by John Dagys, sportscar365.com:
With an eye towards the future, 8Star Motorsports will debut its new Prototype Challenge car in next weekend’s Petit Le Mans, which will close out the 15th and final season of the American Le Mans Series.
Team owner Enzo Potolicchio confirmed to Sportscar365 Tuesday that GRAND-AM veteran Ozz Negri and sports car racing rising star Sean Rayhall will drive the Oreca FLM09 in the 1,000-mile/10-hour Road Atlanta endurance race.
The team has opted for a two-driver approach, as Potolicchio, a Silver-graded driver, will be in Japan for the FIA WEC Six Hours of Fuji that weekend. Per PC rules, only one Gold or Platinum driver is allowed in each lineup.
While Negri is no stranger to the sport, 18-year-old Rayhall will be making his ALMS debut following an impressive season in IMSA Prototype Lites. Additionally, Rayhall serves as a driver coach for Potolicchio’s son, Christian, in the development series.
“I’ve known Ozz for a long time,” Enzo Potolicchio said. “He was my coach in 2001 and we needed a fast and safe driver to debut our car, so it was an easy pick. We’re going to give an opportunity to Sean Rayhall, who is an up and coming American driver. He’s really talented and leading the championship in IMSA Lites.
“I think we have a good shot at it. We definitely feel confident that the lineup is good and the car will be competitive.”
Petit Le Mans will mark both Negri and Rayhall’s PC debuts. Both will get their first taste of the spec prototype in pre-event testing at Road Atlanta on Sunday and Monday.
Potolicchio, meanwhile, remains committed to the category for next year, with the possibility of fielding two PC cars in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, depending on how the regulations shake out.
Recent rumors have indicated a possible restrictor change for the 6.2-liter Chevy V8s that could result in a slowdown when compared to the GT Le Mans category, which is expected to remain unchanged.
“We were ready to order the car a couple of weeks ago but based on rumors, we decided to hold off, make the smart decision and wait for the final rules before we invest more in it,” Potolicchio said. “The idea is to run two. We still believe in the Pro-Am formula.
“With the Prototype class being a Pro class, it’s really hard to sell. For the team as a customer program, the only program that makes sense is PC. The budgets are also smaller. We definitely feel good about the PC program going forward. We’ve had a lot of interest from international customers for the endurance championship.”