Dempsey Racing Leads Mazda RX-8 GT Send-Off with Season-Best Fourth-Place Finish at Lime Rock Park
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (September 30, 2012) – Dempsey Racing stepped up to lead Mazda’s official finale with the Mazda RX-8 GT in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competition Saturday in 2012’s season-ending race at Lime Rock Park where Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman were the highest placing RX-8 GT with a fourth-place finish in the FishingCapital.com/Bass 2 B Billfish No. 41 and Joe Foster was the only driver to lead the race in a Mazda in the VISIT FLORIDA No. 40 RX-8 GT he shared with Tom Long.
The fourth-place showing for the No. 41 Bass 2 Billfish Mazda was the best finish of the year for Dempsey Racing in a challenging 2012 season while the seven laps Foster had the No. 40 up front was the team’s first multiple-lap lead in a race since the No. 41’s eight laps at the point at Detroit in June.
“Mixed emotions, obviously, sad that is the last race for the RX-8 GT, but glad that we could leave on a high note,” Espenlaub said. “The guys at Dempsey Racing did a fantastic job with that Mazda RX-8, we were very limited on test and tune day here with the Friday rain, but we hit the setup really well and had a great race car. Good pit stops and race strategy too and the results show it.”
The No. 40 VISIT FLORIDA team also put together its best race since just missing a shot at victory in March’s GRAND Prix of Miami where Long led four laps, the only other time this year the ShareALittleSunshine.org Mazda led. Saturday’s effort was also by far the team’s best run in the loaner “Yellow Dragon” Mazda that has been used the last three races after the primary No. 40 RX-8 GT was damaged at Watkins Glen.
“It was the last run for the 40 as well today,” Foster said. “We are grateful to Yellow Dragon Motorsports for loaning us their car for the last few races, and for Mazda for working that all out. We finished the season on a high note, led laps using strategy with that car, it wasn’t superfast, but we led laps and stayed in the top three for a while. Tom later got hit, but we kept on a reasonable pace after that and brought it home.”
Long rebounded from the contact incident to cross the line in ninth place, giving Dempsey Racing its second double top-10 finish of the year to go along with last month’s results in the Montreal 200.
Starting driver Putman kept the No. 41 on lead lap contention throughout his solid opening stint. Espenlaub took over near the end of the race’s first hour and ran in the top three for the majority of the second half of the race.
“We wanted to take the RX-8 out with a podium, we didn’t quite squeak that out, but fourth is our best finish of the year,” Putman said. “Just to have survived a wild melee down in Turn 5 earlier, when two cars sandwiched me at high speed, I felt like if we got out of that, I am happy with the day. It was relatively our cleanest race of the year; we survived that ordeal and didn’t have any prototypes crashing into us severely, only lightly, so we will take that. It was a good race all the way around, we were pretty fortunate in a few places, and the strategy calls were just spot on.”
Foster, Espenlaub and team owner and lead driver Patrick Dempsey, who was not competing at Lime Rock this weekend, made their GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series debut with Dempsey Racing’s original No. 40 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 with the addition of the No. 41.
“Great result for the 41,” said Foster, Dempsey’s co-driver and motorsports business partner. “It was the best result of the season for the Bass 2 Billfish car with Charlie and Charles, they ran as high as third for quite a while, and ended up finishing fourth. It’s a fitting send off for the RX-8 GT, particularly this 41 car that gave us our first win, the car has had such a great history with Dane (Cameron) and James (Gué) and Leh (Keen), and other great drivers like Charlie and Charles and Ian James.”
Dempsey Racing’s only GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT victory came with then team drivers Gué and Keen at the wheel of the No. 41 Mazda RX-8 GT in the 2010 Watkins Glen NASCAR short course race.
Although the Mazda RX-8 GT remains 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 in the new GX category in 2013.
- Longtime Mazda driver Espenlaub may be one of the few drivers with experience in each generation of the rotary-powered RX-8 in GRAND-AM Road Racing. He drove RX-8s when they were a championship winning force the last decade in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge ST (Street Tuner) class and also raced the original SpeedSource built GT entry. The later generation GT RX-8s used chassis built by Riley Technologies. “All the same genetic code but obviously quite different beasts,” Espenlaub said.
- Putman was a little reflective at the end of his first full season in GT, and about the end of the run for the Mazda RX-8 GT. “It is always sad at the end of the year to be saying bye to the crew and everything but these guys are all pros who have been around since I started racing,” Putman said. “I have been around them my whole racing career, and am I sure it is not the end of it, just the end of a season. It’s always sad a little, particularly when you see a car going away like this.”
- In addition to being a top-level sports car driver, avid outdoorsman and successful businessman, Putman is also an accomplished musician who has joined with some of his friends in putting his vocal and instrumental talents to work for a worthy cause. Putman has just released “Right on Track,” which is a mixed genre of country, rock and rockabilly, with about half the songs themed after racing. “All proceeds from the sales go to Camp Boggy Creek for the kids,” Putman said. “These are songs that I wrote, perform the vocals on, and most of the guitar, and we had some other extremely talented musicians help on the rest of it.” Right on Track” is available now on iTunes and can be ordered as both a CD and downloadable CD at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/charlieputman.
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.