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Starworks Wins NAEC Rolex Series at Indy

Sebastien Bourdais, Alex Popow become first Rolex Sports Car Series winners at Indy; Peter Baron-led team seals North American Endurance Championship.

Starworks Motorsport rewrote the history books in more than one way Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Popow became the first winners of the Brickyard Grand Prix, taking the Peter Baron-led team to the inaugural North American Endurance Championship at the same time.

Following changeable conditions throughout the opening hour, which saw two downpours, including one just prior to the start of the three-hour enduro, both Starworks Riley-Fords came to life, aided by mishaps from a number of Daytona Prototype competitors.

After making a late-race stop for fuel-only, Bourdais charged to the lead with 31 minutes to go, displacing teammate Ryan Dalziel in the No. 8 Starworks entry in the top spot.

Starworks Motorsport scored the inaugural North American Endurance Championship and the $100,000 first place prize. (Photo: John Dagys)

The rapid Frenchman then held off Ricky Taylor’s SunTrust Corvette through two restarts, while a clash between the Porsches of Leh Keen and Joerg Bergmeister with five minutes to go forced the race to end under caution.

“The last restart was challenging with Ricky [Taylor] coming alongside,” Bourdais said. “He braked really, really late, and so did I. I nearly didn’t make the corner! It’s just great they we were able to put it together.”

Popow, who soldiered through the tricky early race conditions, also led the race at one point in what proved to be the Venezuelan’s breakout race in the Rolex Sports Car Series.

‘It’s my first race win in GRAND-AM and being here at Indy is so special,” Popow said. “I have to thank Peter, Ryan [Dalziel] and especially Sebastien today for a great job and an incredible drive. He was amazing. We had the best car and the best driver out there.”

The victory and NAEC title capped off an incredible season for Starworks, which finished second overall at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, took class victories at the Twelve Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans and currently lead the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 points standings.

“What a great year our team’s having. I’m so proud of everybody,” said Baron, whose team took home the $100,000 first place NAEC prize. “We had a rough race with [the No. 2] guys at Watkins Glen and were sure they had a shot to win there… Sebastien drove a killer end of the stint and Alex has done a great job all year.

“We looked at the NAEC at the beginning of the year and thought, ‘There’s another championship they created for Ganassi.’ I just have to thank Alex and Enzo [Potolicchio] for everything they’ve done.”

Starworks appeared to be en route for a double podium finish, with Dalziel slipping back to third late in the running before contact with the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-BMW of Juan Pablo Montoya effectively ended the Scotsman’s day.

Montoya collided with the No. 8 Riley-Ford in the entrance to the infield, sending Dalziel into the gravel trap and resulting in a full-course caution. It dropped Dalziel and co-driver Enzo Potolicchio to a seventh place finish in class.

Dalziel and Potolicchio, who came into this race just three points out of the championship lead, now trail Ganassi’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas by 11 points.

“It was pretty black and white there,” Baron said of the late-race contact between Dalziel and Montoya. “I’ve sent emails and had phone calls to GRAND-AM saying Montoya is reckless in this series. He comes in and doesn’t give a [expletive] about anybody here. He showed that today.

“He went into the race and ruined our championship. The series needs to do something to take care of that. I’ve told him that was going to happen. It happened.”

Montoya, who was not handed a penalty for his alleged actions, came home fourth with co-driver Scott Dixon. NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray did not drive in the race.

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Starworks Takes Home the Win at Le Mans

Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 winners Tom Kimber-Smith, Enzo Potolicchio and Ryan Dalziel said they had to go flat-out from start to finish to secure their victory.

The Starworks HPD drivers were chased to the flag by Mathias Beche, Christophe Tinseau and Pierre Thiriet in the #46 TDS ORECA-Nissan. The trio said that the race was even faster than 2011 – when Kimber-Smith won with the Greaves team – and that if they had encountered any problems at all they would not have won.

“This was the first year that it was a flat-out race,” Kimber-Smith told AUTOSPORT. “Last year was pretty quick but you drove with something in reserve but this year we didn’t, it was a purely flat-out race.”

He added: “There were eight cars on the same lap for most of it and even at the end second place was very close behind.”

Dalziel reckoned he had run qualifying-style laps all race.

“The equipment is built so well now that it has to be a sprint race,” he said. “Other than maybe the last hour we were doing qualifying laps the whole time.

“If any of the P2 cars that finished on the podium had a problem they wouldn’t have been there.”

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Starworks Clinches FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 Title

Following an incredible season that has included victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the inaugural North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com, Starworks Motorsport has etched itself into the history books yet again, becoming the first-ever LMP2 Champions in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The team clinched the coveted FIA Endurance Trophy in last weekend’s 6 Hours of Fuji following a second-place finish for the No. 44 Honda Performance Development ARX-03b driven by Enzo Potolicchio, Ryan Dalziel and Stephane Sarrazin. The impressive accomplishment came with one race still remaining in the season (China).

