Dutch racing driver Renger van der Zande continued his standout performance this weekend in Austin, Texas for the penultimate round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. Although the season has been highly competitive, van der Zande and Alex Popow have dominated the Prototype Challenge class, earning their fourth win for the Starworks Motorsports team at Circuit of the Americas.
Located just south of the city limits, Circuit of the Americas is a FIA Grade 1 facility, with a seating capacity of over 120,000. After opening in 2012, the event has hosted the best levels of racing including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The 20 turn track hosts 5.513 kilometers of sweeping elevation changes and two straights, providing strong competition for race fans and participants.
The team started off the race weekend with some difficulty, struggling with brake issues on the No. 8 race car. In the cool temperatures of the final morning session, the team found the right set up, taking a small gamble for the hot race that would follow.
Alex Popow drove the qualifying session, and set a fast lap time to put the car into third for the race start. Popow kept the car in the top three for the remainder of his stint before Renger took over during the second caution of the race. The team made a fast pit stop, allowing Renger to overtake Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 on his out lap. For the next two hours, Renger was able to stay ahead of his main championship contender for two hours as he rocketed towards the front of the field.
The temperature of the track continued to climb as Renger charged forward to pass Bruno Junqueria with ten minutes left. The tires started to degrade as Renger caught James French, who led the most of the race to that point. Renger took the PC lead with two minutes to go, and raced all the way to the checker flag, winning by almost of a full second.
Renger and Alex Popow now lead the championship by ten points with just one race to go. While the team only has to finish sixth at the final event, the ten hour endurance race of Petit Le Mans can be brutal and unforgiving. Renger and the team have performed masterfully all season, and will look to have a suspenseful final race battle for the title.
“It’s great for the championship,” said Renger. “It won’t be easy, but it should be a good one. Congratulations to the team for doing such a great job. The balance of the car was fantastic and our strategy was different, but paid off. It was not easy to run in those conditions, and the tires were degrading fast. They were just melting, and I struggled with pace more than I wanted to. In the end, I was able to catch the leaders and bring home that fourth win for the team.”