The Starworks Motorsport team, featuring van der Zande and Popow, seems to be calling the shots more and more in the Le Mans Prototype class of the American IMSA endurance championship. The driving duo is leading the competition of the title, and they have also been increasingly emphatic in their domination of the track in recent races. This weekend, they took first place in both their own class and overall in the race at Lime Rock.
Lakeville, Connecticut, 24 July 2016
It is a short, two and a half kilometre track north of New York. Lime Rock Park is owned by racing icon Skip Barber. Surrounded by hills and forests, and with a camping site for the motorsports fans, it is a classic American circuit, with a track that encourages a fierce fight. The Dutch International Renger van der Zande feels at home there. Although the American IMSA championship is an endurance competition, Lime Rock is raced like a sprint. A great many works teams disappear behind the crash barriers before a winner is crowned.
The Starworks team started as favourite. It was decided that silver driver Alex Popow would drive the qualification sessions. He started the race in fourth position on the grid and was immediately shunted hard from behind. However, he was able to continue the race missing some of his bodywork. Progress was excellent, and Renger van der Zande eventually took the wheel after more than an hour. He managed to push higher up through the busy field and take the lead from the duo of Alon / Kimber-Smith. In the meantime there was a terrific struggle amongst the GT Le Mans cars, with a massive battle between the Corvette with Oliver Gavin, the FORD GT with Ryan Briscoe and the Ferrari with Giancarlo Fisichella. The Starworks Oreca-Chevrolet driven by van der Zande had to squeeze its way past these battling GTs every eight laps. Passing became more difficult in the closing laps, and this allowed Tom Kimber Smith to close the gap. But Renger van der Zande coolly held the lead and finished in first position overall and also in the LMPC class, ahead of Kimber-Smith and French and Marcelli. More valuable points in the bag for the American Championship, in which van der Zande is now leading by 17 points.
Renger: “team mate Alex performed outstandingly. I took the wheel in P2 and then fell back to P4 because of the change. Racing at Lime Rock is extremely exciting. Because of the shortness of the track we have to wriggle our way through the GT within eight laps. I had quite a lot of body contact with other cars. That is no surprise, but it does make it very spectacular for the spectators. It was a beautiful race and we are now proud to be leading the championship.”
Renger’s next race: 24 hours Spa-Francorchamps for Mercedes AMG on 30 & 31 July