The American Le Mans Series visited Virginia International Raceway for the first time in history, also making the VIR 240 the final four-hour race of the year with 31 cars on the entry list to 17-turns, and 3.27-miles of track. Emilio DiGuida and Spencer Pumpelly brought The Racers Group (TRG) a solid P5 finish in the No. 66 Venezuela/Avior Airlines/Solar Cargo Porsche 911 GT3 and third in the championship points standings for the season after successfully finishing one of the team’s most challenging races of the season.
DiGuida was the opening driver in this mixed class environment. With the start producing a lot of commotion, the No.66 car took the brunt of rough racing early in the race. After car-to-car contact and related on-track incidents, including a cut tire, loosened body panels, damaged splitter, and a 60-second stop-and-go penalty for questionable fault-contact with a prototype, regaining the two laps lost was a challenge.
Riding the ups and downs of the race would be the flavor of the day, as the team scrambled to ensure the car had as little downtime as possible after two separate race contact incidents.
“I tried my best, but I got contact twice, and it cost us both times,” explained DiGuida. “I didn’t think either was my fault, but it put us in tough position to make up lost time.”
Pumpelly took the wheel at the 32nd lap starting in P7, and more than two laps down from the GTC leaders. As attrition began to take hold of the field, Pumpelly progressed to sixth. With two of the class leaders due to make their required pit stops, Spencer managed to climb into the fifth position after an appropriately timed strategy call to conserve fuel.
“We had a really, really good car coming in, but couldn’t seem to get a break anywhere,” said Pumpelly. “Emilio drove great but he got nailed early and had to come in. We got put in a position where a few things had to happen to get back in the hunt and they didn’t happen. However, all things considering we had a strong finish.”
TRG’s team owner Kevin Buckler noted, “Emilio had some tough luck early. It didn’t look like he did anything wrong, just a few racing incidents where he got caught on the short end. He actually had some really excellent times and we definitely had a good enough car to win, but we never got the break on the track we were looking for to get us back in it.”
While TRG arrived at VIR armed with some of the most impressive wins in modern sports car racing history, hard weekends are part of the sport despite a history of overall success.
“Seasoned drivers know all too well that setbacks are going to happen.” Said Pumpelly. “The idea is to keep our eyes looking in a forward motion, and with Petit Le Mans around the corner, that is exactly what the team and I will do.”
TRG is now in preparation for the infamous 10-hour race otherwise known as Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, which is to take place in mid-October. “We are really looking forward to Petit,” Buckler said. “It’s a chance to really go after a big win in one of the largest endurance races on the planet. It would set a great tone for the off-season. We won there two years ago. We know how to win there. We’ll be ready!”
The next round of the ALMS championship is Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Race coverage is scheduled for live streaming on ESPN3.com; qualifying Friday, October 19, 2012 - 2:25pm EDT, and race coverage Saturday, October 20, 2012 - 11:15am EDT. ESPN2 will rebroadcast the race Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 1:00pm EDT.
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Last Updated (Friday, 21 September 2012 21:07)
Baltimore, MD (September 6): The Racer's Group and the American Le Mans Series hosted a live and silent auction that raised a record $5,300 to benefit the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer at the Baltimore Grand Prix.
The auction consisted of actual racecar parts, driver uniforms, exclusive VIP passes and select Baltimore sports memorabilia. Sixty fans entered bids on one of kind memorabilia making this auction the largest of the season. So far this year the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón has teamed up with seven teams from the series to raise a total of $22,000.
"It's exciting to see the friendly rivalry between the American Le Mans Series teams in building each race's auction for the Austin Hatcher Foundation to be bigger and better than the last," said Scott Atherton, president of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. "The group from TRG can truly be proud of their determination to reach a new high mark for monies raised for an at-track AHF auction. All the effort couldn't be for a better cause. It's great to see our teams join the Series in supporting the families dealing with pediatric cancer and the great work done by the Austin Hatcher Foundation."
"It not only was a great honor to be asked to do the auction at Baltimore, but it was really amazing the way everyone involved stepped up to help break records for this incredible foundation," said Kevin Buckler, TRG team owner. "Jim Osborn and his team did an awesome job, and he has to be proud as the founder of such a great charity. TRG is proud to have played its part, and I want to thank everyone including the local guys with Team Baltimore Racing for their support. And then to pull off a win in the race, well, let's just say the weekend was complete."
