VISIT FLORIDA/Dempsey Racing Bids Farewell to the Mazda RX-8 GT this Weekend at Lime Rock
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (September 27, 2012) – Dempsey Racing, and VISIT FLORIDA drivers Joe Foster, Tom Long, Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman, will be among the teams bidding a high-speed farewell to the successful Mazda RX-8 GT race car this weekend in the GRAND-AM Road Racing Championship at Lime Rock Park, September 28 – 29.
The 13th and final round of the 2012 schedule, the weekend’s featured GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race can be seen live on SPEED this Saturday, September 29, at 3 p.m. EDT/12 p.m. EDT.
With Foster, Espenlaub and team owner and lead driver Patrick Dempsey at the wheel, Dempsey Racing made its GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series debut in a Mazda RX-8 GT at 2007’s season-ending race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. The team has raced nothing but RX-8 GTs in the Rolex Series since then, expanded to a two-Mazda operation in 2010, and both the original No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA Mazda RX-8 GT entry and the No. 41 FishingCapital.com/Bass 2 Billfish Mazda RX-8 GT will be in final action this weekend.
Although the Mazda RX-8 GT will remain technically eligible in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competition for the next few seasons, Mazda will focus efforts on its new SKYACTIV-D engine platform, which will be seen in the new GX category in 2013.
“I have been fortunate to drive many different types of Mazdas over the years and the Mazda RX-8 is one of the most exciting, on and off the track,” Espenlaub said. “I definitely hate to see it go but I will always have fond memories of the great times with this car, all of the great people at VISIT FLORIDA and Mazda, and with my Dempsey Racing teammates.”
Espenlaub co-drives the No. 41 this season with Putman but has also made ample starts in the bright yellow and orange ShareALittleSunshine.org No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA Mazda RX-8 GT over the years. The career-best result for that entry was at the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona where Dempsey, Foster and Espenlaub were joined by Tom Long for a third-place GT finish for Mazda and VISIT FLORIDA in the toughest race in the series. Long returns to the No. 40 again this weekend co-driving with Foster.
"It will definitely be an honor to run one of the final races ever for the Mazda RX-8 GT with Dempsey Racing this weekend,” Long said. “I think our VISIT FLORIDA Mazda is certainly one of the most recognizable RX8s out there and will certainly be missed, by me personally as a driver, and by all of the rotary fans out there."
Team owner and lead driver Patrick Dempsey, a native of nearby Maine, made his final appearance in a Mazda RX-8 GT one race ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The popular actor’s busy schedule is forcing him to miss his “home race” this weekend although he joined Foster for a Dempsey Racing-best P2-class finish this past July in the Northeast Grand Prix American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race at Lime Rock.
“It’s amazing to think we've run the Mazda RX-8 GT now for five seasons,” Dempsey said. “It seems like yesterday when we made our first race start in Utah or stood on the podium at Daytona in the VISIT FLORIDA/ShareALittleSunshine No. 40. I've been able to make eight events myself this season for VISIT FLORIDA and Mazda which is among the most I've ever done in a single season, so it has been a good year for me as a driver too. I'm looking forward to next season and we hope to announce our plans soon!"
Foster is Dempsey’s primary co-driver and motorsports business partner.
"Lime Rock is always traffic challenged so I hope that we can avoid some of the bad luck we've had with the prototypes prior in the year,” Foster said. “I admit that Patrick and myself feel a bit melancholy after the five seasons we've spent in the Mazda RX-8 GT but Tom and I will certainly do our best to put on a good show for VISIT FLORIDA."
Although he is wrapping up his first full season in GT and in a Mazda RX-8 GT this weekend, Putman has been a Mazda teammate of Espenlaub’s for years. Avid outdoorsman, Espenlaub and Putman are also proud to race for VISIT FLORIDA and the affiliated Bass 2 Billfish with Peter Miller and FishingCapital.com brands.
“It is likely that this will be the last real frontline battle for the RX-8 Mazda, Putman said. “Having cut my teeth in professional racing in a Mazda touring car, and having driven many Mazdas over the years, I am glad to have had the opportunity to be one of the drivers to experience this special RX-8. I know that many fans and drivers will miss the sound of that tri-rotor motor and the sight of flames out the exhaust on every downshift.”
Final Mazda RX-8 GT race or not, the main mission this weekend at Lime Rock for Dempsey Racing will be the familiar drill of surviving on one the circuit’s tightest tracks and close on a winning note a season that has already seen the team survive some hard knocks.
