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PUMPELLY: Sebring Debrief

Spencer Pumpelly files Sportscar365 column on CTSC at Sebring…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

Racing has its fair share of ups and downs. That’s no surprise to anyone who follows the sport. However, sometimes you forget just how extreme those ups and downs can be.

Last weekend’s ST race was an example of just how far the pendulum of luck can swing in a very short period of time. Coming off of a win at Daytona in what was Rennsport One’s debut race, and Luis Rodriguez Jr.’s first professional attempt, I think it’s fair to say that we had high hopes for Sebring. Yet cruel twists of mechanical fate intervened leaving us feeling lucky to survive the weekend with our championship hopes intact.

I don’t want to bore anyone with the details. The short version is that our Porsche Cayman developed an engine stumble during the Tuesday test day. Unlike the GTD car I race in the 12-hour, the ST car is limited in the amount of information we can gather from the on-board computers.

However, Justin Bellinzoni and his Rennsport One team are some of the best in the business when it comes to these cars, so they went to work on solving the issues. Unfortunately after doing all the logical things the stumble was still there. We skipped the second practice working on the car.

In qualifying the stumble continued, and Luis didn’t even get a flying lap. Thursday night the crew stayed all night replacing every single part they could find spare ones of between our truck, the paddock, and the greater Florida region.

There was literally nothing that wasn’t checked or replaced but with no more track time it wasn’t clear if we had the issue resolved. Was it internal in the engine? Was it some odd engine computer behavior? What logical thing hadn’t been tried? We all had ideas but at this point parts availability and time meant there was nothing left to do.

On race day we had two goals. The first was to make it to the 45-minute mark so that we earned points. Last place points are more than zero so if we could at least make it that far we were official.

The next goal was to hang around as long as we could and see if attrition could get us higher up the order. We held out a little optimism that the car would run, especially after the Herculean effort that the Rennsport One guys put in the night before but racing is rarely fair and the mysterious gremlin was still there.

Luis Rodriguez Jr. started the race. He was excellent at Daytona but now he had a new task. Drive around in less than ideal conditions, stay out of everyone’s way, and basically get the car to the halfway point. It’s never fun to be in the car that’s way off the pace, but Luis knew he had a job to do and he did it. His attitude during the whole weekend was great.

By the time I had taken the checkered we had moved up to 14th in the ST field. Some of our top competition for the championship had worse luck than we did and finished behind us.

The effort that was put in by our team was worthy of a win but luck swung away from us in that respect. Yet given what could have been had we not made the grid I feel like it swung back in the end. We are still in the title hunt. We will get the car sorted, and we have a stronger team moving forward.

On to Laguna!

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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