The American Starworks team once again led the way for Honda Performance Development Saturday in FIA World Endurance Championship competition, taking the P2 class victory in its HPD ARX-03b at the Six Hours of Sao Paulo in Brazil, after a long mid-race battle with the Morgan Nissan of OAK Racing.
In P1, the contest between private teams once again featured the HPD ARX-03a of the British Strakka Racing organization against a pair of Lola Toyotas fielded by the Swiss Rebellion Racing team, while a second ARX-03a run by JRM Motorsports had its most promising run of the season.
The Starworks HPD started from the pole in the strong, 11-car P2 field after an outstanding performance on Friday by Stephane Sarrazin, but the #35 OAK Racing Morgan produced a formidable challenge, as the teams traded the lead throughout the first four hours. The Oreca Nissan of ADR-Delta Racing also figured during the contest’s opening hour, but then fell off the pace with mechanical issues that resulted in a long pit stop.
Two hours into the race, Ryan Dalziel in the HPD and Alex Brundle in the OAK Morgan put on a thrilling battle for the P2 lead, trading places several times and running side-by-side up the long Sao Paulo front straight for three consecutive laps before Dalziel finally established an advantage.
Once in front, Dalziel and teammates Sarrazin and Enzo Potolicchio extended their lead over the remaining two hours to a three-lap margin at the finish, helped by a mechanical problem with the #35 OAK Morgan and a pair of pit-lane speeding penalties for the sister #24 car. It was the third P2 win of the season for Starworks, on the heels of previous triumphs at the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, and extended its class points lead after five of eight races.
In the “privateer” portion of the P1 contest, late-race contact between the Nick Leventis in the Strakka HPD and the #13 Rebellion Racing Lola of Harald Primat while fighting for second place sent both cars spinning off course. Both resumed, but with Strakka well down in third place.
That set the stage for yet another come-from-behind charge from Strakka as, first Leventis, then Jonny Kane began to close the 40-second gap to the #13 Rebellion car. The margin was halved after the last round of pit stops, and Kane was relentless in his pursuit, finally catching and passing the Lola at the start of the final lap to finish second among the private P1 entries and fifth overall.
Fielding a second HPD ARX-03a, JRM produced its best effort of the season, qualifying strongly and featuring in the early race fight with Rebellion and Strakka, but an off-course excursion and extended pit stop at the two-hour mark dropped JRM to an unrepresentative seventh-place finish.
Having finished its 2012 European and American rounds, the World Endurance Championship now heads to the Bahrain International Circuit on the Arabian Peninsula on Saturday, September 29, for the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
Ryan Dalziel (#44 Starworks HPD ARX-03b) started 1st, finished 1st in P2, 3rd class win of 2012: “I think the Starworks HPD was the car to have this weekend! It’s a great package, but we have great people, too. We turned up here and found that we were competitive straight away – we have an extremely fast and reliable car. Most places seem to come down to tire wear, and we’re extremely conservative on what we do to the car to make sure we can double-stint [the tires] consistently. A lot of other cars seem to be falling off in their second stints and I think we’ve been strong at that all year. Today was definitely won by strategy, hard work, and a well-prepared car.”
Steve Eriksen (Vice President, Honda Performance Development) on Saturday’s WEC race in Brazil: “Another fine effort from Starworks was rewarded with another P2 win, further cementing its reputation as one of the top teams in the series this season, with three wins in five races – including the ‘big two’ at Le Mans and Sebring. We’re pleased to see the points lead extended, and of course, its pole position in qualifying. It was quite an accomplishment for an American team in this quality P2 field. In P1, it was encouraging to see JRM continuing to improve and start the race in such a strong fashion, and Strakka produced yet another thrilling finish. It seems to be becoming a habit for them! Now, it’s on to Bahrain and the races in Japan and China. We’re looking forward to them.”