DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 27 - 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 Patron 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 here.
The #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 team led by team owner John 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. 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.
Portions of the race were televised live on Fox.
For more information see WrightMotorsports.com and follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
The next race is March 18-21 at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla.
For more information on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, see IMSA.com.
Post-race quotes follow:
Madison Snow: “The race started out tough because we were multiple laps down after the first hour of the race due to a transponder issue. 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.”
Jan Heylen: “This is my fifth time racing the 24-hour and I understand the importance of maintaining the equipment. John Wright, Bobby Viglione and the entire crew worked together to deliver a highly competitive race car that allowed us to secure our third-place finish. We fought through adversity, but needed the yellow flags to go our way. 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.”
Patrick Dempsey: “I am really proud of the entire team and the effort that was put forth this weekend. 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.”
Philipp Eng: “To race for Dempsey/Wright Motorsports at the Rolex 24 of Daytona is a dream come true! Over the last couple of weeks I feel that I have not only grown as a driver, but have gained friends for life. We have all become a family, and finishing third at Daytona reflects that bond.”
John Wright (owner of Wright Motorsports): “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.
“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.
“We want to thank Porsche, Brumos, Beautyrest, UIS, Spyder active sportswear and Bilstein for making it possible.
“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!”
About Wright Motorsports:
Wright Motorsports is the premier Porsche race engineering facility in Ohio and a multi-series, international racing team known for superb car preparation, expert race strategy and driver development. Located in Batavia, Ohio near Cincinnati, it is owned and directed by John Wright, a certified Porsche factory-trained technician. As a crew chief John Wright has played a key role in winning eight driver and seven team championships in World Challenge, IMSA (ALMS) and the Grand-Am Rolex Series. Wright Motorsports won the team championship in Porsche GT3 Cup USA in 2012 and 2013. In 2014 it had four podium finishes in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. For more information see WrightMotorsports.com and follow it on Facebook and Twitter.