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8Star head to Road America in search of podiums

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Sean Rayhall and Luis Diaz are determined to take victory for 8 Star Motorsports in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship during the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America (8-10 August).

Located midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Road America’s fast, flowing nature will expose any straight-line speed deficiencies, while the tight, twisty infield will require a near-perfect car balance.

The talented pair – Rayhall and Diaz – will look to put memories of what could have been at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway behind them as they reach for the top step of the podium at the Elkhart Lake-based track.

The Florida-based team was leading the PC class when a pit lane penalty put it a lap down in sixth position at the much-lauded circuit. Nevertheless, 8Star’s pace was undeniable and only hinted at what was achievable.

Once again, the race will run for 2h45m on Sunday (10 August) and both drivers will be taking an equal share of the driving duties during their bid to take the top honours.

“I’m very excited about going to Road America this weekend, it has always been one of my favourite tracks and I’ve achieved a lot of success there,” said Diaz. “There’s no doubt we are ready to win a race. Indianapolis was looking great, but unfortunately the pit penalty cost us the victory. But, as always, I know the 8Star Motorsports team will turn up with a fast car right out of the box and I’m looking forward to once again fighting for that win with Sean (Rayhall).”

The 8Star Motorsports team will hope to keep the podium positions coming in the next Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship Powered by Mazda race at Road America (8-10 August).

Having secured its first outright race victory last time out at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last month (12-13 July), 8Star’s Christian Potolicchio and Lamont Harris sit inside the top eight of the championship, and are looking to improve on their standings in the fourth round of the junior sportscar series.

“I am really happy to return to Road America again this year, as we are better prepared and I have a better knowledge of the car,” said Potolicchio. “I am really happy with my new engineer, Yves Touron, we know the track much better and we expect to be in the fastest cars once again.”

Teammate Harris added: “I’m really looking forward to this weekend. This will be my fourth time racing at Road America, which is a track that has a lot of slower to mid-speed corners, which have been my weakness as of late. But I’ve been working on improving that side of my driving technique in the past few weeks, so we should go well round there. Everyone in the team is in a really good place at the moment, which bodes well for this weekend, where I’m hoping I can not only get a podium in the Masters Class, but also outright.”

This weekend’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Continental Tire Road Race Showcase’ at Road of America will be televised live on FOX Sports 1, with qualifying on Saturday at 16:20 EDT and the race Sunday at 18:30 EDT.

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 shooting for victory in Le Mans 24 Hours endurance classic

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8Star Motorsports is primed for the start of the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance classic on the Circuit de la Sarthe (13-15 June).

The Pompano Beach, Florida-based outfit has had a rocky road to Le Mans, having had to overcome its fair share of misfortune in the opening two rounds of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps.

Despite showing great pace during the build-up to the season, the 6 Hours of Silverstone curtain-raiser and the following 6 Hours of Spa were mired by a series of unfortunate issues that culminated in the team’s first retirements in nine races.

In 2012, Venezuelan racing driver and businessman Enzo Potolicchio notably finished second in the 24 Hours of Daytona, before achieving historic wins in the 6 Hours of Sao Paolo, 12 Hours of Sebring and the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours en-route to the FIA WEC LMP2 Drivers’ Championship.

Last month, Frankie Motecalvo was announced as Potolicchio’s replacement in 8Star Motorsports’ Le Mans 24 Hours entry.

The 24-year old from New Jersey joins Paolo Ruberti and Gianluca Roda in 8Star’s striking orange-liveried Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 for the 82nd running of the legendary twice-around-the-clock endurance race and the trio are duly hoping to replicate former successes at Circuit de la Sarthe.

Montecalvo said: “I first raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2012 and I love the Circuit de la Sarthe – it’s one of my favourites – and the event itself is fantastic. I’ve been trying to get back there ever since, as it’s one of the best races you can ever hope to compete in. In fact, it’s like the Super Bowl of motor racing! I think the circuit plays to my strengths because, while it has a bit off everything, it has an abundance of long straights and high-speed corners, like the Porsche Curves, that I really enjoy – you have to really trust the downforce and it’s always exciting carrying a tonne of speed through the turns.

“I’m pretty familiar with the Ferrari 458 Italia, having raced it on numerous occasions over the past few seasons. Ferrari has made a couple of changes and improvements to the car since I last drove one, but I settled back into it and shook off the rust during testing and will be well up to speed for qualifying and the race itself, having been competing in the ‘Prototype Challenge’ class of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship most recently. The fact is, this is anything but a sprint race; there won’t be any banging of wheels and it’s all about keeping pace, staying out of trouble and working out how to get the best outcome towards the end. There’s no doubt we’re shooting for the win, with a great team and driver line-up.”

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 Spotlight: Luis Diaz

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In a true testament to its passion and professionalism, 8Star Motorsports continues to attract world-class driving talent, and Mexico’s Luis Diaz is the latest hotshot to join the team’s ranks in the newly-amalgamated TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Prototype Challenge (LMPC) division.

Diaz had a prolific Karting career before racing extensively in open-wheeled competition and then building solid foundations in America’s highest-profile prototype and sportscar contests.

The 36-year old enjoyed a positive upbringing with his parents among Mexico City’s sprawling suburbs, and discovered his passion for motor racing early through his father’s own long-term enthusiasm for the sport.

“I had a great childhood in Mexico City and it was heavily influenced by the Spanish culture, as my Mum originates from Spain,” said Diaz. “My dad has always been a great supporter and started taking me Karting from a young age. As things started going pretty well, we decided to continue racing full-time.”

