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.