Sebring: Team Spencer withdraws from event

Team Spencer Withdraws To Compete Another Day "The bar was raised and we were not ready to reach over it." Dennis Spencer comments on the decision made by Team Spencer Motorsports to withdraw from this weekend's running of the 50th anniversary...

Team Spencer Withdraws To Compete Another Day

"The bar was raised and we were not ready to reach over it."

Dennis Spencer comments on the decision made by Team Spencer Motorsports to withdraw from this weekend's running of the 50th anniversary of the 12 hours of Sebring, sanctioned by the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

Team Spencer purchased a Lola B2K/40 chassis that had been wrecked at the 2000 Rolex 24 Hours event. Dennis Spencer elected to reassemble the car with a Mazda rotary engine. The team fit in repairs and development time in-between a full season of racing that found them competing in both Grand American Road Racing and Historic Sportscar Racing events.

The car, affectionately dubbed the "MAZOLA" was to debut at the Petit Le Mans ALMS event last October. However, the ACO decided that, while the car was eligible to run, it would have to wait until the next event after being approved. That next event was to be Sebring, in 2002.

"After preparing a car that we felt could compete with the Reynard and the Pilbeam chassis that ran in ALMS and Grand Am last season, we intended to race at Sebring. And then the new lighter and faster MG-Lola chassis came on the scene. They did some testing at Road Atlanta and Sebring and clearly demonstrated that they had raised the bar to a point we were not ready to reach.

"We didn't realize how far behind on the development curve we were. Our first thought was to pull the 2-rotor engine out of our new Lola chassis and see if we couldn't find more power. There were other considerations as well, and the cumulative effect is that, overall, we realized that we lacked the caliber of preparedness that the ALMS deserves. We thought we had it all together but the competition showed us that we did not. While that realization was not what we would have preferred to come to, we are comfortable in that understanding.

"We knew we were up against both stiff competition, and the clock. We called upon some talented people to help us find what the team needed but what we found the team needed most was more time.

"We see now that we need to get our team back to the level of performance we ran at the last time we were regular competitors in the ALMS series. That level led us to an overall 8th place finish in the 1999 12 hours at Sebring. At that race, I think we were the highest placed privateer team. Knowing what it takes to be that good, from our knowledge of the car and the engine, to all the other factors that challenge every race team, requires a top-notch effort. We simply aren't there just yet.

"We decided that we should regroup and come back fighting when we were better prepared to be truly competitive. We refuse to be a negative factor, a source of dilution if you will, in a series that demands the level of performance the ALMS demands. We would not have been at our best. I won't let that happen in any of my other businesses and the same goes for the race team.

"With seven other teams waiting for a shot at what is surely the premier event in sportscar racing this season, and with all of them ready to be competitive today, we decided to step aside and let someone else take our place."

The team is planning on continuing the development of the rotary powerplant. It is thought the Mazda-Lola combination could be most effective in shorter races.

"We know that the rotaries run hot and we felt that the changes we would need to make - given our knowledge base today - to run faster at Sebring, would have found us back in the garage before the end of the 12 hours. With a further investment of time in development work, we think we can find the right balance of power and heat dissipation to be competitive in shorter events.

"The bottom line here is simply this, we thought we had a car and engine combination that could be competitive. We learned too late that we aren't there yet.

"It is extremely important to this team, and to me personally, to be in a car that isn't just doing laps and clogging up the racing line. I have too much respect for the other competitors to do that. And I have too much respect for the significance of the Sebring 50th anniversary to use that premier event as a test session.

"We will go back to the dyno, and increase our knowledge base, and find the needed elements to put a competitive "Mazola" on the track in the near future. And when we are on the track, we will be in the race for the podium, not just simply be in the race because we are on the track."

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Series ALMS
Drivers Dennis Spencer