Starworks Motorsports Climbs to Second in Championship Heading into Laguna
Saturday at the Long Beach Grand Prix, Starworks Motorsport picked up its second podium of the season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Co-drivers Alex Popow and Renger van der Zande finished 2nd in the No. 8 ORECA FLM0 in 2nd, climbing from 3rd to 2nd position in the Prototype Challenge Championship following their 3rd place finish at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in February. Teammates Mark Kvamme and Ashley Freiberg earned a top-5 finish in their first street race together in the No. 88 Popcorn Sutton ORECA FLM0, and both while rookies at Long Beach’s street circuit.
A crash brought Friday’s qualifying session to a close early, not allowing drivers and teams to receive the allotted time needed to qualify. The field was assigned to start by points, with Popow and van der Zande in 2nd, and Kvamme and Freiberg in 7th. Popow made a strong show in his stint, keeping the car clean from the typical street course carnage, and not only keeping his position, but pulling away from the rest of the field as he chased Miksha Goikhberg. Twenty-one laps in, after impressively holding his starting position, Kvamme reported to the team his car suffered hard contact from behind. As he pressed on, the team determined the damage was minimal and ordered him to stay on track and keep fighting for position.
As the required minimum drive time was met and pit stops cycled through, Popow pitted in 2nd, giving the No. 8 to van der Zande, and Freiberg took over from Kvamme in 5th. In the No. 8, van der Zande rejoined the field in 4th, but in nine minutes had worked his way up to 2nd position. Lapped traffic hindered van der Zande for many laps, holding him back from perusing the class leader. A caution came out with 30 minutes to go, allowing the 3rd place car of Kyle Marcelli to catch up to van der Zande. As the field went green, the two battled for position, with the Starworks Machine taking 2nd place in class. Freiberg and the No. 88 Popcorn Sutton ORECA FLM0 finished 5th.
Starworks Motorsports currently sits 2nd in the Prototype Challenge class, 8 points behind JDC-Miller Motorsports. The next round of the championship will commence at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, April 29 – May 1. The race will air live, Sunday, May 1 at 6:30PM Pacific on FOX Sports 2.
Second place was a good result for the No. 8 car. They’ll earn good championship points heading into Laguna. The most exciting thing of the day was to see Mark do so well in his first street race. The No. 88 had a problem-filled first day, and rebounded to get some good momentum. It’s nice to see that car finish well.
It’s sweet to come out of here with 2nd place, but it’s not what we wanted. We were aiming for a win, but we struggled with the set up and didn’t perform as well as we expected. We lost a lot of time out there fighting the car and made it work for as much as we could. We held Kyle Marcelli’s car to the end, and had a decent finish. We’re still in the points battle and we’ll keep going. We have a 4th, a 3rd and now a 2nd, so Laguna means we’ll have a first place.
Renger van der Zande
It was a very enjoyable race, and I’m not used to fighting like that all the time. I’m not sure we had the pace to win today, and even the P3 car was a lot quicker. It was a good fight with Kyle Marcelli, and we probably both crossed the line a little bit. In the end, we didn’t go off by touching cars. I enjoyed the fight and I hope he did as well. I think P2 was the best we could have done. Alex drove a fanstastic stint, and was very fast. With so little track time, we rolled the dice on set up and it worked. All in all, P2 is great for points.
That race was a lot of fun. The team did a great job in practice, and a car hit me in qualifying. The team did a great job getting the car together for the race. It was a ton of fun. It was my first real time on the track. That was the most laps I did in any stint. The car came together well at the end, and I’m very happy.
Finishing 5th in our first PC race is a big accomplishment for us. We’ve had a few battles along the way with different mechanical issues popping up during testing and practice, as well as Mark getting hit from behind in qualifying, but everyone worked hard and continued to fight to earn this result. Mark drove a great stint considering how little seat time he has, and I fought through a throttle pedal issue in my stint. I am proud of the result and feel optimistic that we can continue to build on this and have a great year together. I’m ready for Laguna!