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Promising VIR Weekend Ends in Disappointment for Pumpelly
Posted by: newsla on Aug 26, 2014 - 07:56 PM
Sports Cars
Promising VIR Weekend Ends in Disappointment for Pumpelly


Going into the Oak Tree Grand Prix at VIRginia International Raceway, Spencer Pumpelly was confident that Flying Lizard Motorsports had given him and co-driver Nelson Canache Jr. a car to win. While climbing his way to the front of the GTD field, however, a tire blow out ended Pumpelly’s mission to end his string of bad luck.

 

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Filling in for injured Lizard teammate Seth Neiman, Pumpelly pulled double duty at VIR driving in both the No. 45 and No. 35 Audi R8 LMS. He qualified the No. 45 in fourth, but took on starting duties for the No. 35, which was 11th on the GTD starting grid.

“At the start, I moved up in the field fairly well,” Pumpelly recalled. “Probably around lap 10 I was driving the high-groove around Turn 17, two-wide with one of the factory GTLM Porsches. The trajectory I was going took me out a little wider than normal. I didn’t anticipate it to be a problem, but when I went wide I caught the front edge of the curb and apparently there’s a big pot hole there. That launched the car into the air and sent me off the road spinning into the grass.”

Pumpelly got the car back on track without damage, but with enough grass blocking the radiator to prevent the engine from getting much needed cool air. The team brought the No. 35 in for a pit stop to clean out the front nose and put teammate Dion von Moltke into the car.

Not long after, it was Pumpelly’s turn to hop aboard the No. 45, which started the race with Canache behind the wheel. The No. 45 was running a fuel conservation strategy and Canache had dropped back slightly while attempting to save fuel during his stint.

An ill-timed full-course caution was issued just before the No. 45 was due to pit. This forced the team to pit for emergency service while the pit lane was officially closed or else run out of fuel on track. When the pits did open, the No. 45 returned, this time for a full stop plus driver change to Pumpelly. Once that pit stop was complete, Pumpelly had to bring the car through pit lane one more time, to serve a drive through penalty for the team’s emergency stop. When green flag racing resumed, Pumpelly was 10th, but ready to fight for a win.

“The car felt great and I was able to move pretty far forward,” Pumpelly said. “The BOP [Balance of Performance] had been hurting us the past couple races, but at VIR we were able to get a good run through 17 (the final corner leading onto the front straight). That way, instead of coming onto the straight equally with another GTD car and getting out-motored by the end like we had been, we had more speed coming off the corner and a fighting chance down the straight and into Turn 1.”

Pumpelly used this to his advantage and was up to fifth before disaster struck.

“I was making a pass for fourth on the back straightaway going into the fastest part of the race track when the left rear tire exploded for an unknown reason,” Pumpelly said. “I had to gain control of the car as it went through the grass and was fortunate I didn’t hit the tire wall. By the time I limped it to the pits we were a couple laps down.”

When Pumpelly made it back to pit lane, the team was able to replace all four tires and send him back on his way, but with less than 20 minutes remaining in the race, the No. 45 picked up a vibration that brought it back to the pit box. All the jostling from Pumpelly’s wild ride had damaged an engine mount, which in turn pinched the power steering line. As the car came to a stop, some leaking power steering fluid caught fire. The team quickly extinguished the fire, but the No. 45’s day was done.

“The really tough part is we had a car to win this weekend,” Pumpelly said. “The Flying Lizard guys gave us a fast Audi and the layout of the track helped negate some of the issues we’re having with BOP. Once that tire went away, our race was over and the results don’t reflect what the car was truly capable of. It feels like a missed opportunity for sure.”

A missed opportunity on track was matched with a new opportunity in the PA booth. Pumpelly took to the airwaves of VIR to co-host the two Lamborghini Super Trofeo races with veteran announcer John Fippin.

“It was fun,” Pumpelly smiled. “I’ve always had a great deal of respect for the guys that do that. It’s a very tough job to do and my co-host Fippin was great at adding color to the race and letting the fans know what was going on. I had a great time doing it.”

Next up for Pumpelly is the penultimate round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The Lone Star Le Mans will take place Sept. 18 – 20 and be broadcast on FOX, Sunday, Sept. 21 at a time TBD.

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