Rennsport One – RS1 – made a strong statement in its Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge debut, winning the 2015 season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Originally planning to race two Porsche Caymans in the Street Tuner (ST) class, the team added a third car on the eve of the race and kept the three-car lineup throughout the season.
The opening result was no fluke. Spencer Pumpelly and rookie Luis Rodriguez added three additional triumphs to lead the series with four victories in the No. 17 Legacy Home Builders Porsche Cayman, finishing a solid third in the championship.
Connor Bloum and Greg Strelzoff ran the full season in the No. 19 Zerolag Communications Cayman, taking ninth in the team standings, with a four-race streak of consecutive top-10 finishes – highlighted by placing third to lead the team at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
The No. 18 RS1 Cayman shifted drivers throughout the season, finishing 20th in the standings, with its best finish fifth at Lime Rock with Lee Carpentier and Dylan Murcott.
To end the year, RS1 added a fourth car for Road Atlanta, with Casey Carden and Ben Haymann scoring an 11th-place finish in the No. 88 Monticello/Neurospine Institute/Georgia Appleseed Cayman, its best result after running eight races with Rebel Rock Racing.
Team principal Justin Bellinzoni took time to look back at RS1’s first season – along with a quick glimpse to the future.
How big was winning at Daytona in RS1’s first race?
“It was surreal, really. I remember looking at the scoreboard with 26 minutes left in the race, and seeing our team running 1-2-4. We worked on getting our lineups and cars strong, and from there, we wanted to show everybody what we could do. It was pretty amazing. It was a really good feeling, only to be followed by a bit of disappointment with the No. 18 car running out of gas with only a lap and change left.”
Did winning four races with the No. 17 Porsche of Spencer Pumpelly and Luis Rodriguez Jr. exceed your expectations?
“I’d say it met our expectations. We had very high expectations with that particular car and program, and it set some records in the ST class. That was pretty awesome, but once you get a taste of winning, you don’t really accept anything less than that. So when we showed up on any given weekend, we showed up to win that race. We had some limitations that held us back with the equipment, but that’s going to make us stronger for next year.
“We made a checklist of everything that failed throughout the year on all three of our cars, and now we have a great testbed of what is the shelf life of those particular components. We’re going to be very pro-active next year, as opposed to being re-active.
How did the pairing of Spencer Pumpelly and Luis Rodriguez Jr. come together?
“We wanted to find a very good fit for Luis. While he’s not new to racing, he’s new to this level of racing. So he needed somebody that would mentor him on and off the track, and Spencer is the full package. The way he carries himself through the paddock is almost as important as how he conducts himself behind the wheel as a driver. We really wanted somebody who could pave the way for young Luis, and who could point him in the right direction for the rest of his racing career. Spencer was that guy. He proved to be amazing with Luis, all-around, this year.”
How difficult was it to run a three-car team at all the races?
“The most difficult part was managing the drivers’ different personalities, and making sure that they felt they were each getting the best they could get. It’s a double-edged sword. You want to have as many cars running your banner as you can, but you don’t want to dilute that recipe by any means. You want to make sure every driver feels like they are No. 1.
“The good part is that by running three cars, we get down to the setup window very quickly. We can show up to the track and have three different scenarios with each of the cars, and by the next session all three cars are the same. We’re able to develop the cars much quicker.
“It’s a juggling act, but believe it or not, I enjoyed it because I knew it was quite a challenge, and I enjoyed working with the people. It was neat working with all the different folks, and seeing what they had to say about the program. In in the end, I don’t think we would have done it any differently.”
How difficult was it expanding to four cars at Road Atlanta? Is that an indication of what we might see next year?
“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag right now regarding what our plans are for next year. At Road Atlanta, we had an opportunity to help a team we’re close to sort out their equipment. They had struggled all year with some setup information, so we wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the paddock how good our program is, sorting these Caymans out. So we took something that was ‘wounded’ and we were able to show how good we could make it. They ran 11th, and if they hadn’t missed the opportunity to take a pass-around when they were running sixth, they would have had a better showing. That was the fastest car of our four, and it ran pretty low in the standings for most of the year. We took that car on as a branding venture, to show what we could do with the Porsche Cayman platform – even if it isn’t ours.”
Anything you can let out of the bag for next year?
“We have two cars currently fully committed, and the rest is up in the air. There’s a possibility you’ll see a GS car in the mix; a possibility you’ll see four cars at Daytona. It can go either way. I can’t really say anything about the plans for Luis and Spencer, other than that they’ll be driving together. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the background. Race fans are invited to follow us on Twitter (@Rennsport_One), Facebook (RS1-The Race Development Center), and we post a lot of stuff on Instagram (Rennsport_One).”