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PUMPELLY: Petit Le Mans Debrief

Spencer Pumpelly files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

After a season filled with disappointments and, ‘what ifs,’ last weekend’s Petit LeMans was our final chance to come home with a result we felt we were capable of. It was also my home race, a rare chance to hit the familiar track and sleep in my own bed all at the same time.

For me Petit is a big one. The track is one of my favorites. It’s fast, flowing, and features a lot of elevation change. The fast blind corners reward courage not patience, a welcome change from some previous stops on the IMSA schedule.

It’s also a race I have had success in. I have been lucky enough to win two of the last three races there and sit on the front row both times.

It’s a race where my family and friends can finally get to come and enjoy the same sights and sounds I get to experience all season long. My kids can finally see what it is I’m doing all those weekends I’m gone.

It’s great sharing my love of the sport with those I’m closest to.

It was a race that could have redeemed an entire season of bad luck for a group of guys who faced a steep learning curve yet never gave up an ounce of effort to put us in the best position to win. Would it be our day come Saturday?

Every weekend I take the opportunity to jog the track during the official track walk. Road Atlanta has always had decent grip in the past but right away I noticed some pitting in the surface that I hadn’t seen in years past.

We struggled mightily in our Rennsport One Cayman during the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, as did seemingly the entire field. It was clear that the track had lost a little of the bit it had last year and that’s bad news for us. We have struggled on low grip surfaces in the past.

Once GTD practice started it was clear our Lamborghini was not happy on the worn surface. We made several changes that didn’t seem to have the desired effect. Pace-wise, we were in the hunt but not quite at the top of the charts.

On Friday the plan was for me to qualify. The only small issue was the Continental Tire Challenge race, which checkered 35 minutes before the GTD qualifying session went green.

That means that it could be under 30 minutes from when I pull the car into pit lane. Plus, there was the small mater of me being in contention to win my first title in 20 years of professional racing.

As it turns out we were able to clinch the title with a win on Friday. All I wanted to do after getting out of the car was to celebrate with the Rennsport One guys and my friends and family who were there, but I had to go qualify the GTD car right away.

Luckily for me I drive for a really cool team owner in Robby Benton and I have a great co-driver in Corey Lewis.

As soon as I crossed the line to take the win Robby, knowing that winning the title was a huge deal, put a plan in place to have Corey qualify the car. Corey ran from his Conti ride to jump right into the GTD Lambo and did an incredible job putting the car 7th on the grid. He was only one tenth off of P4!

Now it was Corey who was tasked with starting duties. In his opening stint he was on form running in the lead pack of GTD cars until the first pit stop.

It was a lap or two after that stop when we started seeing some odd alarms on the dash and on telemetry.

Sure enough, we were forced to the garage to address an issue and that was it for our hopes of a podium.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. We had a fantastic team with a great car and wonderful support form our partners like Lamborghini, Continental, Monster, Orion, Lamborghini Carolinas, and hundreds of others but the luck never fell our way and we were left without so much as even a podium.

We led a lot of laps, we got a pole and a few fast laps, but never a trophy.

Sometimes racing isn’t fair to those who give their heart and soul but I always come back the the words of wisdom I got from my dad that I shared with you in my first column here last year.

“Sometimes racing gives you something, but it never owes you anything.”

Spencer Pumpelly (@SpencerPumpelly) is one of America's leading GT racers, driving for Change Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Rennsport One in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

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