex.”

However, the year started on a very different note for Peter Baron’s team. The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona back in January saw the unsuccessful return to the Prototype class for the team’s #78 Starworks Riley-Dinan, and a motor failure and fire at the end of the race put the #7 PC car out of action for the 12 Hours of Sebring. After a move back to a Honda HPD power train, the #78 Daytona Prototype made its come back at Road America, but with very little testing and an early race retirement, Peter decided to park the project until 2015. His first foray in to Prototype Challenge racing this year with two Oreca Chevrolet FLM09 vehicles, however, saw increasing success as the season unfolded.

“It has been an amazing season with Starworks for me. We achieved six podiums including three wins and I also had some great results in Europe as well,” Renger added. “It was a year where we [Starworks] have had many problems and many successes at the same time, but everything peeked at the right moment. Finishing second in the championship is a good result for me, but there is room for improvement! I am enjoying American racing very much; it’s highly professional with spectacular formats. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mirco for being a great team mate and Peter, plus all the Starworks guys, for having a great season together!”

Peter Baron concluded: “It has been a fantastic year; getting our drivers to 2nd and 3rd in the championship and we’re ready to go for the top spot next year. Finishing the season with wins at three races and podiums at six is an accomplishment we are quite proud of, especially as Prototype Challenge is one of most competitive classes in the world. We can relax for a little bit and enjoy the end of the season, but I am already calling tracks to work on our fall testing programs. We had an awesome year, but we are already planning on making 2015 even better.”

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