Starworks’ title marked the first FIA World Championship for an American entry in nearly half a century, dating back to Ford’s Manufacturers’ Championship in the 1966 World Sportscar Championship.

Peter Baron (Starworks Motorsport Team Owner): “This is an incredible achievement for Starworks Motorsport. It all began when Enzo came to the shop last October. We were bored and came up with this crazy idea to go win a World Championship, and that dream is now realized. There has to be so much thanks along the way to Enzo for having the trust and faith in us to put this entire program together. It hasn’t been easy but all of the hard work from the whole crew has paid off. We’re really happy to bring home a championship for Honda Performance Development, Venezuela and Starworks.”

Enzo Potolicchio (Driver, No. 44 Starworks Motorsport HPD ARX-03b): “It’s been an unbelievable year. We’ve always had high hopes because we’re competitors but nothing like this. This is over the top. All of the teams here are very competitive. For Ryan and I, it was our first time at most of the tracks. It was a big step for me going into that but we knew we could do it. I’m just so proud of the guys. We’re a small team but we have very, very good people. They’ve worked an unbelievable amount of hours to do this. I have to thank everyone, including my sponsors in Venezuela, for making this dream happen.”

Ryan Dalziel (Driver, No. 44 Starworks Motorsport HPD ARX-03b): “It will probably take a little while to sink in. We have been so strong. It was a program that I felt kept getting stronger and stronger. When you look at the results we have had, it is incredible that a first-year team with no experience in motorsport outside of North America and with engineers who had never been outside America, could come here and do this. It all comes down to having the right people in place. It is incredible to put your name next to a world championship. I don’t care whether it is a team championship or a driver championship, in racing it is a team and we all deserved to win this.”

Stephane Sarrazin (Driver. No. 44 Starworks Motorsport HPD ARX-03b): “This has been a dream season for Starworks. After having spent five years in a manufacturer’s car with Peugeot, I arrived here in this small team, not knowing much about them. We won Sebring and I realized after this race that it was possible to win all of the races and the championship. I’m very happy to be part of the Starworks team. Thanks to Peter for giving me this opportunity. My teammates Enzo, Ryan and Tom were fast and the team did a great job all year with no problems. It’s been a very good season for everybody.”

Steve Eriksen (Vice President, Honda Performance Development): “For Honda Performance Development, this is our first World Championship. We’ve really been excited about this since the start of the season and it just got better and better as it went on, with wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans and now the World Championship. We’re so very thankful for the hard work of these Starworks Motorsport folks to make that happen. It’s a real testament to their hard work, the hard work of our technical partners at Wirth Research and the hard work of our associates back at HPD in California. It’s an amazing result and one that we’ll always remember.”

 

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Starworks Wins Sebring

STARWORKS LAUNCHES SENSATIONAL START TO WEC CAMPAIGN WITH LMP2 CLASS WIN AT SEBRING

 

Starworks Motorsport produced the ultimate David v Goliath performance to upset the odds with a display at 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring fuelled by Fresh From Florida that stunned the motor sport world.  The Fort Lauderdale-based team completely built their Honda Performance Development ARX-03b car in just nine days – but that only tells half the story.

The crew worked 24-7 just to get the car to the green flag. It was still in bits as they arrived in Sebring on Monday. But team principal Peter Baron’s hand-picked squad worked miracles to give the drivers – Enzo Potolicchio, Ryan Dalziel and Stephane Sarrazin – a car they could not only race, but take the challenge to their rivals. They had needed Starworks’ Continental Tires Mustang and Grand-Am prototype crews joined in to get the car to “basecamp”. But then the squad at Sebring used every minute until the green flag to fine-tune the Venezuela-backed car. That meant the drivers were only able to basic installation laps early in the week, and had to work on the set-up ahead of the race. French ace and former Peugeot works driver Stephane proved the car’s potential when he qualified in 12th place overall and second in the LMP2 class. He then took a short first stint before handing over to Venezuelan Enzo Potolicchio. Orlando-based Scot Ryan Dalziel took the third stint as the Starworks team worked their way through the traffic in the massive 64-car field round the bumpy  former air base.

In the end, Enzo produced a stunning display to keep the car in touch with the front-runners before Ryan fired in a succession of hot laps that closed the gap on the class leader. And it was left to Stephane to out-gun Joao Barbosa and take the class win with just two of the works-backed Audis ahead of him.

