Pumpelly and Ludwig Take KONI Challenge GS Victory in Monterey 200 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca MONTEREY, Calif. (May 20, 2007) -- For the first time in the 2007 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season, a car other than the No. 5 Blackforest ...
Pumpelly and Ludwig Take KONI Challenge GS Victory in Monterey 200 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 20, 2007) -- For the first time in the 2007 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season, a car other than the No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang GT claimed the Grand Sport (GS) class victory, as Spencer Pumpelly and Peter Ludwig co-drove the No. 49 Marcus Motorsports Porsche 997 to a hard-fought win in the Monterey 200 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Following a restart with 10 laps remaining in the race, Pumpelly battled his way past Kris Wilson in the No. 25 Fiorano/C-Max Racing Porsche 997 at the top of the famed Laguna Seca "Corkscrew" turn. Contact between Pumpelly and Wilson--which was deemed to be a "racing incident" by Grand-Am officials--dropped Wilson to fourth, behind Pumpelly, Andy Lally in the No. 41 TRG Porsche 997 and Scott Maxwell in the No. 55 Supercuts/Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT.
Lally immediately took up the chase behind Pumpelly and pressured his long-time friend for a short time before Pumpelly pulled out to a comfortable advantage. A full-course caution on Lap 80 brought out when Will Turner spun and crashed the polesitting No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 coming off Turn 11 allowed Pumpelly to cruise the rest of the way to the victory over Lally under caution after 83 completed laps, while Wilson rebounded to finish third.
In post-race technical inspection, however, the top-three finishing cars were all found to have exceeded their RPM limit. All three cars kept their finishing positions, but were stripped of all points. The No. 49 and No. 25 teams were each also fined $1,000, while the No. 41 team was fined $2,000 for also having an illegal ride height.
It was Pumpelly's second career victory in KONI Challenge Series competition and his first since co-driving to the GS win with Lally at Phoenix International Raceway in 2006.
"Andy's a good competitor, a good friend, and throughout the entire race, I wanted to know where he was," Pumpelly said. "Fortunately, we got a yellow at just the right time, and that kind of put us back in the hunt. From there, it was just a matter of getting to Andy, and then trying to get by. Actually, I forgot where I got by him. Of course, I had to be really aggressive."
Competing in his first-ever Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series race, Ludwig started the race from 21st on the 39-car grid and drove the opening stint before turning the car over to Pumpelly. Obviously, Ludwig was thrilled to earn his first victory in his maiden race in the series.
"We are mutual friends, and I was offered a couple of rides--this one and Lime Rock--with Spencer, who was my instructor at Skip Barber," Ludwig said. "For me, I'm happy I finished so well. Obviously, there's no further up you can go. Now, I'm just hoping next week at Lime Rock is just as good."
The second-place performance for Lally and his No. 41 co-driver Ted Ballou capped an outstanding weekend for the TRG team at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which is based in nearby Petaluma, Calif. Lally and RJ Valentine led a 1-2 sweep for TRG in Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve GT class U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express, giving Lally two podium results on the weekend. Lally led seven laps after running as far back as 26th at one point in the race.
"It was nice to give the home state a good showing," Lally said. "Ted was running laps faster than what we qualified, and he moved up about six or seven spots from his starting position in the first half hour. I was pretty psyched because I knew the car was pretty good and Ted was on a roll and didn't put a wheel wrong. It was good for us to finally get on the podium. We got that monkey off our back, so we'll just keep it up, see what we can do in the points, and just try to keep winning races."
Ballou, who hails from Corona del Mar, Calif. and is in his first full season of KONI Challenge Series competition in the No. 41 Porsche, started 12th and drove the first stint before handing over the controls to Lally. It was the best KONI Challenge Series result of the season for Ballou and Lally, eclipsing a previous best run of fifth at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"There was a lot of tough driving out there today," Ballou said. "It was exciting, no doubt. We got to follow a few people in the dirt at times, and it was overall exciting at the beginning of the race."
Wilson fought past Maxwell in Turn 11 on Lap 83--just ahead of Turner's crash--to take the final spot on the podium for himself and co-driver Dave Riddle. Wilson led 25 laps during his stint and brought home the team's best run of the season and their third consecutive top-seven result.
"Spencer was coming, there's no doubt about it," said Wilson of his late battle with Pumpelly. "He was chipping away at us. He had a run on me coming out of (Turn) 6 going up to The Corkscrew and I thought I closed the door, but it must have been a little bit open because he found a spot right down on the inside in the dirt. It made it entertaining."
"I had a few good battles going on," Riddle said. "I just tried to keep clean. My job has always been to stay consistent and hand the car over to Kris. That's really what my goal was. I raced as hard as I could without crashing the car. I got into a few incidents and had some contact in The Corkscrew, but fortunately we got it done and I handed the car over to Kris. That's always been our goal. If I can give him the car, he can go to the front. That's what we try and do."
Maxwell brought the No. 55 Supercuts Mustang home in fourth place to give co-driver Joe Foster--who started third--the lead in the GS driver standings. It was the fourth consecutive top-10 result and third top-four result in four races this season for Foster. After four of 12 races, Foster leads No. 5 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools driver Tom Nastasi--who finished 16th in the Monterey 200 with co-driver David Empringham--by eight points, 113-105.
Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal completed the top five in the No. 09 Fresh From Florida/Automatic Racing BMW M3. It was the third top-five result in four races for the No. 09 teammates and moved them to a third-place tie in the point standings behind Foster and Nastasi.
Turner's crash spoiled the day for the No. 97 team, although Turner was not injured in the incident. His co-driver, Don Salama, started the race from the pole position and led a race-high 40 laps before handing the car over to Turner. The teammates were credited with 26th in the final rundown.