This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Spencer Pumpelly looks back on his 2018 Pirelli World Challenge SprintX campaign with Alegra Motorsports, his previous relationship with the team, and what his future holds in Blancpain GT World Challenge America.
How would you assess the season you and Alegra had last year?
“I thought the Alegra team and car were fantastic. I had worked with those guys a little bit in previous years, mostly behind the scenes on the pit box.
“It was great to get an opportunity to get in the car and drive with them. We started the season off a little slower than we wanted to.
“The first couple of races we made a few strategic errors and I don’t think we had a good handle on the tire, however there was a turning point right before VIR where we finally started to hit on the setup.
“From that point on we went on a string of podiums that carried over to the Sprint races where [co-driver] Michael Christensen was racing without me.
“The team really hit its stride. It seemed like all season we knew we were not the best car on the track as far as BoP goes and it was always an uphill battle to get to the top step of the podium.
“We did it once or twice, but for the most part we were consistent and quick and had good battles with the cars up and down the field.
“It was a great season. I just wish we had a little bit more for the Ferrari.”
How did your relationship working behind the scenes with Alegra in another series help put this deal together and then ease the transition into the cockpit?
“I had known [team owner] Carlos de Quesada as a competitor from early on in my sports car career and some of the other guys on the team.
“I was trying to get in their car for Daytona in 2017 and that fell through, so I offered to help with strategy after having seen it from the race car side for many years.
“They were coming from prototypes so they didn’t have experience with pass arounds or things like that. The next thing you know I was in charge of the strategic operations during that race and we won.
“We built a relationship over the course of the year that any time they needed help strategy-wise I’d jump on the pit box.
“I kept hinting that if there was ever an opportunity to drive I’d love to do it, and that’s how it came together for last season.”
How did you enjoy driving alongside Michael Christensen?
“I had met him in passing and always thought he was a good driver and a nice guy. I knew he was not just fast and good with setup but also that he had nerves of steel. It was exciting to get to work with him.
“Throughout the season he was a great co-driver, great to bounce ideas off of, and wasn’t super egotistically like some guys you find.
“He was just a really good team player who was there to win, there to help the team do well any way he could. He’s one of those guys that if I ever have the chance to work with again, I’d love to do it.”
What was the highlight of the season?
“I think we had a ton of podiums but we really only had one SprintX victory and that was at Lime Rock. That was good because we had a quick car, good drives, good strategy.
“I think we ended up passing the Ferrari on strategy. It was a good team effort.
“The funniest part about that, though, was we were on the podium and they gave us champagne. Michael started taking this big chug and I had to stop him because we had another race in four hours!”
What are your plans for next year in SRO America?
“It hasn’t been announced yet, but I can say I’m extremely excited about it. There’s still a slim chance of getting back into the Alegra car but I’m not sure how that’s going to work.
“I do have something in one of the other classes that I’m really excited about. I can’t wait to announce it. It’s going to bring me back with a team that I’ve worked with in the past so stay tuned for that!”