Two podiums on two continents in six days
Six days after his remarkable podium finish at the 6 Hours of Silverstone in England, professional race car driver and entrepreneur, Chapman Ducote, traveled a quarter of the way around the world, across an ocean and a continent, to get back in his race car for the penultimate race in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season. On Saturday, September 17, 2011, Ducote teamed up with his brother, David Ducote, and teammate, Kyle Marcelli, in the Intersport Racing #89 LMPC machine sponsored yet again by Merchant Services LTD for the ModSpace American Le Mans race presented by Patron at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.
“We’ve been really lucky to have the continued support of our main sponsor, Merchant Services LTD, a full scale credit card processor,” Marcelli said. “With branch offices all over the world, MSL understands our desire to expand our racing careers internationally, as they also expand to new markets, and they have been a faithful sponsor of our growing racing program, as well as the international racing programs of other drivers, such as Conor Daly and Pietro Fittipaldi.”
It’s called incredible driving, Buddy!
In the qualifying session, Marcelli set down the fastest lap and easily swept pole position, giving David Ducote the best possible starting position for the first stint of the six hour endurance race. David got away to a great start and fought carefully and quickly through lap traffic. Unfortunately, however, he quickly came to realize just how physical the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is, with its infamous downhill Corkscrew Turn that is widely considered the most challenging single corner of the ALMS season, and he injured his rotator cuff. Although he was in a great amount of pain, David took one for the team. Rather than wasting valuable seconds on a driver change when they didn’t need to re-fuel or change tires, David agreed to stay on track until the Intersport Racing engineers notified him that it was a good time to pit for fuel. David continued to muscle his way through the technical track turns at speed and remarkably posted very competitive lap times until he was called in after his first one hour stint.
Always ready to improvise, Kyle Marcelli jumped behind the wheel to take over David’s second stint, and quickly maneuvered the car from third position back up to first. The competition was so hot on his tail, however, the team didn’t want to sacrifice the lead position with the extra seconds it would take for the driver change, so they kept Marcelli in the car for a grueling three hours straight. By the time he finally came in to pit, Marcelli was almost delirious with exhaustion, but he had remained quick and sharp behind the wheel and was still in first position when he turned into pit lane. Eager to get behind the wheel, Chapman Ducote jumped in for his stint and tore after the two leading LMPCs which had slipped past the #89 while it was in the pits. Chapman got quickly up to speed, but on his second lap back in the car, he was hit through no fault of his own by both the Aston Martin and Dyson LMP1 cars, which left his rear diffuser dragging on the ground. Although the damage to his car was considerable and slowed his performance, the team decided to keep Chapman on track until the car was ready for additional fuel and a new driver, which would shave off some valuable time if all of the work was consolidated into one pit stop.
“It was difficult to stay out on the track with the damage my car had sustained, but in racing you learn a valuable lesson that has a wider application in off-track life: drive what you’ve got,” Chapman said. “It was very frustrating to maintain a reduced speed and muscle through the problems, but sometimes race strategy calls for it.”
Finally given the cue to pit, Chapman traded places with a re-hydrated and rested Marcelli who took over for the final stint, and the pit crew ripped off the #89 car’s rear diffuser with no time left to replace it. Throughout the last hour of the race, Marcelli wrangled the wounded Intersport machine back into third position. And, although sports car Ace and multiple 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, Andy Wallace, had his sights set on the #89 LMPC, Marcelli was able to hold him off and cross the finish line in third, guaranteeing the team a champagne celebration.
“With four other LMPCs nipping at our heels for the last spot on the podium, it was difficult to fend them off with a broken car that had very little down force,” Marcelli said, “But, somehow we managed an eleven second gap at the finish line.”
“Somehow?” Chapman retorted, interrupting the interview. “It’s called incredible driving, Buddy!”
Fighting severally through pain, exhaustion and frustration, the three Intersport drivers earned their spot on the Laguna Seca podium, their victory made sweeter through sacrifice. As for Chapman Ducote and Kyle Marcelli, their hard work, talent and ability to defy jet lag had translated into two podiums on two continents in a staggering six days, a true feat by any standard and a real reason to celebrate, if any was needed.
Up next for Chapman Ducote, on October 1, 2011, is the end-all, be-all, final race of the 2011 American Le Mans Series season – the Fourteenth Annual Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Georgia. Chapman will team up once again with his brother, David Ducote, and Kyle Marcelli in the Intersport #89 LMPC machine, the exact combination of car and drivers that garnered an incredible second place finish at the 2010 running of Petit Le Mans. This year, the 10 hour/1,000 mile endurance classic, which also serves as a round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, has lured in all the big factory teams from Europe: Audi, Peugeot, Porsche, Aston Martin. In fact, the race has attracted so much attention, that the ALMS found itself with too many qualified entries and has had to cut back the field to 55 cars. With this much iron on track, Petit Le Mans promises to be full of drama.