Following the team’s second consecutive championship-winning season in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, RS1 will start the first race of the season on the pole position after Spencer Pumpelly posted the fastest lap in the Grand Sport (GS) qualifying session on Thursday.
Driving the No. 28 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR, Pumpelly’s time of one minute, 55.136 seconds (111.306 mph) bested the previous track record, set last year by Dean Martin in a Ford Mustang, by .618 seconds.
“Big thanks to Daniel Morad,” Pumpelly said. “I got a little tow from him coming across the start-finish, and I followed him all the way through the first half. He had a little issue coming out of the infield, and I thought maybe it would slow me up, but sure enough, he slid right out of my way, so it was a big advantage. The rest of it was just trying to maintain what I gained and we were able to do that. It was a good lap, a good team, a good car and I’m excited for tomorrow.”
The new year marks Pumpelly’s fourth season with RS1, which coincidentally won its first race of Continental Tire Challenge competition – at Daytona – in 2015.
“Right away, I knew the team had some good, solid foundation underneath it,” said Pumpelly, who with Luis Rodriguez, Jr. brought home the victory in 2015. “But any new team is going to have some area where they’re rough around the edges and I think our first year, we fought mechanical reliability. But once we kind of learned the car and figured out what we needed, we were able to come back and win a championship and had a decent season last year as well.
“To move up to GS with the team, having the team just focusing on two cars, I think the team is much more cohesive now. Not that it wasn’t before, but it’s more so. I just feel like we have all the tools that we need, all the people that we need and the atmosphere is great.”
Pumpelly will take the green flag at 1 p.m. ET on Friday with co-driver and defending GS champion Dillon Machavern. The race will be streamed live on IMSA.tv and a delayed broadcast will air on Saturday, February 10th at 8 a.m. ET.
In the TCR class, Kuno Wittmer also picked up where he left off from the 2017 season. After scoring a season-finale, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans victory at the Motul Petit Le Mans in October, Wittmer’s move to the Continental Tire Challenge paddock with Compass Racing has proven to be a good choice, as he posted the fastest lap in the first ever TCR qualifying session.
In the No. 74 Audi RS3 LMS, Wittmer posted a lap time of two minutes, .550 seconds (106.307 mph).
“We were chasing some gremlins yesterday and Compass 360 and Audi Sport, they found it, so thanks to them,” Wittmer said. “The car is good. I think we’re pumped and we’re ready for tomorrow. Now, it’s all about race prep, let’s get the driver changes done and four smooth hours.”
A Quebec native, Wittmer’s transition to Toronto-based Compass 360 signifies a closer connection than most driver-team relationships and his perception of TCR also adds inspiration.
“After leaving BMW Motorsport from GTLM, it was maybe time to find a new venture, maybe something that’s new for the future,” said Wittmer. “I think TCR and the GT4 platform are going to be the future in my opinion, so why not start early? Why not get into it and get to know how everything works?
“Karl (Thomson, Team Principal) and Ray (Lee, Technical Director), we started talking last year, roughly midseason. They were explaining their strategy on what they want to do this year – three cars, the whole thing, so it was very attractive. For me, it was no hesitation. If I leave one camp, it’s to go to another that’s also really competitive and that’s how we all got together. I’m really looking forward to the season.”
Wrapping up the Motul Pole Awards was Devin Jones in the ST class with the fastest lap time of two minutes, 4.217 seconds (103.169 mph). Jones is also entering his first season with BimmerWorld Racing in the No. 81 BMW 328i and joins former RS1 driver Nick Galante in the carby 2016 ST champion.
“Joining BimmerWorld has been awesome,” Jones said. “(Team owner) James Clay and everybody over there, they run such a good organization, they have so much experience with this car – the three series – and they’ve got this thing hooked up. We haven’t had to do much to it, they’ve done so much development with this car. I’ve just kind of come in and it’s been ready to go from the start.
“Tomorrow is a long race. Four hours is a long time, so a lot can happen. We’ll just do our thing and settle in and have Nick get in there. Nick’s been awesome all week and through the Roar, and we’ve all been close in lap times, so it should be a great for us. I’m looking forward to it.”