Team principal PETER BARON said: “It’s really an amazing story. I cannot thank the crew enough for all the hard work and late nights they put in to get the car ready. We were still unpacking boxes to finish the car six days before the race. We had a few gremlins which kept us from testing, which really meant our first laps to work on the car’s speed were Thursday. Our engineers did an unbelievable job with only a handful of laps to make the car’s speed capable of winning, and our drivers were priceless. We basically had no spares for the car and any damage could have sent us home. Our drivers did an incredible job in the race keeping the car up there all day, and free of damage.  I cannot thank Enzo enough for his faith in us to pull this off. Enzo did an amazing job, putting in competitive laps with limited practice, and he made an heroic effort off the track working with his sponsors to give us the opportunity to represent his sponsors from his home country of Venezuela! “

What the drivers said: ENZO POTOLICCHIO insisted the win was a victory for teamwork and the togetherness at Starworks. He said: “To think that, a couple of weeks ago, we didn’t think we were going to make it here because so many parts were missing and then to get third overall and first in class is amazing. The work that Peter Baron does, and the motivation he brings to the team, is huge. He is surrounded by really good people in the team. It is a blessing having Ryan and now Stephane in the team, bringing all my dreams to reality. I was really happy with my first stint. I thought I should have done better with my second stint, but the last time I was here was in 2001 with a small Formula Ford 2000. I had just 18 laps before I went out, so I have to be happy with the result. Ryan pushes me a lot to get better, but this is unbelievable.

RYAN DALZIEL insisted the win had thrown down the gauntlet to their FIA World Endurance Championship rivals. He said: We have had podiums in three out of four races so far this year – it is crazy. This really caps it all though. It just proves how realistic our challenge is going to be at the Le Mans 24 Hours. That is what this is all about – we wanted to get to Le Mans. The WEC was the choice we took. It didn’t guarantee our entry but it gave us a good chance to show what we could do.  We want to go and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We have obviously started off winning the 12 Hours. It puts us in the lead in the championship, but we have to stay focused. We have a lot of work still to do. I had spent late nights down and early mornings at the workshop, but the work the Starworks guys put in was just unbelievable. I was down there at the start of the week and I thought there was no way we would be a car running, but when I got there and saw guys on our Mustang team, guys on our WEC team and guys on our Rolex team – they were all dirty with grease as they tried to get the car here. And they did it. We didn’t have the fastest car out there, but we definitely had the most consistent and we had great team effort.”

STEPHANE SARRAZIN admitted he didn’t think he would be tasting glory so quickly after Peugeot pulled out of endurance racing. He said: “After the 18th of January, I was left without a team and that was very difficult for me. It was a hard time because I lost a big family. I had been with Peugeot for five years, but now I have a new team with new targets, a new challenge and new team-mates. To get third overall was just amazing. I pushed very hard during the race. The last two hours was just like qualifying. I would never give up. The mechanics did a great job. I did 20 laps before we started but I had never driven in P2 before, so it is a very good start. I am very happy to be with this team. It is a cool team that gives the maximum.”

The result gives Starworks Motorsport the lead in the World Endurance Championship ahead of the second round in Spa in Belgium in May.

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Sizzling Starworks at Daytona

SIZZLING STARWORKS GRAB POLE FOR DAYTONA 24

THE PLOT: Ryan Dalziel threw down the gauntlet to the Grand-Am big guns by powering the new Starworks Motorsport Ford-Riley to a sensational pole position for Saturday’s 50th running of the Grand-Am Rolex Daytona 24. Orlando-based Dalziel, originally from Lanarkshire in Scotland, clocked a stunning 1min 41.119 to take top spot at the Florida track. He will share the #8 car with regular Starworks drivers Enzo Potolicchio and Alex Popow, from Venezuela, double Le Mans 24-hour winner Allan McNish, from Dumfries, Scotland, and current FIA GT1 world champ Lucas Luhr, from Germany.
The result for the Fort Lauderdale-based team was even more amazing given that they missed the whole of the first practice session with an engine problem, but were soon on the pace.
THE QUOTES:
Pole-setting driver RYAN DALZIEL: “It wasn’t unexpected that we would be good, we just didn’t think we would be on pole. We had some issues in the first practice session – we missed all of that with a motor change, but we were really strong in the second practice.“Then I just threw one down for qualifying. I am absolutely delighted with it and really happy for the team. They have worked very hard for this. We came here with a good idea of what to expect but for everything to come together so perfectly was definitely a surprise, but still I would say it was well-deserved.“We spent a lot of time building the car so we are pretty confident that it will be reliable. For us, it is an added bonus to know that the car is fast. If it gets to a dog-fight at the end, then we should have a car that can win.”
Team owner PETER BARON: “The best thing about that pole position is that it takes a lot of the pressure off because we know we have a fast car. Now we just have to go out there are be smart.“This was the result of perfect team-work – everything from how the guys put the car together to how our engineers worked together and all the testing we did. Even though it is a new car, and Bill Riley did a great job with it, we knew what ballpark we wanted to be in. We just needed to do some aero work and we went out and got pole. It was all about everyone working together.“It is a great result for the team and reward for our engineer Steve Challis and all the Starworks crew.”
THE FACTS: Starworks Motorsport comes into the race on the back of a victory in the final round of the 2011 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car championship at Mid-Ohio. Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio were the drivers that day.The Rolex 24 At Daytona starts at 3.30pm on Saturday (January 28).  All 24 hours of the Rolex 24 will be broadcast live or via internet streaming on SPEED television and speedtv.com.
Contact starworksmedia@gmail.com for more information.
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