No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 Poised for Top-10 Run at One- Third Distance in Rolex 24 At Daytona; Team Running Ninth After Eight Hours By Avoiding Major Difficulties DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 31, 2010) -- The No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda...
No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 Poised for Top-10 Run at One- Third Distance in Rolex 24 At Daytona; Team Running Ninth After Eight Hours By Avoiding Major Difficulties
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 31, 2010) -- The No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT team of Joe Foster, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Maxwell and Charles Espenlaub are poised for their best-ever run in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Rolex 24 At Daytona with eight hours complete.
With Dempsey at the wheel, the No. 40 Mazda was running in ninth place at the one-third distance in the race. Dempsey was six laps behind the class-leading No. 57 Camaro, and the No. 41 RX-8 was third among the Mazda entries in the field.
Foster started the race from 15th on the GT grid under rainy conditions and the first 20 minutes were run under full-course caution. The No. 40 machine made its first appearance inside the top 10 at the onehour, 38-minute mark, but Foster quickly encountered the first minor problem for the team when he and a Daytona Prototype tangled in Turn 6, sending Foster into a quick spin.
He continued on course and stayed on the lead lap until he pitted to turn the car over to Dempsey after two hours and 30 minutes. Dempsey's first driving stint would prove to be particularly challenging, as the track had finally dried sufficiently to switch from rain to slick tires, but brand-new tires still made the conditions treacherous for his first few laps in the car. He also battled radio problems and spent roughly an hour in the car before giving way to Maxwell.
"We went out on sticker tires, so that was a bit challenging, certainly, until they came up to temperature," Dempsey said. "I'd say the first three laps were extremely difficult in the track conditions. It was very hard to get the power down and have any confidence and any kind of grip at that point. I lost the radio on the fourth lap, so I had no spotter, which was a bit challenging, certainly with the visibility the way it was. My first stint in the 24 it was really challenging. I learned a lot.
"It's a little frustrating. You don't know where you're at as far as your pace is concerned so you're kind of pushing as hard you can and you make mistakes. Then you try to regroup, build your confidence up and just be as consistent as possible. A lot of people were having a hard time, I think, with the tires out there if they're going out on slicks initially until they come up to temperature. There's still a lot of water lying around the track, so you have to be very careful to stay on line. If you get off line, you can lose the car very quickly. We were very fortunate to get through that stint without any major problems."
Maxwell quickly settled into a rhythm during his stint and clicked off competitive lap times as the No. 40 inched its way closer to the top 10. The Canadian racer came onto pit lane just shy of the four-hour mark to hand over the controls to Espenlaub.
"There was really no drama," Maxwell said. "I don't think we've got the quickest car, but it's easy to drive, a lot easier than it was in practice. I think we solved some issues we had. All we can do is really just pound around and stay out of trouble. So far, we've done that. Joe and Patrick had really good stints. (Mine) was an uneventful stint, which is what you want."
Espenlaub -- who came into the race riding the high of a second-place finish in Friday's GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race -- had an extremely productive stint as well. The veteran sports car racer posted the team's fastest lap of the Rolex 24 and returned the No. 40 Mazda to the top 10 before turning the car back to Foster just past the six-hour mark.
"We had a good stint," said Espenlaub. "The conditions are getting better and the track is drying. We've had a couple of minor things break on the car, nothing where we've had to do an extended pit stop, so we're very fortunate there. A lot of teams are having some difficulties. We've had a little bit of adversity and we're going to keep going. Hopefully, we'll be here tomorrow afternoon. Dempsey Racing, we'll keep fighting to the end."
Foster's second run in the car kept the No. 40 team well within contention for a top-10 result. He ran most of his double stint in the neighborhood of positions seven through nine despite the fact that the car was down a bit on horsepower. He handed the controls off to Dempsey at the seven-hour and 40-minute mark.
"We've been reliable, which is good," Foster said. "For some reason, we have a problem with the engine. We're down about six or seven miles an hour in top speed right now, so we're just going around trying to make laps and stay out of the pits at this point. It's kind of a battle or survival. We'll just see what happens."
Should the No. 40 team take home a top-10 result, it would far and away be its best performance in three Rolex 24 appearances. The team's previous best ride was a 22nd-place run last year.
-source: dempsey racing