ALTON, Va. – Spencer Pumpelly and Flying Lizard Motorsports had an American Le Mans Series GTC victory in sight at VIRginia International Raceway on Saturday before a cruel mechanical failure forced a lengthy pit lane repair.

Starting from third on the GTC grid, Pumpelly’s co-driver Nelson Canache Jr. advanced to second place and built a comfortable gap to third before pitting. Quick work by the Flying Lizard crew put Pumpelly back out on track in second with the class leader in his sights. But after just a few laps, something went wrong inside the No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.

#45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: Spencer Pumpelly, Nelson Canache Jr.
#45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: Spencer Pumpelly, Nelson Canache Jr.

Photo by: Richard Sloop

“We came out of the pits right behind the leader,” Pumpelly recalled. “The team did a good job getting us in and out of the pits, narrowing the gap between us and first place. I was running right behind the No. 66 TRG car. I made a couple looks to pass and I had a lot of pressure on him with every intent to take the lead.

The next thing I know, I had an alternator light come up on the dash and then the power steering went and then the engine temperatures started to skyrocket. We figured we threw a belt. I had to bring it back to the pits slowly.”

The diagnosis of a damaged accessory belt turned out to be correct and the crew went to work to replace it. The repair cost Pumpelly four laps, but he returned to the 3.27-mile road course with a vengeance, making up two laps and setting the fastest GTC race lap in the process, a 1:53.834.

Unfortunately, the deficit was too great to overcome in the time remaining and Pumpelly crossed the finish line in seventh despite his valiant efforts.

“We’ve been bitten by the bad luck bug three times now,” Pumpelly said. “It’s a shame because the Flying Lizard guys do such a good job putting together a bullet-proof car. There’s nothing they overlook, ever, but there are still things that are out of our control. This time, it might have been a piece of debris that threw the belt off. That’s just part of racing.”

The seventh-place finish widens the gap to the GTC Championship leaders for Pumpelly and co-driver Canache. The pair is 16 points out of first, while Flying Lizard Motorsports holds a two-point lead in the team championship. There are 24 points on the line for a win in the final race at Petit Le Mans.

“We need luck, and unfortunately, we need our competition to have bad luck, which is not how you want to go into a race. There’s a lot that can happen in 10 hours, but even with a win we’ll need some help.”

The final round of the American Le Mans Series takes place Oct. 17 – 19 at Road Atlanta. Petit Le Mans will go green, Saturday, Oct. 19, at 11:30 a.m. ET with live coverage alternating on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2.

Spencer Pumpelly