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Day of promise at Petit Le Mans comes to bitter end for 8Star Motorsports

Dagys_ 2014_321776What promised to be a day of celebration and elation for 8Star Motorsports ended on a disastrous note, as a potential race victory was cruelly swiped from the team’s grasp at Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda – the final round of the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup on Saturday (4 October).

With only 18 minutes of the ten-hour endurance feature race remaining, Sean Rayhall was leading the Prototype Challenge (PC) battle after a great comeback, when he was rear-ended into the wall.

Thankfully, the Georgia-based 18-year old emerged from the terminally damaged #25 PC machine unscathed after a tense moment of uncertainty, but was evidently frustrated.

After a tough start, Eric Lux gradually eased up towards the frontrunning pace and negotiated some traffic before being spun out ten minutes into the race. Beached on a curb, the New Yorker lost three laps to the leaders, although yellow-flag caution periods, strong speed and consecutive fastest laps allowed Lux and teammates Rayhall and Tom Kimber-Smith to claw their way back into contention.

By the halfway point of the race, 8Star was tantalizingly close to the lead lap and, with Rayhall in the car and just over three hours to run, the Pompano Beach-based team overcame Frankie Montecalvo for the lead.

8Star Motorsports continued to hold the initiative and Rayhall was the one chosen to finish the 2014-running of Petit Le Mans.

Unfortunately, with 18 minutes to go, the young Georgia hotshot was involved in a crash that ended the day for the 8Star Motorsports car and a highly frustrated Rayhall said: “I’m very disappointed with the end result, after a fantastic year for me and the 8Star Motorsports crew. Today we came back from three laps down and the car felt really good but, as we were closing in on the checkered flag, I was hit up the rear, ending our race. I feel really bad for Tom (Kimber-Smith), Eric (Lux) and the guys at 8Star Motorsports, as we had a great race and a great season together. Luckily I was able to walk away from the crash.”

Kimber-Smith added: “It was a very disappointing end to the race after everyone put in so much work during the build-up and having had such a strong car. I think that today’s race was a prime example that we have to look at driving standards. This season has been marred by incidents and it really is not acceptable; in qualifying and the races, there is just no consistency in penalties and I hope changes will be made for 2015. I am totally gutted and want to say a big thank you to Enzo (Potolicchio) and everyone at 8Star Motorsports, as well as Sean (Rayhall) and Eric (Lux).”

Lux continued: “8Star Motorsports gave us a great car and in each session we were able to get more and more time. I didn’t get the best start and, unfortunately, Renger Van der Zande spun me out at Turn 7. I was stuck on the curb and it put us three laps behind the leaders. Everybody in the team did an amazing job to get us back up to the front and Sean (Rayhall) and Tom (Kimber-Smith) did an amazing job, setting incredibly fast laps. We were able to lead a significant amount of the race and, with 18 minutes to go, a Ferrari sent Sean into the wall, ending our race abruptly. Fortunately, Sean is in good condition and we can focus on fixing the car in the off-season. This 8Star Motorsports team did not deserve to end the year in this way, as it had been working hard all season and even fighting for the championship up to the last round.”

8Star Motorsports Team Owner and driver, Enzo Potolicchio, concluded: “This isn’t the best way to finish the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, but we are really happy that Sean (Rayhall) came out fine after that horrible crash. It is a shame we were taken out of the race with 18 minutes to go, as we were cruising to the checkered flag after Eric (Lux), Tom (Kimber-Smith) and Sean brought the car back into the lead. The most important thing to me is that Sean is ok and that the 8Star Motorsports team is a force to be reckoned with in the TUDOR Championship, becoming one of the leading teams for drivers and sponsors.”

For more information on 8Star Motorsports and its racing activities, please visit thewww.8starmotorsports.com website, ‘like’ the team’s Facebook page or follow@8starmotor on Twitter.

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8Star Motorsports third at conclusion of fraught Petit Le Mans qualifying

2014_Petit_LeMans_TUSC_0913 (2)8Star Motorsports qualified third in the Prototype Challenge (PC) classification for the 2014 Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda – the critical final round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup (NAEC) – at Road Atlanta on Friday (3 October).

Briton Tom Kimber-Smith will share driving duties with the Georgia-based Sean Rayhall and New York’s Eric Lux in the ten-hour title decider on Saturday (4 October).

Improvements were made during free practice on Thursday (2 October), with 8Star Motorsports – a contender for the TUDOR Championship Teams’ crown and the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup – consistently frequenting the top three positions.

