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Saturday 25 March 2017

Motorsport: Dempsey bullish despite early Long Beach exit

Declan Quigley

Peter Dempsey is testing on the oval circuit at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week as he aims to put the disappointment of crashing out of the lead of last weekend's Indy Lights race in Long Beach behind him.

Dempsey had finished third in the first two rounds of the Firestone Indy Lights series on his first season in the category and arrived in California eager to give his championship hopes a boost on the iconic street track.

After qualifying a season-best second in his 02 Racing technology machine, Dempsey snatched the lead on the first lap and looked comfortable as he opened up a several-car length advantage in the opening laps.

However, a missed gear shift cost him dear on lap 10 as he slid into the wall and into retirement. There was some consolation when title rival Josef Newgarden did a similar thing just under five laps before the finish of the hour-long race.

Dempsey (25) was further buoyed when his friend Conor Daly went on to take his maiden win in the category and assume the series lead.

Having helped to coach Daly to the Star Mazda title last season, Dempsey has added relief in knowing that the son of Dublin's former GP star Derek Daly will now miss several rounds due to clashing racing commitments in the European GP3 series.

But, after slipping from second to sixth in the points standings, Dempsey will not be relying on handouts from other competitors when the series resumes at the home of US open wheel racing, Indianapolis, at the end of May.

With three oval racing venues coming up, Dempsey will be hoping that his 02 Racing Technology squad can continue to take the fight to the all-conquering Sam Schmidt Motorsports crew of Daly and Newgarden.

"Unfortunately, I just made my first mistake of the season at the most unfortunate time," says the Ashbourne racer, who is now 26 points behind Daly with 50 on offer for a win.

"We proved we are here on a mission to fight for the championship, and it's very exciting that we can give the Sam Schmidt Motorsports cars a run for their money this season.

"I'd like to thank all of my sponsors: Pulse, Microbiology International, Motorsport Ireland and the Irish Sports Council for their continued support this season. I cannot wait to take them all to victory lane very soon."

At home, a busy eight days for Tarmac series competitors gets under way with the Ulster-based Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland this weekend.

The organising Ulster Automobile Club have reduced entry fees and reverted to national status in an effort to entice competitors, and just over 100 cars, including historic competitors, will set off from Armagh for the 16-stage, five-county event.

Defending Circuit winner Derek McGarrity is back to defend his title at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza S11.

The next round of the Tarmac series moves to Killarney the following weekend, where 137 competitors, including historics and juniors, are lined up for the Cartell.ie International Rally of the Lakes.

Meanwhile, Lee Newsome defends his early lead in the Formula Vee series at the Irish Motor Racing Club's traditional Easter meeting at Mondello Park on Sunday after his breakthrough win two weeks ago.

Irish Independent

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