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Mar 15, 2014 - 06:59 AM
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2014 USCR (Sebring 12): Front Row Start Underlines 8star's 12 Hours Of Sebring Victory Credentials
Posted by: newsla on Mar 15, 2014 - 06:54 AM
2014 USCR (Sebring 12): Front Row Start Underlines 8star's 12 Hours Of Sebring Victory Credentials

8Star Motorsports will start the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Fuelled by Fresh from Florida from the front row of the LMPC grid following a gutsy and determined qualifying performance from Tom Kimber-Smith (14 March).


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Bright and breezy conditions greeted the TUDOR Championship runners for free practice and qualifying on Thursday and Friday.

The Pompano Beach-based outfit was feeling positive going into Friday’s qualifying session having previously achieved spectacular results in the form of podium finishes in the IMSA-sanctioned Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship.

Stellar drives from 15-year old Dalton Sargeant added yet more silverware to the team's rapidly expanding trophy cabinet in what has been a frustrating weekend, mired by the realisation that the setup it had honed during a productive test in February was no longer adequate for the ever-evolving Sebring circuit.

Sean Rayhall started Thursday’s first practice session and quickly settled into a rhythm with the striking fluorescent orange #25 machine.

The reigning Prototype Lites Champion went on to record a 1m57.794s on his fifth flying lap shortly before handing the reins to Michael Marsal, who lapped in the 2m01s bracket and ended the hour-long session sixth in LMPC.

Eric Lux took his turn during the opening stint of FP2 but the red flags flew and stymied his progress when Bruce Hamilton in the #87 LMPC machine had a heavy collision with the barriers.

Rapid work by the diligent Sebring marshals meant the session resumed quickly. Lux eventually began ascending up the timesheets, firstly recording a 2m01.041s to go sixth in LMPC.

Kimber-Smith got behind the wheel for the final 20 minutes of daylight practice on Thursday afternoon, but his progress was thwarted by a second red-flag stoppage.

A late glory run from the Briton saw him improve to a 2m00.363s, which reinforced 8Star’s sixth place as the session came to a halt for a third and final time in the dying minutes.

Kimber-Smith picked up the baton again in Friday’s first practice session and recorded a 1m57.888s to go second fastest in class before passing control over to Lux.

Everybody pushed the envelope in terms of performance and track limits and there were countless lurid slides from both prototype and GT challengers throughout the 60-minute session as a result.

The times tumbled dramatically in the latter stages and Marsal closed practice for 8Star, unable to make an impression on the top of the LMPC ranks due to excessive traffic, as well as a baffling mix of both under and oversteer.

It was left to Kimber-Smith to qualify 8Star’s ORECA FLM09 prototype and the Englishman did a stellar job to propel the car to second in class with a time of 1m55.599s, despite wrestling with a less than optimal setup.

Tom Kimber-Smith said: “We tested here a couple of weeks ago and found that we had a fairly decent setup, but we’ve returned and that has gone out of the window. That’s quite normal for this event so the team tried not to make many changes because the circuit does evolve over the course of the weekend and we expected the track to come to us, based on previous experiences. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened this year and we have a lot of push understeer in the car, although the times are looking good and we’re in the mix, which suggests that everybody else is in the same boat.

“As a team, 8Star has a very good chance of achieving the LMPC class victory as the time gap between all of our drivers is probably better than our rivals. We have to go into the race aiming to stay out of trouble and that’s going to be very hard given that there’s such a large field of drivers who all have varying driving standards. Ultimately it’s going to boil down to the last couple of hours and absolutely anything can happen. The team did a great job at Daytona and we didn’t have the greatest build-up, therefore I believe we’ll have a good event here at Sebring.”

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