Rain hit Road Atlanta on Friday morning and, in a move to preserve its car ahead of qualifying, 8Star wisely decided not to partake in the weekend’s final free practice session.

Fortunately, the wet conditions dissipated in time for qualifying and the drivers were able to show their full potential on a dry track. Kimber-Smith was elected to qualify bright orange #25 PC machine, having been the fastest of 8Star’s trio for most of the weekend, and an intense tussle for pole position would rage on until the British ace wound up third with a 1m16.599s, just four tenths shy of the fastest time.

“Qualifying went pretty well for the 8Star Motorsports team,” said Kimber-Smith. “I made a couple of mistakes coming off of Turn 5 that ultimately cost us in the final result, but a third place isn’t bad and I’m very much looking forward to the race, as I believe we will not have these problems tomorrow.”

Lux added: “8Star Motorsports did an outstanding job, improving the car throughout free practice and qualifying. Tom (Kimber-Smith) did a great job to qualifying the car on the second row of the grid and I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s race. I am pleased that the work I have been doing since my last race at Watkins Glen has paid off and I am very optimistic going into tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, in the supporting IMSA-sanctioned Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship, Christian Potolicchio clinched third position in the final standings. The young 8Star Academy scholar finished the opening IMSA Lites encounter on the third step of the winners’ rostrum and recovered from an unfortunate collision to conclude a rain-affected second race in 12th.

8Star Team Owner Enzo Potolicchio, on the other hand, had a troubled outing in race one, but mastered the wet conditions on Friday morning (3 October) to scythe his way from the back of the grid to second place at the finish, delighted that 8Star was able to clinch the runner-up spot in the Teams’ Championship.

“It has been a great season for 8Star Motorsports,” said Enzo Potolicchio. “The team has achieved several podium finishes in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship and I’m delighted to have ended up second in the Teams’ standings with Christian (Potolicchio) third overall in the Drivers’ classification. Of course, we are still in the hunt for the Teams’ and NAEC titles in the TUDOR Championship and I’m really looking forward to achieving this by winning Petit Le Mans. But no matter what happens, I am really proud of the job the 8Star Motorsports team, including Yves Touron and Gary Neal, have done throughout the year.”

For more information on 8Star Motorsports and its racing activities, please visit thewww.8starmotorsports.com website, ‘like’ the team’s Facebook page or follow@8starmotor on Twitter.

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8Star Motorsports gunning for TUDOR Championship glory in Petit Le Mans finale

Dagys_ 2014_313778The leading 8Star Motorsports team heads to Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda (3-4 October), the highly-anticipated final round of the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, with the prospect of winning the Teams’ title and the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (NAEC).

A frontrunner for the duration of the 2014 season, the fates conspired against 8Star during the early part of the year, only for the tenacious Pompano Beach-based team to turn its fortunes around and emerge as the one to beat.

It recently took consecutive Prototype Challenge (PC) race wins at Virginia International Raceway and Circuit of the Americas and, while several championship titles will be decided at Petit Le Mans, 8Star is in the running for the TUDOR Championship Teams’ crown, as well as the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (NAEC).

With the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fuelled by Fresh From Florida and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International behind it, 8Star Motorsports sits on 28 points, ten adrift of its CORE autosport rival, with points scored at the four and eight-hour marks, and the at finish after hour ten at Petit Le Mans.

This comes after the Floridian outfit reinforced its commitment to developing young talent, expanding its flourishing 8Star Academy to open-wheelers with an entry in the 2015 Indy Lights Series Presented by Cooper Tires – the final step on the ‘Road to Indy’.

The Enzo Potolicchio-led team has a long-held passion for nurturing young talent and Sean Rayhall is a product of its already flourishing sportscar program. The 18-year old entered the 8Star fold and won the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship at the foot of its ‘stairway of talent’, before achieving a second place after a superlative drive on his PC debut at Petit Le Mans in 2013.

The Georgia hotshot has continued to notch up additional podium finishes and race wins in 2014. He most recently achieved two consecutive TUDOR Championship victories in 8Star’s PC challenger alongside Mexican Luis Diaz and, with previous form at his home Road Atlanta circuit, is hopeful of continuing that winning trend at Petit Le Mans.

