Enzo Potolicchio, right, gets a point across to Grand-Am/TUSCC principal Jim France. (LAT photos)
As RACER continues to work its way through the plans of the anticipated TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype paddock, Enzo Potolicchio's expansive 8Star Motorsports team has emerged as one of the current Daytona Prototype entrants whose full plans for 2014 are unconfirmed.
The Venezuelan businessman formed 8Star heading into the 2013 season, competing with Corvettes in Grand-Am's Daytona Prototype category, with a PC car in the ALMS, in IMSA Lites and also in the WEC GTE-Am class with a Ferrari F458 (BELOW).
He told RACER in September that he expected to continue next season with all of those programs, including adding a P2 car to the mix in the TUDOR Championship, but is now re-evaluating those plans.
Potolicchio says the recent news of currency scandals affecting Venezuelan racing drivers has nothing to do with taking a step back, and points to the increased costs associated with the 2014 season as the reason behind 8Star's fluid stance on the size of its presence within TUDOR Championship.
“Our team has nothing to do with what's going on in Venezuela; we have our own sponsors and it's all good for our side, but it's ready hard to make a decision to go DP racing because they are going to need to make changes all next year,” said the Florida-based driver/owner.
“It's hard to budget for that. [IMSA] sent out the proposed rules last week, and we've given our opinions back on them, and even if they take some of the expensive items out, I think they'll have to put them back in next year to keep up with the P2 cars. That's what I'm afraid of. If I go ahead [with DP], and say my budget's two dollars, then find out halfway through the season I need three or four dollars; I just can't have that.”
After tabulating the expected costs to upgrade the performance on his Corvettes, Potolicchio says that if he had his way, the P2 and DP cars would race separately and without mechanical changes in the TUDOR Championship.
“The [Grand-Am] GX class raced with two or three cars,” he said. “There's no reason the couple of P2 cars couldn't do the same. If anyone's concerned about too many classes, the cars are already going to be on the track, so what class they're in doesn't change that.
“I say don't ruin the DP class by trying to make it something different. It has the best racing; way better than the P2 class. The cars are reliable for the power and downforce they have, so I really wish they'd preserve that and let the cars run separately.”
As Potolicchio shares, the start-up expenses of forming a two-car DP program, coupled with his projected 2014 update costs, have made it hard to confirm a multi-car TUDOR Championship program.
“I look at it from a cost viewpoint,” he explained. “I have $2 million invested in two DP cars, plus spares. I bought both of them this year. Most of the spares would be obsolete if I have to start throwing away brakes, uprights, ducting, and all of that to go with carbon brakes. And that's just part of the changes.
“If you put yourself in my position, I just bought two $485,000 cars, now I need to spend about $300,000 more on each with these changes, and each car wasn't complete. It's a million-dollar car when I'm done with all these costs. Everything has been bought new in the past 11 months, so that's a big financial expense I already had.”
Potolicchio expects to make a decision on 8Star's domestic sports car activities in the next week or so.
“I have three options I'm looking at right now,” he added. “The first is I can do like GAINSCO and sit back for a year and do nothing. That's an option; I don't want to spend the year chasing the [Prototype] changes. The second is just to do PC, and the third is to sell a bunch of sponsorship so I can keep doing my original plan with multiple cars [in Prototype]. I don't get any outside funding for my team, so I have to find it myself to do our plans.
“My biggest thought is that I have really good guys on my team. I need to see how much of my original business plan I can still do because it would be hard to keep everybody together if we're just doing a PC car and IMSA Lites. So we're going to sit down next week and decide. Everyone here wants to know what our future will be. I don't want to delay that. Everyone has families to feed and bills to pay. If I can't do the three classes like I want to, I'm going to lose good people and that's not what I want. Next week is a crucial week for us after we see the final rules.”
With big, season-long questions to answer next week, Potolicchio says 8Star will continue to prepare for 2014 as if it was going forward with most of its previous plan.
“We don't know what the program will look like, like I said, but we will go and do the series tests at Sebring and Daytona,” he confirmed. “Right now, we'll show up with an old-spec DP car to try some stuff; we'll have some promotional stuff we'll do on the DP side to see if we can raise some interest from sponsors. We'll run that on one day. We'll also bring the PC car and start testing that the second day, and then we'll see what shakes out.”
Like Potolicchio, Bob Stallings, who owns the aforementioned GAINSCO DP team, is also expected to come to a final conclusion on his 2014 plans next week. It's known the Texas-based entrant has been in negotiations with General Motors on continuing his Corvette DP program, and news on a DP engine and bodywork solution for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates should also come to a head.
The CGRwFS team has used Steve Dinan-built BMW V8s since 2010, and while a move to a different manufacturer could happen, ongoing discussions between the German brand and the team continue to take place.
“We're talking,” a rather succinct Ganassi confirmed on Friday.