There’s talent, there’s preparation, there’s determination…and then there’s that most elusive of all factors – luck.
Team RS1/Legistics would need them all in the final race of the 2016 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in Braselton, Georgia on September 30th. Trailing by 8 points in the championship, the team had to have an absolutely perfect weekend. It was do or die time.
Mathematically the #17 Porsche could still win it all if they came in 1st in the Road Atlanta race – and if the current point leaders in the #25 Mazda finished in 5th place or lower. It was a tall order on both counts, but the RS1/Legistics team had dominated all season long – and they were ready to dance.
Driver Nick Galante headed out for qualifying with the tough task of driving aggressively enough to secure a position towards the front of the pack without risking damage to the car. The crash of another car on the second lap of qualifying meant that all of the cars were only able to complete one flying lap. Nick was able to qualify in 11th position on his single lap, a solid place from which to commence the fight to the season finish.
After a good start in the race, Nick was working his way toward the front when a car veered off the track and into the wall. As the cars formed up for a restart, a collision up front just before the green flag forced Nick to react to avoid the melee. Keeping the car clean and damage free came at the cost of two positions.
Moments later, yet another car spun off and into the wall, resulting in another full course caution. Team RS1/Legistics decided to use the opportunity for a full pit stop – driver change, new tires and a full tank of fuel. The adrenaline-fueled team handled the crucial pit stop perfectly, and “Hot Shoe” Spencer Pumpelly took to the track with a vengeance.
With the #25 Mazda in the lead, Spencer battled his way to 4th position with 50 minutes remaining in the championship race. At 28 minutes, the #17 Porsche was locked in an epic struggle with its chief rival. During a brilliant run down the back straightaway, Spencer dove to the inside and took the lead! Never backing down, the experienced driver widened the gap over the next couple of laps.
Fate steps in
But even a comfortable spot in front wouldn’t be enough to clinch the championship. The #25’s drivers, Steven McAleer and Chad McCumbee, had fought clean and hard all season; currently in second place in the race, they would have to drop to fifth for Team RS1/Legistics to win the season crown. It was an unlikely scenario.
Then, just like that, the seemingly impossible happened. The #25 Mazda began to slow up. Like a scene from a Hollywood movie, little puffs of smoke poured from the obviously wounded racecar. 18 minutes from the finish of the race, the only car that stood between Team RS1/Legistics and the title was forced to retire with a blown engine. The bad luck that had dogged the #17 in the previous two races had just caught up with their main rivals. Having run a gutsy, never-say-die race, Team RS1/Legistics was perfectly positioned to capitalize on the opportunity.
With a clear view to the finish line, Spencer brought home the win, and with it the championship title! It was a stunning finish to a dramatic season – and an enduring testament to the power of perseverance, positive thinking – and collaboration.