While leading the GTD field, the fuel mileage game bit Spencer Pumpelly with just a couple corners remaining.
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 5, 2013) – What was on target to be a perfect race weekend ended in heartbreak for Spencer Pumpelly when his No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi A8 LMS ran out of fuel on the final lap while leading the Monterey Grand Prix presented by Mazda.
The most recent round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was unique in its format. For the first time, all four classes of cars would not race together in a single race. Instead, the GTD and Prototype Challenge cars would compete together in one race, while the Prototype and GTLM cars would race together in a separate race. Even with the split, the GTD/PC race on its own totaled 32 cars, 22 of which were GTD entries.
Pumpelly put his No. 45 Flying Motorsports Audi R8 LMS in a strong position for the race by qualifying the car on pole with a lap of 1:26.695 (92.933 mph), 0.267-second clear of the next fastest time. It was Pumpelly’s first pole in the new TUDOR series.
Co-driver Nelson Canache Jr. started the two-hour race and kept the No. 45 at the front of the GTD field. When a full-course caution was issued 40-minutes into the race, the team brought Canache in for a pit stop and Pumpelly climbed aboard the car.
The race returned to green with an hour and 15 minutes remaining. The race continued without further yellows and the team knew it had to choose between coming in for a splash of fuel or running in fuel conservation mode to the end. Pouring over the data, the team was confident Pumpelly would make it the distance.
“As a driver, conserving fuel is really difficult,” Pumpelly said. “It takes a different approach to driving and it lulls you into a false sense of security because you’re not driving flat out. It makes it harder to pay attention and it changes some of your reference points. It’s challenging, but that’s the job you’re there to do.”
Pumpelly continued to lead the GTD field while trying his hardest to conserve fuel. On the final lap around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course, the Audi’s fuel light illuminated and to the team’s surprise, the car ran out of fuel in Turn 8. As the GTD leaders raced by, Pumpelly coasted down the hill through the final corners and came to a stop in the last turn. As the last GTD car on the lead lap, this put the No. 45 sixth in the final results.
“We had indications from the telemetry that we should have been good to go to the end,” Pumpelly said. “It wasn’t until the end when our sister car ran out of gas before it was supposed to that we thought we could have a similar issue. Sure enough, on the white flag lap we got the low-fuel warning. That should have given us enough to get back to pit lane, but for whatever reason it only made it to the Corkscrew before it sputtered and ran out. The rest of the track is downhill and I thought I could get a little bit of gas wiggled through the fuel line and coast down the hill and then surge to the finish, but I didn’t get anymore engine time out of it at all.
“Nelson drove a brilliant stint that was worthy of spraying champagne at the end of the race,” lamented Pumpelly. “He really was the guy that gave us the position to win this race and I’m disappointed we didn’t get to celebrate his efforts.”
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