Starting Karting in 1989, Luis ‘Chapulin’ Diaz went on to be crowned the National A Karting Champion and take a brace of 100cc titles, before graduating to car racing.

“I had a very successful Karting career and racing came very naturally to me,” said Diaz. “I was always very nervous and never understood how I was able to go so fast! Competing on the American and world stages seemed distant back then, because it was always very tough to make it out of Mexico, where there were very limited opportunities to race. Having said that, I always believed I would reach the highest levels of motorsport.”

He added: “My nickname, ‘El Chapulin’, is something I’ve carried through from the very beginning of my motorsport career in Karting and it comes from ‘El Chapulin Colorado’ – a famous Mexican TV character from the Seventies and Eighties, who was sort of a joke ‘superhero’ who always wore red boots. Because I wore red racing shoes, my Dad started calling me ‘El Chapulin’ and it has stuck with me ever since!”

A season in Formula Reynard in 1996 preceded a Formula Mexico championship win, as well as strong campaigns in International Formula 3, Formula Atlantic and Indy Lights, where he was crowned ‘Rookie of the Year’ and became the series’ first ever Mexican race winner.

However, the results only tell half the story. By all accounts, ‘El Chapulin’ had to make several tough compromises on his rise through the ranks, but says his Indy Lights victory was instrumental in raising his profile and moving him to the fore.

“Entering International Formula 3 and Indy Lights as a young Mexican was very tough because there weren’t many of out of there and support was low, although this pushed me to focus more,” said Diaz. “It’s difficult leaving your country and pursuing a career in international sport, as you spend long periods of time away from your family, your home, culture and food, but I knew these were all necessary compromises and the only way of making it into the big leagues.

“Now I’m proud to be representing Mexico in world motorsport. Mexicans are very nationalistic and to act for your home country is always a special feeling, although it does bring a lot of responsibility too. This is why it was such an honour to become the first ever Mexican race winner and ‘Rookie of the Year’ in Indy Lights. Of course, this also demonstrated what I was capable of and helped put me on the world stage.

Diaz achieved race wins and podium finishes aplenty in single-seaters but, after making two Champ Car starts at his home Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, made an inspired decision to switch to sportscar racing in 2004.

Initially teamed with Jimmy Morales in a Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared Lexus-Riley Daytona Prototype (DP) in the Rolex Sports Car Series, the Mexican earned a place in the team’s number one entry alongside Scott Pruett in 2005.

It proved to be a formidable pairing, as together they accumulated three race wins, eight podium finishes and four pole positions en-route to the runner-up spot in the final DP classification, before repeating the feat again and leading Chip Ganassi Racing to the coveted Teams’ trophy in 2006.

“There weren’t many opportunities to step up into Champ Car (CART) at the time so, when I had the chance to go into sportcar racing with a top team, I had to take it,” said Diaz. “Looking back, it was definitely the right decision to switch from single-seaters to sportscars as I’ve had a lot of success. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The Takis-backed Diaz made his American Le Mans Series (ALMS) debut in Lowe’s Fernandez Racing colours in 2007. He enjoyed a successful three-year stint with the team that culminated with the 2009 LMP2 Drivers’ title for him and team owner Adrian Fernandez, having dominantly won nine of the ten races that season.

But after a stint with Level 5 Motorsport, Diaz has joined Enzo Potolicchio’s flourishing 8Star Motorsports team for the remaining TUDOR Championship sprints, beginning with last month’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (3-4 May).

“Winning the 2009 ALMS title is definitely the highlight of my career,” said Diaz. “It was a dream come true! Adrian (Fernandez) and I had an amazing season and dominated that year, so it was incredible to win the championship and enter the history books with him and his team.

“However, I’m delighted to have joined 8Star Motorsports and I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen. It is without a doubt one of the top teams out there and Enzo (Potolicchio) has done a great job building a highly professional outfit with the very best people and facilities. This is demonstrated by the results it has achieved, including the second place we took at Laguna Seca.”

8Star is renowned for attracting world-class driving talent, including multiple Le Mans winner Allan McNish, 2012 FIA World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff and renowned French racer Stephane Sarrazin, and the team’s vision is to create a lasting legacy by nurturing aspiring racers through a newly-established academy in its IMSA Cooper Tires Prototype Lites programme.

The Enzo Potolicchio-led team has designed a multi-step competition ladder to help prospective endurance racers progress in their careers and its entry in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship provides young hopefuls with an opportunity to hone their skills in entry-level high-downforce machinery, before graduating to the headlining TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Well aware of the challenges that face young drivers wanting to compete in the highest echelons of motorsport, Diaz truly appreciates the importance of creating a solid platform for prospective pro drivers to maximise their potential and has belief in 8Star’s ‘academy’ programme.

“8Star’s ‘stairway of talent’ is great,” said Diaz. “My teammate, Sean Rayhall, is the perfect example of why it’s important for teams to have a programme in place to develop young talent and prove drivers with opportunities to move up the ranks. Having big teams like 8Star supporting the lower categories gives these young racers more experience, improves their competitiveness and gives them a real shot at the big time. Unfortunately, sourcing sponsorship is becoming increasingly difficult and is crucial when finding a drive, but there’s a lot of talent out there that deserves a chance.

“I’m very fortunate to have a fantastic sponsor like Takis behind me. Takis is a big brand and a household name in Mexico, and it’s truly an honour to have them on-board. It’s important to have good sponsors, not only to keep you on track, but more importantly to help us engage the fans and Takis is perfect for this. I hope to reward my sponsors for their support by going on to achieve race wins and grow 8Star’s TUDOR Championship LMPC programme this year, with the aim of coming back and winning the title in 2015.”

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