Lakeville, CT (July 10, 2011)
Following a highly competitive race that featured everything from off-setting pit strategies to come-from-behind drives, TRG took a commanding first and second place finish in the GT-C category of this year’s Northeast Grand Prix at the famed Lime Rock Park circuit, the third round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.
Coming from nearly a lap down and driving briliantly to take a thrilling victory with only one lap to go, Dion von Moltke managed an overtaking move on Spencer Pumpelly to put the no. 68 South African Airways / Analog.Man / PR Newswire Porsche GT3 Cup car in first, with Pumpelly nursing worn tires to put the no. 66 Fox River Coffee / Racer’s Roast Porsche home in second. This would be the first victory in the ALMS for von Moltke, as well as for teammate Mike Piera, who was also driving in his first ALMS race!
Following some small handling issues for both the 68 and the 66 in qualifying, the race would start out with Piera, who lives just minutes from the track, and Duncan Ende in the 66 taking the green from the middle of the field.
As the opening laps unfolded, Duncan Ende took a commanding charge in the no. 66 machine, passing several cars and putting the 66 in a strong position to lead the race. Piera, meanwhile, made good on a solid ALMS debut by never putting a wheel wrong, driving very smart, preserving his car, handing the car over to Dion during the yellow.
As the race unfolded, Ende would control the race, and hand the leading no. 66 machine over to Pumpelly, who continued to show the strength of the team and car by running quick times while continuing to maintain his tires. Dion von Moltke, meanwhile, was doing an impressive job of running up through the field, and as the final set of pit stops came, the two cars would take opposing strategies.
For Pumpelly in the 66, the team decided to only take fuel during their final pit stop. Having learned in previous races that their Yokohama tires are capable of double-stinting, the team elected to keep their “old tires” on as opposed to losing extra time in the pits to change them. The no. 68 crew, meanwhile, elected to change their tires during final stops. This would cost them valuable time in the pits, however gaining Dion the advantage of fresh rubber.
As the race would unfold, Pumpelly appeared to have the race in hand. Holding a sizeable gap to both the second place no. 54 and third place no. 68. However, as the race would get to the final stages,it was clear for Pumpelly that his tires were starting to fade, however he’d had such a sizeable gap to the field he was able to maintain a reasonable pace while preserving his tires.
A late race caution, however, would change everything.
With the race nearly over, the field would bunch up under caution, which for the no. 66 and 68, would mean Pumpelly would now lose the gap he’d had on the GT-C field, and von Moltke now would now be in striking distance.
When the green flag flew, von Moltke was quickly able to make work of the second place no. 54, and was now hot on the tail of Pumpelly in the no. 66. Pumpelly, an experienced veteran and expert at preserving tires while maintaining race pace, did a masterful job of holding von Moltke off. However, with just over one lap remaining, Dion was able to make good use of the situation and made a perfect dive inside of Spencer that would hand the no. 68 the lead as they raced to the white flag.
When the checkered flag flew, von Moltke and Piera would take their first ever ALMS victories, while Ende and Pumpelly would still walk away with second place points.
For Dion von Moltke, a surprise victory was exactly what he needed to boost his season.
“What an amazing race,” stated von Moltke, driving under the South African flag. “The guys at TRG have given us a great car at every event, and I’m glad we were finally able to showcase it. Mike Piera drove a great opening stint, and we’re lucky that the strategy worked as well as it did, it was just incredible.”
For Spencer Pumpelly, who has been a team leader for the whole ALMS program, there was much to take pride in.
“It was just a great race for everyone at TRG,” stated Pumpelly. “Of course I would have much rather been in first with Duncan, but Dion and all of the guys on the no. 68 did a great job calling the race, and the luck just worked out for them. To have two cars in a position to win just shows the strength and depth of this team, so we’re absolutely thrilled to have pulled it off.”
For TRG Team Owner Kevin Buckler, who was in Monterey during the same weekend at another event, another Lime Rock success is exactly what the team needed.
“To have as many programs as we had across the country this weekend, and to go out and defend our victory last year and to finish with a resounding 1-2 is a great sign of the entire team’s strength and depth,” stated Buckler. “The guys have worked so hard to get all of these programs prepared and ready, a win was deserved. I’m absolutely thrilled to see Dion and Mike take their first victory together. This was Mike’s first race with us and he did a fantastic job and also got a peek of just how TRG operates. Dion and the von Moltke family have worked incredibly hard to get to this point in his career, and it’s great to see him get this win. He drove absolutely brilliantly. To come from behind and pass the drivers he did is no easy feat, and I hope he enjoys this one for a long time. The 66 boys also did an outstanding job. Duncan was absolutely on fire during his opening stint, and to grab the lead and hand it to Spencer like that is a great testament to his ability and one of his best drives. Spencer, as expected, did a fantastic job of maintaining speed, driving smart while nursing his tires, and being a terrific teammate to all.”
The next round of the ALMS will take place in two weeks’ time at the historic Mosport circuit near Toronto, Canada, and will feature live coverage on ESPN2 on Sunday, July 24 at 10PM ET.