"We are extremely grateful to have partnerships like The Racer's Group and the American Le Mans Series," said Jim Osborn, Board Chair of the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer. "It is partnerships like this that allow us to provide services for families dealing with the effects of pediatric cancer."
If you would like to join The Racer's Group and American Le Mans Series and make a contribution to support the Austin Hatcher Foundation, you can text HATCH to 501501 or donate online at www.hatcherfoundation.org/donate/
For more information about the Austin Hatcher Foundation, please visit www.hatcherfoundation.org
, follow them on Twitter @austinhatcherfo or like them on Facebook.
Petaluma, CA (September 3) As one of the more challenging courses in the ALMS series, the Baltimore Grand-Prix took to the streets in its iconic and unforgiving design composed mostly of concrete barriers, incredible bumps and jumps and minimal run-off space. TRG came away victorious in one of the most exciting four-car nose-to-tail finishes this season.
The team took to the event with a powerful two-car assault in what started out as a challenging weekend for the B+ Foundation / Morton's The Steakhouse / Adobe Road Winery No. 68 Porsche GT3 car piloted by Al Carter and Porsche factory driver Patrick Pilet. An incident during practice resulted in Carter taking the green flag from the last position.
A sizable wreck at the start of the race caused mayhem in the first turn, with several cars sustaining heavy damage and Carter was able to slip through the mess unscathed. Once the course returned to green, he was able to clear much of the traffic, successfully gaining several positions. By the fifth green flag lap, Carter climbed to second.
"I went down into turn one, and there were pieces everywhere," explained Carter. "There were little spots and gaps, I made my way between the smoke and got by a couple of cars. Given the nature of this course, I choose my battles carefully--I felt like I was on the freeway at rush hour."
Not only did the challenging track conditions present an exciting race for Carter, but this would be Al's first professional sportscar win.
"It got exciting as the GTC class always is," said Carter. "I didn't go through turn-one very fast, but I was always looking to make up positions driving carefully, yet aggressively."
Carter and Pilet's first place podium spot certainly didn't come to them easily, as Pilet held off a late charge from Leh Keen in Alex Job Racing's No. 22 Porsche, and the top four cars finished within 1.696 seconds. Both drivers in the No. 68 battled the intense heat, and oil covered the windshield in the last 15-minutes, making Pilet's task even more challenging.
"After starting last in the field with no qualifying time from a practice accident, our car was great all day," Pilet said. "Al kept us on the lead lap, and I knew I could compete for the win."
Marc Bunting and Spencer Pumpelly in the Porsche of Towson / Team Baltimore Porsche No. 66 GT3 began the weekend more positively, turning fast laps in practice and making strong setup changes right up to the start of the race. Unfortunately, Bunting was hit from behind in the turn one melee, and was required to make several unscheduled pits stops to rectify the problems.
Bunting re-entered the race nearly a full lap down but turned in an awesome performance, posting some of the fastest laps in class for the opening stint. Turning it over to his co-driver Spencer Pumpelly at the halfway mark, Pumpelly was able to make quick work of the drivers ahead, bringing the No. 66 car back into contention. With a late yellow flag, the end of the race was a nail biter, with the top four cars finishing nose to tail in one of the closest finishes in the history of the GTC class.
"This was really one exciting race in so many ways," stated TRG team owner Kevin Buckler. "The highs and the lows, all of the emotion, the crash, the very hot weather--the whole team really had their hands full this weekend. We had two strong cars and four strong drivers. It was especially a privilege to be back with Marc, Porsche of Towson and Team Baltimore, and a real solid shot at the win. They put together such a great program with all of their local sponsors. I felt so bad that Marc got caught up in that mess in turn one. It was totally not his fault but we fixed the problem and got the car back in contention and Marc just drove the wheels off the car. We took a little extra fuel and we left him out a little longer and when the right opportunity came for the driver change we took it and got back on the lead lap. Spencer pedaled the car right back up to the front as usual, but with four of the best Porsche drivers on the planet running nose to tail right to the end, passing was difficult."
"I was so proud of Al and Patrick--taking the win and in such dramatic fashion," explained Buckler. "What a great first win for Al, and all this to happen at the Baltimore Grand Prix. He drove clean and smart, and even led most of his stint as well. He turned the car over to Patrick in fine shape, and Patrick drove a brilliant final stint and brought home the victory for our team. I want to thank everyone at Team Baltimore and the B+ Foundation as well as our good friends at Morton's The Steakhouse for a great week in Baltimore. I'm very proud of our team this weekend."
