Driver hoping for better luck at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Spencer Pumpelly was eager to convert his second-straight TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GTD class pole position into a win on the streets of Detroit, but a late-race accident ended his Chevrolet Sports Car Classic race with only three minutes to the checkered flag.
After a heartbreaking finish in the previous round that saw Pumpelly run out of fuel on the final lap while leading, the team wasted no time placing the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS back at the front of the GTD field. Pumpelly and teammate Nelson Canache Jr. were second quickest in the opening practice session and quickest in the final practice at a street circuit that was brand new to the team.
In qualifying, Pumpelly earned his second GTD pole position in-a-row, putting the No. 45 at the head of the grid with a lap of 1:32.914 (91.052 mph).
Canache took over the reigns for the start of Saturday’s 100-minute race, part of the Detroit Grand Prix weekend in Belle Isle Park. The Venezuelan successfully defended the GTD lead through the race’s first full-course caution with little over an hour remaining in the race. The timing was perfect for the team’s one and only pit stop during which Pumpelly climbed into the Audi.
The No. 45 was narrowly beaten out of pit lane by the No. 63 Ferrari and No. 23 Porsche, putting Pumpelly third for the restart. The green flag racing was short-lived before another full-course caution was issued. It was moments after the second restart that Pumpelly made his way past the No. 23 Porsche and into second with 22 minutes remaining in the race.
As the race clock ticked down, Pumpelly filled the lead Ferrari’s mirrors and made several looks for a pass. One such move in Turn Six cost Pumpelly dearly and the No. 45 slid back to fourth with only five minutes to go. A few turns later, Pumpelly was blindsided by a desperate move from the No. 555 Ferrari, sending the Audi into the wall. The heavy impact ended Pumpelly’s race as the white flag waved from the flag stand.
“It was a really disappointing day,” lamented Pumpelly. “Obviously we had a really fast car that got us the pole. In the closing laps, I had a run on the number 63 in Turn Six, but then he changed lanes and killed my momentum, which dropped me two spots. I regrouped and was focused on making it back to the podium when the number 555 made a pretty over-opportunistic move into Turn One and sent me into the wall. The hit was hard enough that I knew our day was over.
“We could have walked away with podium points today, but instead we came away with 14th-place points and that’s unfortunate, because that’s not what the Flying Lizard guys deserved.”
There was little time to reflect on the Detroit race, because Pumpelly and his Flying Lizard teammate Seth Neiman headed straight for the airport to board a plane bound for Le Mans, France, where the two will take part in the official Le Mans test day on June 1. Pumpelly and Neiman will team with driver Abdulaziz Alfaisal in the No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 in the GTE-AM category for the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 14 – 15. To learn more about the race visit http://www.24h-lemans.com/en.
Upon his return to the states, Pumpelly and the Flying Lizard camp will be determined to finish on top at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International, June 26.