Oct 04 2014

Dempsey Racing Closes out 2014 with Season-Best Second at Petit Le Mans

BRASELTON, Georgia (October 4, 2014) – Madison and Snow and Jan Heylen made their third visit to victory lane in the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Saturday at Petit Le Mans where the Dempsey Racing duo drove the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT America to a season-best second-place finish in the ultra-competitive GT-Daytona (GTD) class.

Snow and Heylen both led at various times in the 10-hour endurance race and crossed the finish line as the highest placing Porsche in the season-ending race.

“It was a good race,” Snow said. “Jan and I did it with just us two drivers. I did a single stint at the beginning, and then a double for the end before I handed it back over to Jan. We didn't quite have the pace at the end but we managed to get the car back on track and we ended up second, I’m happy with that.”

The No. 58 was also the top Porsche in qualifying after Heylen turned the second-fastest lap in Friday’s time trials. Snow was tabbed to start the race and stayed in the lead pack from the drop of the green flag, maintaining a solid pace tempered by patience that kept him clear of trouble throughout the race-opening run.

Heylen took over during a yellow around the race’s one-hour mark and the Belgian soon led for the first time as his opening series of stints pressed on. Despite a seemingly endless series of yellows, Heylen maintained his focus throughout the first half of the race, leading for a large portion, and handing the Porsche back to Snow past the halfway point.

Snow stepped up to lead the race and later joined Heylen and the team in dodging a wheel issue that could have ended any chance at victory with just over three hours to go. During a routine pit stop for fuel and tires, and the team encountered an issue with the right rear tire that needed a second stop to fix.

The team lost ground to the leaders for the first time in the race but, with Heylen back in the car for the race’s closing hours, all focus shifted to getting back to the front. Great pit-side strategy calls and stops and Heylen’s on-track pace combined to get the No. 58 back up to fourth with just minutes remaining in the race.

A final yellow flag made for what amounted to a five-minute dash to the finish and Heylen made the most of it. He passed Andy Lally’s Porsche in traffic and then moved up to second when another Porsche crashed on the final race lap.

“I’m really happy for the team, this is definitely what we deserved, and some breaks finally went our way there at the end” Heylen said. “It’s nice to finish on the podium, especially for the last race of the year, it’s a great feeling and gives us a lot of momentum as we look to the future.”

The No. 58 team’s other podium finishes were thirds at Road America and the season-opening Rolex 24. The Daytona podium was earned with Wright Motorsports that later entered into a collaboration with Dempsey Racing that debuted at the Detroit Grand Prix in June.

That paired the No 58 up in a two-car team for the balance of the season with the No. 27 Porsche 911 GT America of team owner and driver Patrick Dempsey and his co-driver Andrew Davis. That duo came to Petit having earned a season-best third-place finish of their own two races prior at Virginia International Raceway.

With familiar team driver Joe Foster joining Dempsey and Davis at Petit – the same trio finished fourth together earlier this year in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen – prospects were high for a repeat podium for the No. 27 in the Road Atlanta finale.

Davis qualified a solid seventh and ran in the lead pack throughout his race-opening stint before handing off to Foster. All was going to plan, and just as the race seemed to be settling down, Foster got caught up in a multi-car incident when a Prototype competitor took out another GTD car. Both spun and blocked the exit of Turn 1 just as Foster came on the scene. He made light contact with the Prototype but it was just enough to damage the No. 27’s radiator.

Foster made it back to the pits where the Dempsey Racing crew quickly changed the radiator. The third driver in the team’s rotation, Dempsey took the wheel but some apparent residual engine damage from the radiator being torn off proved too much for the Porsche. The No. 27 was retired and classified 18th in the final finishing order.

“Bitterly disappointed obviously,” Davis said. “The guys got us back out there quickly after the contact, but whatever happened out there caused the motor to expire on us. This is a crazy track and race so it doesn't surprise me. More and more cars have issues because the Prototypes take chances they shouldn't, which ruined our race and some others. I just hate this for Patrick - he never even had a chance to race - and Joe and myself and the crew guys. It’s just a really tough deal when it doesn't work out the way you want.”

Despite the disappointing and early end at Petit, Foster saw some positives in the 2014 season.

“Our season had moments of brilliance,” Foster said. “It was really great to see Patrick and Andrew on the podium at VIR. We really found our stride after Laguna, where we made some technical changes on the cars, and that showed at Watkins Glen too in the six-hour race where we contended for the win. We’ve had a very fast Porsche, we’ve been fast the last few races which is why I’m disappointed how the season ended, but that is just usual Prototype contact.”

Noteworthy

- The collaboration between Dempsey Racing and Wright Motorsports was the biggest success factor of the season. “The 58 had a good finish to the year and it was great to have those guys on the team with us,” Foster said. “Their first race was at Detroit and since then they’ve really helped us to grow. That was definitely one of the better parts of the season, getting Madison and Jan and Martin Snow as members of our team.”

- Despite the Petit disappointment, Davis is encouraged about the 2015 season. “We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress with the new GT America,” Davis said. “There’s rule changes on the horizon and I think next year the Porsches will be strong. More of the teams having been doing better which is the benefit of having Porsche as a partner with all of their expertise. These teams are all professional and we’ve brought our knowledge together to improve the new 911. It was really great to see the progress over the season.”

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