Spencer Pumpelly has spent most of his sports car racing career paired with other drivers. Even his time in GT World Challenge was partnering with Dane Cameron in a Magnus Racing Audi R8. Now he is getting a good taste of solo racing in Pirelli GT4 America Sprint driving the No. 66 La Salle Solutions Porsche 718 Cayman CS MR for The Racers Group.
While taking a win on the streets of Long Beach certainly helped his enjoyment of the series two weekends in, he says he’s enjoying the solo driving, as well as the raceability of the less-aero-dependent GT4 machinery. After a one-off in the invitational GT4 class at Long Beach last year, he’s looking forward to doing the full season.
“Kevin’s business model has always been to have a two-driver teams and he uses a lot of gentleman drivers,” Pumpelly (pictured) said of how the deal came together with Kevin Buckler’s TRG team. “But the opportunity came with this new car and the support we have from La Salle Solutions and a lot of other really good partners to try to put a pro car together for the Sprint, to complement some of the other things we are doing in SprintX with some other drivers.”
Aside from the win at Long Beach, Pumpelly had a second- and a fourth-place finish at St. Petersburg, putting him into a pretty solid position in the championship as GT4 America heads to its first double-header where both Sprint and SprintX will be featured at Virginia International Raceway.
“It’s an interesting way to start the season because you have two street courses that are unlike anything else we are going to race on. I felt like we just had to survive them and get out of them with a few points. Then we will get into the real season once we get to VIR,” he said.
As anomalous as the street races are, they’ve given Pumpelly, the son of an IMSA racer and a two-time winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a good indicator of what solo-driver sprint racing in sports cars is like.
“For most of my career I’ve been doing races with co-drivers, often with gentleman drivers I am coaching. I’m used to jumping in the car mid-race in who-knows-what position and trying to get the belts on as quickly as I can. And then I’m in an endurance mentality — making sure that I save the car, that I bring it to the end. There is definitely a different feel for a single-drive sprint race. I am enjoying a lot of the aspects of it. I am curious to see how the season shapes up, if the sprint racing aspect of it is really as cut-throat as everyone says or if it’s going to have more of an endurance feel, just over the course of one stint.”
If there’s one thing he’s learned, it’s that even in a 50-minute sprint race, a lot can change with the car. At Long Beach he was able to pull away at the start and after a full-course caution. But toward the end of the race – and partially thanks to some rough luck with traffic – Ian James in the Panoz Avezzano was right on his tail. Afterward he commented that the St. Petersburg races were much the same way – strong at the beginning, but fading toward the end of a run.
“One thing we never struggle with is balance. We have Dave Fullerton engineering it, he gets it pretty close out of the box. We need to work on longevity, we need to work on keeping the grip level up. But for the most part I am pretty happy with our performance,” noted Pumpelly.
It will be an issue they’ll need to have solved as they unload at VIR for a pair of GT4 America Sprint races. The road courses tend to have fewer cautions than the street races, and thus longer runs. TRG and Pumpelly could struggle if the car fades toward the end of a long green-flag period.
GT4 Sprint shares the card with GT4 America SprintX, Blancpain GT World Challenge America and all three classes of TC America. All the races will be streamed live on their respective sites at sro-america.com – and Sunday’s GT3 race will be telecast live on CBS Sports Network.