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Mar 15, 2014 - 04:08 AM
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8Star's Sargeant Marches To Podiums On Prototype Lites Debut At Sebring
Posted by: newsla on Mar 15, 2014 - 04:07 AM
Sports Cars
8Star's Sargeant Marches To Podiums On Prototype Lites Debut At Sebring


8Star Motorsports’ Dalton Sargeant marched to a brace of podium finishes in the opening two rounds of the 2014 Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship Powered by Mazda – the first step on the Florida-based team’s 'stairway of talent' – at Florida’s historic Sebring International Raceway (13-14 March).

 

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The Enzo Potolicchio-led 8Star team is committed and passionate about nurturing young, talented prospective sportcar racers through its involvement in the IMSA-sanctioned Prototype Lites series, which runs in support of the newly-amalgamated TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

All four drivers on 8Star Motorsports’ ‘stairway of talent’ demonstrated their quality and entertained the bumper trackside crowds with some spectacular racing action in both Prototype Lites races on the 3.74mile Sebring circuit, although the stars of the show were perhaps Sargeant and Christian Potolicchio.

In Thursday’s (13 March) first encounter, Sargeant fell from second to fifth place in the early laps, while Potolicchio and Lamont Harris ran on the outskirts of the top ten.

The leading quintet were separated by almost six seconds as the 30-minute race reached its midpoint, when 15-year old Sargeant found an extra gear.

The youngster, who topped the timesheets during pre-season testing at Sebring in February, began by taking fourth place before engaging in an intense battle with Hayden Duerson that raged on to the flag.

Sargeant applied unrelenting pressure until he snatched the final podium spot from his Performance Tech Motorsports rival with a well-timed and supremely-judged move on the final lap.

Potolicchio, meanwhile, drove remarkably to surge from 13th on the grid to a deserved fifth position, also pulling off a sensational passing manoeuvre on the last tour of the Floridian track.

Harris remained in his Venezuelan teammate’s wheel-tracks for the most part but span to tenth in the latter stages, while Daniel Conway stood his ground well in his first ever Prototype Lites encounter until a collision left him disappointed in 18th position.

In echoes of race one, the weekend’s final Prototype Lites clash on Friday (14 March) began with Sargeant being relegated from the front row of the grid to fifth place.

Following two consecutive of Safety Car interventions, Sargeant clawed his way back into contention, positioning his lurid orange machine underneath the rear wing of Craig Duerson and using a superior run out of Turn 17 to sweep past and into second place at the start of lap 16.

The young charger was soon on terms with race leader Mikhail Golkhberg but, despite a valiant effort, had to settle for the first runners-up spot.

Potolicchio made a move as soon as the green flag fell and was up to eighth place as the field commenced lap two, eventually taking the chequered flag in seventh position despite suffering with an ill-handling car.

Conway fought hard to finish on the cusp of the top ten in a highly respectable 12th place, while a spin for Harris caused terminal damage that forced him to retire on the third racing lap.

Dalton Sargeant said: “We had some tough runs throughout the weekend and the second race was particularly difficult. I think I have to learn how to get up to speed quicker and manage fighting off my competitors a bit better, but I’m sure I’ll excel in these respects with more experience and races under my belt. I’m happy with the way everything has panned out and I must say a big thank you to 8Star Motorsports for all its hard work and effort.

“I’m always looking for podium finishes and the competition in Prototype Lites is very tough so it’s great to finish in the top three. However, my chief target is to win races and, ultimately, the championship. Considering this is only my first weekend in the championship, I have high confidence in the team and believe we’ll be quick and a prominent threat everywhere.”

Christian Potolicchio said: “The track conditions were very difficult and slippery to begin with and made driving the car challenging. We’ve learnt a lot in terms of how to set up the car in different areas and we’re continuing to work hard to improve it and make sure we have the best package.

“I really struggled to do fast laps as the car was quite tricky and, while we made some changes between the races, these didn’t correct the issues completely. The objective is to simply score consistent points from now on. This is my second season in the Prototype Lites category so I want to score more than last year and win the championship.”

Daniel Conway said: “I got a 12th, which wasn’t the position we were hoping for – I was looking for a top ten – but my laptimes were really good and suggested I could have broken into the top eight. I took a conservative approach in the first half of the race as I was trying not to risk the car after what happened in race one. But it was maybe too conservative and the the full-course yellows hurt me by reducing the amount of time I had to make passing moves.

“It has definitely been a positive weekend. I made some mistakes yesterday and I suffered from other drivers’ mistakes too, but I have improved over the course of the races.”

Lamont Harris said: “I’ve had a tough couple of days, but Sebring is a tough track. It was fun, though and I’m ready for the rest of the season. 8Star Motorsports is a phenomenal team and the car is in great shape. For a while before my spin in race one, I was doing some good lap times and everything was going in the right direction, but unfortunately bad luck came into play.”

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