ALTON, VA — With the championship title still in their sights, the RS1/Legistics/rickiefowler.com team headed to Alton, Virginia, and the challenging 17-turn, 3.27-mile road course at Virginia International Raceway. The heat was on – both in terms of the fiercely fought Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge battle for points, and the weather forecast for the final weekend of the summer.
Proudly displaying the livery of the nonprofit Racing to End Alzheimer’s Foundation*, driver Nick Galante started the race in the 8th position on the grid. Heading into turn one, Galante found himself all over the bumper of one of the Mazdas. Lap after lap, he kept the pressure on but couldn’t find a way to get by. About 40 minutes into the race, a GS McLaren shoved past the #17 Porsche Cayman at the apex of turn 12, damaging the passenger door and nearly knocking the car off course. Fighting to maintain control, Galante forged ahead into the fray. It was then that he spotted the #56 of Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss, the team’s chief rivals for the top spot in the season championship.
Focusing on the game at hand, Nick closed the gap with the #56 and made the much-needed pass. But then it was déjá vu all over again as Galante found himself riding the bumper of the same Mazda that had plagued him earlier in the race. Seeing an opportunity to try for the pass heading into turn one, Nick went for it. He was a little late on the brakes and almost collided with one of the Mini Coopers ahead. The #17 wound up in the grass momentarily – and the #56 blazed back by!
At this inauspicious point in the race, a full caution was called and a safety car was deployed for a disabled car on the track. As the minutes ticked by and frustration mounted, the #17 began to stumble. The motor was choking – the car was running out of gas! Galante nursed the car into the pits for an emergency fuel stop, no driver change allowed. Galante would have to go back around again before turning the hot seat over to Spencer Pumpelly.
Galante dove into the pits for a second time and Pumpelly took over. The veteran driver went on the attack, clawing back position after position. He hunted down and passed the #56 in the same spot between turn 11 and 12 where he’d overtaken the rival car the year before. By the time he ran out of time and track, he’d fought his way back to a respectable 7th place – in yet another wild ride in a spectacularly wild season.
* The #17 Porsche Cayman will be emblazoned with the names of individuals affected by Alzheimer’s disease at the penultimate race of the 2017 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in Laguna Seca on September 23rd. The first annual Racing to End Alzheimer’s event will raise much-needed funding for Alzheimer’s research, care and outreach. For more information, visit r2endalz.org.