Birmingham: Matt Plumb race report

Mechanical Woes Dampen Matt Plumb's Barber Outing Unpredictable handling makes for difficult race but Plumb still stays cool in AL heat BIRMINGHAM, Ala., 20 July -- Matt Plumb arrived at Barber Motorsports Park for round 9 of the Grand-Am...

Mechanical Woes Dampen Matt Plumb's Barber Outing
Unpredictable handling makes for difficult race but Plumb still stays cool in AL heat

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., 20 July -- Matt Plumb arrived at Barber Motorsports Park for round 9 of the Grand-Am Rolex Series with high hopes. After a test at the end of June to evaluate a new shock absorber package, the Rum Bum Racing squad fitted them for the Porsche 250 by Bradley Arant as well as remedied a cantankerous differential. Or so, they thought.

Persevering with a severely ill handling car and searing heat, while driving as consistently and smoothly possible, Plumb kept out of trouble as others faltered. At the end of the day, Plumb and the Rum Bum team were rewarded with an 11th place finish. Under the circumstances, it was a better result than should have been expected. Eventually the faulty handling was traced back to defective front shock absorbers.

"This was a challenging weekend to say the least. The heat was tremendous, although I'm happy to say that I wasn't terribly affected by it," Plumb reported. "The car however was another story. Hopefully we will be able to get to the bottom of our technical issues, because once we do, I think we can have a really fast car. If we were able to salvage an 11th place with a car like that, then consistently within the Top-5 is where we are meant to be."

The weekend got off to promising start, albeit, short-lived. During the first practice session, the No. 7 BMW Riley performed well, running the previous shock iteration, while Plumb performed the requisite set-up work to prepare the car for co-driver Gene Sigal to take over the driving chores in the afternoon. With the new shock package now installed, Sigal, driving the second practice session on Friday afternoon, reported that the car was now handling so badly he could hardly hang on.

With the engineers and crew working overnight to find a fix, Plumb once again took over behind the wheel on Saturday morning to assess Sigal's diagnosis. Plumb likewise found the car a challenge to drive and the problem was traced back to the troublesome differential. Doing the best they could under the circumstances during qualifying, the Rum Bum Daytona Prototype would line up 15th on the starting grid.

Come race day, with what they believed to be a repaired differential, Sigal took the start where he immediately found himself piloting an erratically behaving car particularly in the front end. Plumb took over, 40 minutes into the 2 hour and 45 minute contest.

Straight off the bat, his stint got off to a rocky start. During the driver change, his driver I.D. tag alerting the timing and scoring systems as to who is piloting the car was damaged. Losing precious time to repair it, Plumb finally left pit lane with it disconnected, resulting in some short term scoring confusion. It was eventually replaced during the final stop for fuel.

Like Sigal, Plumb found himself behind the wheel of a wayward car. The front end seemed to respond differently, and occasionally indifferently, to any driver input. Massive understeer at one corner was followed by a lurid slide through the next turn.

Post-race, an inspection traced the car's handling woes to a major fault with the new shock absorbers. While the direct cause is still unknown, it was determined the front shocks lacked any rebound. Like a raft over white water rapids, the car's springs would continue to bounce unabated over the bumps, twists and turns of the Barber circuit.

"I'm not thrilled with the result and the car's performance, but I do take some consolation from the fact that there was nothing that Gene or I could have done to improve the situation. I'm confident that the Rum Bum Racing team will get everything well sorted by Montreal and we can be back to fighting for podiums," Plumb added.

The next stop of the Grand-Am Rolex Series trail come on August 1 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.

-credit: mp/sgm

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Gilles Villeneuve , Matt Plumb , Gene Sigal
Teams Rum Bum Racing