The Baltimore Grand Prix is the fourth race that TRG has earned first place points this season, which will keep the team in second place in GTC paints, and unofficially with a 24 point deficit. With only two races to go, TRG is still in the thick of the championship battle.
The next round of the ALMS championship is the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón VIR 240 from Virginia International Raceway. The four hour race is scheduled for 2:30pm ET on Saturday, September 15th with full live coverage starting at 2:15pm ET on ESPN3. The race will be re-braodcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, September 16th at 5pm ET.
For the latest event updates and photos from the TRG pits and paddock, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theracersgroup.com and Twitter at www.twitter.com/theracersgroup.
Petaluma, CA (August 27) - The Baltimore Grand Prix is just around the corner, and TRG will arrive in full force with a four-driver, two-car effort just two weeks after a suspenseful weekend at Road America. Much like last year, the Baltimore event will again feature a classic street course race downtown around the Inner Harbor.
The TRG team lineup starts with Marc Bunting and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 66 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, followed by Al Carter and Patrick Pilet in the No. 68 Porsche supported by the B+ Foundation and SceneTap. Each brings a unique array of talent, having driven with TRG in the past, and will no doubt challenge their teammates as TRG battles against North America's best sports car drivers and teams.
Pumpelly, who sits fourth in the drivers championship, has expressed much enthusiasm as the event approaches. "Marc and I have driving styles that complement the other. Given our track record in previous races, we have a good chance for a podium, but anything can happen at this event."
The 2006 Rolex Grand-Am Series GT co-champion and Bob Akin Award winner, Baltimore native Bunting is no stranger to challenging races. He helped lead the charge that earned TRG the "Triple Crown" Rolex series Championships in 2006 winning the drivers, team and manufacturers championships. He drove with TRG in three races during the 2011 season, including Baltimore and Mosport where he finished second. Earlier this year at the 12 Hours of Sebring, he drove with Pumpelly and Emilio DiGuida, finishing fourth.
Bunting's car, dubbed Team Baltimore Racing, is support by many local companies and charities in the Baltimore area, including Boys Club of America, University of Maryland's Children's Hospital, Goetze Candies and the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor Hotel.
"It's always great to have a hometown crowd behind you," says Bunting. "Last year's inaugural race here in Baltimore was an amazing event. This year, I'm hoping that Spencer and I can add an amazing finish and result."
Carter is making his second American Le Mans Series start at Baltimore with TRG. His first race at Mid Ohio last month yielded an amazing result for Carter and TRG with the 66 car finishing second but being awarded the first place points after the winning car was penalized for not meeting minimum driver time standards. Carter is a two-time Skip Barber Master's champion with nine career wins. He has been a top competitor since 2010 in Grand-Am's Continental Tire Series.
Paired with Carter is French superstar Patrick Pilet. Named a Porsche factory driver in 2008, Pilet is competing in numerous racing series around the world. The endurance driver has captured wins and podiums at the 24 Hours of Daytona, Le Mans, Spa and Dubai and drove earlier this year with TRG at the Rolex 24. Referencing an encouraging track record for both drivers, the possibility for a two-car podium certainly exists.
"I'm excited to run the Baltimore GP with TRG," explains Carter. "They have quality cars and a quality team. In a challenging street circuit like Baltimore, we'll have all the resources we need to make this a successful effort. And I'm really looking forward to diving with Patrick. He is one of Porsche's most talented young drivers. I think we will make a good team."
"This is going to be an awesome event," stated TRG team owner Kevin Buckler. "We were all so impressed with the effort that everyone put forth last year to pull this race off. This year, I know they are even more ready.....and so are we. With this venue and this driver line-up and our all-star crew and team, this is going to be one of the most exciting events we have done all year. We are going there with nothing but winning in our sights and I can't wait to get on the pit box."
The Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 1 on the temporary street circuit in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Full live coverage starts Saturday at 4:15 p.m. on ESPN3. The Series' website offers additional content such as live in-car cameras, and timing and scoring for all users around the world. Viewers outside the U.S. can watch the Baltimore round and all ALMS races live on www.ALMS.com. ABC's re-broadcast begins at noon ET on Sunday Sept. 2.
For the latest event updates and photos from the TRG pits and paddock in Baltimore, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theracersgroup.com and Twitter at www.twitter.com/theracersgroup.