Prototype Challenge class ready for Saturday night shootout in Kansas

The Prototype Challenge class will face a new challenge this weekend as they take on a two-segment sprint race format.

Prototype Challenge competitors from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship will be greeted to a new and unique format this weekend at Kansas Speedway, which sees the first-ever standalone round for the spec prototypes and in two-segment sprint race structure.

Ten Oreca FLM09 cars are set to do battle in Saturday’s Kansas Grand Prix, held on the same 2.37-mile oval/road course that was christened by the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series last August.

But instead of a full field of TUDOR Championship competitors, only the PC cars will take center stage, under the lights, for a pair of 45-minute race segments. Additionally, and also for the first time, the PC cars will race alongside the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship entries for their own race, which will result in a combined field of nearly 30 prototypes.

Two-time and defending class champions CORE autosport headline the PC ranks, with Jon Bennett and Colin Braun seeking their third win in four races after big wins at Daytona and Sebring. The Rock Hill, S.C.-based organization will be looking to rebound after a seventh-place finish last time out at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca after an early-race accident.

Starworks Motorsport came out on top in Monterey, with Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis claiming their first victories, exactly one year after beginning their PC program in America.

The Peter Baron-led squad has been reinforced this weekend with the return of Ryan Dalziel, who fills in for Sam Bird in the No. 7 entry alongside Martin Fuentes. Extreme Speed Motorsports, Dalziel’s season-long ride in the Prototype class, is not in action in Kansas due to the single-class format.

The team to watch this weekend, however, could be 8Star Motorsports, following a breakout performance at Monterey for Sean Rayhall. The Silver-rated Rayhall is again joined by Luis Diaz in the Takis-sponsored entry, which led much of the California round.

8Star and Starworks are the only teams that have made trips to the Kansas oval before.

In addition to PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Gunnar Jeannette and Frankie Montecalvo, the new-for-2014 JDC Motorsports entry plus the two-car RSR Racing operation, led by star drivers Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani, the event will see two teams opting for single-driver lineups, thanks to special event rules.

Both David Ostella (Performance Tech Motorsports) and Doug Bielefeld (BAR1 Motorsports) will drive both 45-minute segments solo. IMSA rules state that an amateur Bronze or Silver-rated driver must qualify and complete the first race segment. No driver restrictions, however, are in place for the second, race-deciding segment.

Additionally, due to the short nature of each segments, teams will not be making regularly scheduled pit stops, resulting in a new dynamic never seen before in modern-day IMSA racing.

Practice gets underway Friday afternoon, with qualifying set for the evening. The first 45-minute segment is scheduled to get underway at 5:15 p.m. ET, with the second segment slated for a 11:15 p.m. ET start.