“Coming off the back of two race wins and two pole positions, I’m pretty confident that 8Star Motorsports has a good shot of victory at Petit Le Mans, an event that holds fond memories for me,” said Rayhall. “The team has been working hard to give us drivers a good car all year and I know it will provide us with race-winning machinery again at Road Atlanta. Of course, this being an endurance race, the key will be to go the distance and it’s critical that we stay out of trouble – the race will be won or lost easily, particularly with so many cars on track. This is my home circuit and it has a real hometown feel about it for me, so I’m really excited about the weekend. Petit Le Mans is by far my favourite race and, having achieved second place on my PC debut last year, I have great memories of it.”

Briton Tom Kimber-Smith returns to the cockpit of 8Star’s PC machine for the first time since the Six Hours of The Glen in June and is also anticipating a strong end to the season: “I’m excited to be back driving the PC car with 8Star Motorsports after a few months away. 8Star has been the dominant team in the field and the bad luck we suffered at the beginning of the year appears to be a thing of the past. If we do our jobs as drivers, there’s a good chance of ending the weekend with at least one title. As Sean (Rayhall) and Luis (Diaz) have done such an incredible job of late, there is a little pressure, but I’m just interested to see what the event is like this year as part of the TUDOR Championship. The atmosphere has always been good, the circuit is fun to drive and the weather could throw another variable into the mix, making for an interesting weekend.”

Eric Lux also makes a welcome comeback to 8Star’s driver line-up and says he couldn’t be more excited ahead of the pivotal TUDOR Championship finale: “I could not be more excited to race with 8Star Motorsports at Petit Le Mans! Road Atlanta is a terrific circuit and Petit Le Mans has always been an outstanding event for fans and competitors. I am confident that the team will deliver a car capable of winning and match the effort with top-caliber work from the pits. Tom (Kimber-Smith) and Sean (Rayhall) have been excellent teammates this season. Our objective will be to protect the car and bring it to the front of the pack. I have finished on the podium twice at Petit Le Mans; ending this season with a win would be outstanding for Enzo (Potolichio) and 8Star Motorsports.”

For more information on 8Star Motorsports and its racing activities, please visit thewww.8starmotorsports.com website, ‘like’ the team’s Facebook page or follow@8starmotor on Twitter.

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8Star expands driver development program with Indy Lights commitment

d4445a3e-85ff-4fbc-a588-22a06caf7ab6In an expansion of its newly-established young driver Academy, 8Star Motorsports has committed to an order for the brand new Dallara IL-15 open-wheeler for its 2015 campaign in the modernized, fresh-faced Indy Lights Series Presented by Cooper Tires.

Sanctioned by INDYCAR and operated by Andersen Promotions, Indy Lights is the final stage of the ‘Mazda Road to Indy’ driver development program – a three-phase ladder system that includes the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

The highly acclaimed series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers and therefore ties in with 8Star Motorsports’ ongoing commitment to nurturing young talent through its flourishing ‘8Star Academy’ program.

8Star Motorsports Team Owner and accomplished racer, Enzo Potolicchio, is keen to extend his driver academy by bringing on more young, talented drivers who wish to pursue a career in single-seaters and, buoyed by the success of its sportscar programme in the United States and around the world, the Pompano Beach, Florida-based 8Star operation is already well underway with its preparations for a full-time 2015 campaign in the revamped Indy Lights Series.

The Cooper Tires-backed Indy Lights Series is set to undergo significant changes in 2015, with the advent of the Dallara IL-15 open-wheeler; the new chassis, tire and engine formula has been created to enhance the growth and value of Indy Lights and a top priority for the series is to provide a cost-effective platform for teams, drivers and partners.

Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, said: “I am extremely pleased to have a high-caliber organization such as 8Star Motorsports joining our series. Enzo (Potolicchio) and his team have achieved much success in the sportscar ranks, and we know they will bring a top-level program to Indy Lights.”

8Star Motorsports Team Manager, Gary Neal, said: “8Star has placed an order for our first Indy Lights car. It will be among the first batch of ten cars from Dallara due to be delivered mid-November and the 8Star team will evaluate drivers at the first official Indy Lights test at Sebring in December. 8Star Motorsports’ 2015 plan is to run a two-car Indy Lights program and expand its successful TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge campaign from one to two entries, based on customer interest. Also, under current evaluation is a P2 program. Several parties are working to unite their efforts for a solid attack on the 2015 TUDOR Championship.”

For more information on 8Star Motorsports and its racing activities, please visit thewww.8starmotorsports.com website, ‘like’ the team’s Facebook page or follow@8starmotor on Twitter.