DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — official team release — Bob Chapman photo —
If a team has to have problems in the Rolex 24, it’s best to have them early.
But Dempsey/Wright Motorsports took that old saying to new levels when it dropped from fourth in class on the grid to last place at the beginning of the Rolex 24 Saturday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway due to problems with its transponder, the electronic unit the series supplies to each car to record its laps completed.
The team made four pit stops to solve the problem, losing seven laps and dropping to 50th place overall and 17th in the GTD class after the first hour of competition.
It spent the next 23 hours battling back to record an amazing podium finish of third in class and 15th overall Sunday afternoon in the premier event of IMSA’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the first of four races in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
It was the second podium finish in a row at the Rolex 24 for the Batavia, Ohio-based team with its Porsche 911 GT America.
It also put the famous Brumos Racing livery back on the podium at this event, since Brumos joined Porsche, Beautyrest mattresses, Bilstein shocks, Spyder active sportswear and Universal Industrial Sales as marketing partners for the team.
“We went from 51st in the first hour due to the transponder issues to 15th overall. We had to pit four times for the transponder problem,” team owner John Wright said. “Battling back for a podium finish is a testament to this team. We don’t give up and we don’t get down. It’s all about staying positive.”
“The drivers did what they had to do and the team did what they had to do. We battled back from adversity, and just never gave up.”
The No. 58 spent the first quarter of the race no higher than 15th in class, but by Hour 7 it had advanced to 12th and in Hour 8 it broke back into the top 10 in class. That was due not only to the team’s expertise but also to plain hard driving by its four drivers: rising star Madison Snow of Lehi, Utah; Jan Heylen of Tampa, Fla.; Patrick Dempsey of Malibu, Calif. and Philipp Eng of Stuttgart, Germany.
Changing strategy in mid-stream, juggling the timing of pit stops and dealing with numerous other issues behind the scenes was a well-oiled machine led by Wright; Bob Viglione, the team’s technical director, and Rob Gambrill, its car chief.
At the halfway point Snow was in the cockpit and the Porsche was in eighth place. Two hours later Heylen set the entry’s fastest lap of the race on lap 405 with a time of 1:47.691 for the 3.560-mile road course. By Hour 15 it was still in eighth, but it had drawn within three laps of the class leader.
Dempsey moved the car into seventh place during Hour 16, Eng built on that during Hour 17, and Snow was in sixth place at the 18-hour mark.
The team continued to move up the scoring pylon, however. Two hours from the finish the Dempsey/Wright Motorsports Porsche moved into third place in class when a Ferrari made a pit stop for a driver change. It took the checkered flag two laps behind the car that finished second in class and one lap ahead of the fourth-place car, completing 702 laps in the 24-hour period.
“The race started out tough because we were multiple laps down after the first hour of the race due to the transponder issue,” Snow said following the event. “The team did a great job diagnosing and fixing the problem as quickly as possible. From then on it was just driving as hard as we all could while maintain the equipment. It is very easy to make a mistake out there and end up not finishing the race, and you just never know when the next yellow will fall.”
“To battle back from the transponder issues to get a podium finish was amazing. A podium finish at Daytona is amazing anytime, but considering our problems early it was incredible.”
“We came here to win the Rolex, but after coming back from being seven laps down to stand on the podium, it’s a victory,” Heylen added.
Team leader Patrick Dempsey agreed with his co-drivers’ sentiments, feeling a special sense of pride for his involvement with the operation.
“I am really proud of the entire team and the effort that was put forth this weekend,” Dempsey expressed. We came from seven laps down, finding ourselves in 51st overall. To never give up the fight and to be on the podium and 15th overall at Daytona is a testament to how hard our team worked. It’s an amazing achievement.”
For more information on the team, visit www.WrightMotorsports.com.
CREDIT: Restart Communications/Wright Motorsports