“Lime Rock is always an action packed venue, and survival is important, but the lap times are so short that you simply have to stay near the front at all times or be in danger of going down a lap with the slightest incident,” Espenlaub said. “I think we have shown that the Bass 2 Billfish Mazda is a solid top-10 finisher when we don’t go down a lap due to contact with the Daytona Prototype traffic. We can’t control some of the crazy things we’ve seen out of the prototype drivers this year and we have to run our race without being afraid of them. All of that said, traffic management is always one of the keys to success at Lime Rock.”
Long and Espenlaub’s co-driver Putman will both be making their GT debuts at Lime Rock but each has a great deal of experience on the Connecticut track.
“This will be my first start at Lime Rock in the Rolex GT car but I have plenty of experience on the track,” Putman said. “Years ago, Charles and I ran Lime Rock multiple times as teammates in the World Challenge Series in a pair of Mazda 6s. Since then, we have raced everything here including the Mazda 3, MX-5, and a number of GRAND-AM GS cars. We have visited the Lime Rock podium a couple of times and would really like to get back there to celebrate this final voyage of the RX-8. I spoke with Charles on the phone earlier this week, and we agreed that we are fired up and ready to go on a charge.”
Long won in GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge competition at Lime Rock last year in the Street Tuner (ST) division and is in the hunt for the class championship this year.
"Lime Rock Park has been an incredible place for me,” Long said. “Not only growing up in the area and watching racing here as a kid but also from the previous successes I've had. From winning the Mazda MX-5 Cup Ladder Championship here in 2005 to winning the GRAND-AM Continental Tire ST race last year. Hopefully we will find similar success this weekend, not only with the VISIT FLORIDA Dempsey Racing Mazda, but also heading into this weekend with the lead to clinch the 2012 ST Championship, also in a Mazda. I am always excited to come back to a 'home track’ like Lime Rock Park.”
A two-day event, the Rolex Series schedule for the GRAND-AM Road Racing Championship weekend begins with practice on Friday. Saturday’s schedule begins with a rare race-day qualifying session that is the only on-track Rolex Series activity before the featured 2-3/4 hour race that starts at 3 p.m. local time.
- Multi-class racing is standard operating procedure in GRAND-AM Road Racing but the short and narrow confines of Lime Rock Park makes it even more challenging. "It’s what we do, but multi-class racing is always tough, especially when you combine it with such a quick, narrow, short track like Lime Rock Park,” Long said. “It'll be paramount to stay clean and out of the way of the Daytona Prototypes, especially since you know they're coming through either way, as they've proven to us several times throughout this season!"
- In addition to Long’s ST victory last year, Espenlaub and Putman – the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge Grand Sport (GS) Champions – have also made it to Lime Rock’s victory lane. “We have had some good runs at Lime Rock,” Espenlaub said. “Charlie and I were on the podium in third in our championship year in GS, so I look forward to another good run. Lime Rock is obviously a different and unique track compared to most on the schedule. Setup is the key and I can't wait to drive the Dempsey Mazda RX-8 with our engineer Kirt Wightman’s special set up, it should be awesome.”
About Dempsey Racing: A fulltime and year-round enterprise, Dempsey Racing (www.dempseyracing.net) is a professional sports car auto racing team based in the greater Atlanta area in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Owned by actor/driver Patrick Dempsey, the team races in support of the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing (www.dempseycenter.org) in Dempsey’s hometown of Lewiston, Maine, and the Team Seattle Guild (www.teamseattle.com) to benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital Heart Center (www.seattlechildrens.org).
About Dempsey Racing’s Partners: Dempsey Racing (www.dempseyracing.net) is an official Mazda (www.mazdausa.com) racing team and has competed exclusively in Mazda RX-8 GTs in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series since 2007. A primary partner for the Mazda program is VISIT FLORIDA (www.VISITFLORIDA.com), the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida, and its www.ShareaLittleSunshine.org and www.FishingCapital.com promotional programs, and the television show Bass 2 Billfish with Peter Miller. Additional Dempsey Racing partners include Trina Solar (www.trinasolar.com), a leading manufacturer of high-quality solar photovoltaic (PV) modules that deliver reliable, environmentally-friendly power to homes and businesses and value to customers, and Specialized Bicycle Components (www.specialized.com), a manufacturer and worldwide supplier of technically advanced bicycles and related components. New partners for 2012 include GNC Beverages (www.drinkGNC.com), built upon the 75 years of nutrition innovation from the leader in sports nutrition, Motegi Racing (www.motegiracing.com), a leading manufacturer of competition and high-performance tuning wheels designed and engineered for performance, Racing Electronics (www.racingelectronics.com), the number one source for professional race communications worldwide, and Silicon Tech Racing (www.silicontechracing.com) which provides high-tech corporations a dedicated marketing platform through sports car road racing focused on technology executives.