Saturday night, in the fifth hour of Petit Le Mans and under caution, Renger van der Zande, Alex Popow and Starworks Motorsports became the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champions. With four wins and eight podiums, the PC team earns its second championship in two years, despite a disappointing 6th place finish in the race.
Heading into the final race of the year, the No. 8 Oreca needed to finish sixth place or better in order to win the championship. With seven cars in the class, when the No. 7 Starworks Oreca of Stefano Coletti, James Dayson, and Quinlan Lall withdrew from the race after heavy damage, the retirement meant the No. 8 car only needed to get its minimum drive time in for van der Zande and Popow. Popow opened with a three hours and 10 minute stint, during which he reported the car was beginning to suffer braking issues. When David Heinemeier Hansson took over for his stint, the problem became worse, forcing the team to take the car behind the wall for repairs. The car returned with van der Zande at the wheel, where he was able to compete his first lap of the race under caution.
It was under the caution lap that van der Zande completed his minimum drive time, and the following caution lap, he celebrated his championship win over the radio with team owner Peter Baron and Alex Popow. Unfortunately, with less than three hours to go, the left front brake pad exploded, causing too much damage for the car to continue.
Before its early retirement, the No. 7 showed a strong performance in the early laps with Stefano Coletti climbing from his fifth place starting position to run in second. Shortly after, the gremlins appeared in the brakes, forcing the team to take the car back to the garage on more than one occasion before ultimately retiring.
The No. 88 of Mark Kvamme, Richard Bradley and Max Hanratty enjoyed the longest run for the team’s three cars, finishing in a strong fourth place. The trio ran clean and consistent, keeping their distance from trouble in the field.
It’s been an incredible season for the guys, and while the odds were definitely in our favor heading into this race, it was great to officially clinch the PC title. It was a little anti climatic to win it under a caution, but we’ll still celebrate just as hard. The guys on the No. 7 car had a tough run after looking strong all week, but they still stuck around to wish the rest of their teammates good luck. The No. 88 guys did an excellent job pushing through what can be a difficult event. We were hoping to get a little closer to that third place car, but a fourth place is an excellent end to the season for them.
Renger van Der Zande
The great news of the day is that we won the championship. After 11 races this season, I think we can be very proud at winning the championship. To have done it with Alex as my teammate and Peter as a boss, we had a lot of fun doing it. Racing in America, in my opinion, is the best in the world, with the best of multi-class racing and dog fights at every restart. It’s a true battle of survival. Of course today, winning the race would have been a nice one, and it’s a shame we didn’t. Petit Le Mans is one of the best races of the calendar, and maybe the world. But that’s racing. We’re staying here until Tuesday, because we have the series banquet Monday. I can’t wait to celebrate with my Starworks friends.
We won the championship! It’s a sweet and sour moment. We didn’t want to win it this way, with a DNF, but it’s still a win. We’re very proud of the team. They did a very good job all season. It’s a shame we didn’t win it the way we wanted. We had the fastest car here, and one of the best lineups. We were just cruising for the first three hours, with every intention to then fight for the win. David was so fast, and we were saving Renger for the end for the final fight. We knew with our better car and Renger behind the wheel, we could make it and get the win. I have to thank the whole team for everything they’ve done to clinch the championship. It’s truly a championship for all of us.