Spencer Pumpelly and Rob Ferriol believe their recent outings together in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge have set them in good stead for their representation of the United States in the FIA Motorsport Games.
The American pair contested the final three rounds of the Pilot Challenge series in an Audi R8 LMS GT4 before heading to this weekend’s nation-based event at Vallelunga.
While it wasn’t an intentional preparation, both drivers reckon the GT4 experience has aided them ahead of their first GT3 event together.
Pumpelly and Ferriol are driving an AF Corse-prepared Ferrari 488 GT3 in the GT Cup, which pitches 22 countries against each other in three 60-minute races.
The team USA lineup is completed by IMSA Pilot Challenge TCR racer Mason Filippi (pictured, middle) who is entered into the Touring Car Cup competition.
“Rob’s been driving his GT3 Cup Challenge car in IMSA for quite some time, so having the opportunity to jump in the Pilot Challenge car was a good opportunity for him to try something new,” Pumpelly told Sportscar365.
“The more you can do that, the better you get at doing it the next event.
“I think the fact that he’s been able to drive a couple of new cars recently has helped him to adapt to this one quicker.”
Ferriol believes that his late-season IMSA program “progressively prepared” him for his full GT3 debut this weekend.
“It’s actually helped quite a bit,” he explained.
“Initially we were only going to do the IMSA race at VIR, just to feel out the GT4 car and see how I liked it.
“But I had such a good time with the format – it’s a denser race experience and more cerebral.
“I really enjoyed the VIR race, and I thought I’d see the season out. By doing that, it gave me a couple of times in a dual driver format, in a longer race format and also in a mid-engine car.
“The Ferrari GT3 obviously handles quite differently to a Cup car. I would say the last three months have progressively prepared me for this.”
Chance to Represent USA “Humbling”
Ferriol said that he and Pumpelly jumped at the chance to pilot the USA’s maiden entry into the FIA Motorsport Games GT Cup, which is being held for the second year in a row after debuting in 2018 as the FIA GT Nations Cup.
The competition forms part of the wider Motorsport Games competition that also includes categories for touring cars, Formula 4, drifting, kart slalom and esports.
“It’s a huge thing,” said Ferriol. “It’s obviously humbling to have the opportunity, especially in a GT3 car.
“For me, being relatively new to this, to come to Italy and race in an international race in a Ferrari, you really can’t be unhappy about that.”
Pumpelly echoed his co-driver’s sentiments: “It’s pretty cool [because] I’m racing against people I’ll probably never get a chance to race in any other setting,” he said.
“It’s been nice to meet the people, even though sometimes the communication is just smiles and hand gestures, there’s been a lot of cool people so far.
“It is nice to represent the country, wearing the red white and blue suit. We’re proud to be here and taking it very seriously on-track but taking it all in the whole time.”
Pumpelly added that he was impressed with the Vallelunga circuit and its different characteristics compared to most American road courses.
“The track is a lot of fun. Looking at the map, I’m not a massive fan of first-gear, 180-degree corners, and you look at it and think you’re going to have a load of wrist-bangers.
“But actually, it was a lot of fun to drive. This is my first time in a Ferrari 488 GT3, and Rob’s new to GT3 so he’s slowly getting up to speed.
“He’s taking it well and we’re really enjoying it here.”