ELKHART LAKE, Wis., (Aug. 20, 2006) – Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., captured his first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship win of 2006 in a race that shuffled the season points at the Road America Generac 500 weekend. Lawson Aschenbach, of Gaithersburg, Md., and Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, Minn., completed the top three.-30-
Starting from his second pole of the season in the No. 5 c3controls/Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper, Archer got the holeshot off the standing start and was never seriously challenged for the lead en route to his sixth career victory, and first since St. Petersburg in 2005. Archer beat Aschenbach to the checkered flag by 1.028 seconds, averaging 90.399 mph in a race that was slowed by one caution.
“Autosport Development picked me up six weeks before the season started and this is only my fourth race with the two guys that work on my car,” Archer said. “It was rewarding this weekend because we came here expecting to be somewhat competitive and we’ve surprised even ourselves in qualifying. The car just worked good and we made some adjustments last night. The crew is now starting to understand what I need and that little adjustments mean big things, even though it’s a big car. We just keep working hard at it and I talked to them during the race and I told them after the race a couple more things we’ve gotta do to keep making ourselves better. I think for the team, it’s a pretty big high.
“It feels good to be here and win close to home. I have family here. I think this is the first race in fifteen or sixteen years that my mother has been to a race.”
For the fifth time in seven races, the Drivers’ Championship shifted at the top, and Aschenbach is back into the lead for the third time. After starting alongside Archer in his No. 66 AXA Financial Porsche 911 GT3, the 22-year old Piloti Rookie of the Year candidate followed the red Viper for the entire race, but never had enough to make a bid for the lead.
“It was a good run,” Aschenbach said. “I had a bit of a wheel-spin problem on the start, so it put me behind. I thought I might be able to jump ahead of Tommy [Archer] on the start, but it just wasn’t going to happen. I settled in behind him, and I knew the both of us were going to push pretty hard at the beginning and save our tires toward the middle of the race and go again at the end. We just didn’t have anything for him [Archer]. The places that I was quicker weren’t quite the places I needed to be quicker, but we’ll take the finish, we’ll take the point lead and we’ll go to the next few races and see if we can keep it up there.”
The race, which started 15 minutes late owing to a cleanup from an earlier session, had its own cleanup period, as Adel Elsayed, of Boonton, N.J., spun his Viper exiting the famed Kink, struck the right side wall and then was t-boned by the Viper GTS of Mike Hartley, of Cherry Hill, N.J. While both cars sustained heavy damage, neither driver was injured.
On the ensuing lap-seven restart, Reese, who had started fourth in his No. 6 Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette C6, made a move past the No. 64 AXA Financial/Cavenas Elevators Porsche 911 GT3 of Ricardo Imery for third going into turn five. The move earned Reese the B&M Oil Coolers Coolest Move of the Race.
From there, Reese was able to close on the two leaders and the trio ran together for the next 10 laps. In the closing laps, Archer and Aschenbach used some speed they’d reserved throughout the race, and Reese fell behind a bit. However, the driver who has been on the pole and battled for the lead at times this season was thrilled with his third place finish—the only finish for him in five races this year.
“It’s always a thrill to be on the podium, we’re not fighting for a championship this year but it’s been an awfully frustrating haul,” Reese said. “We’ve had a couple breakages and a couple of times we got crashed out when we’ve had really good hardware, really good race cars. I’m just thrilled for the people from Banner Engineering that we could give them a little TV time and we entertained a lot of guests here this weekend, so this is all icing on the cake.”
Michael McCann, of N. Canton, Ohio, advanced from eighth on the grid to finish fourth in his No. 82 McCann Plastics/K&N Filters Dodge Viper. England’s Johnny Mowlem gave Aston Martin its first-ever top-five finish in the series, bringing home the No. 44 Autosport Designs Racing Aston Martin DB9 in fifth.
Imery, Andy Pilgrim (Cadillac CTS-V), Ritch Marziale (Dodge Viper), Michael Galati (Volvo S60R) and Bob Woodhouse (Dodge Viper) completed the top 10, which featured six different auto manufacturers.
Michael Greenberg, of La Canada, Calif., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing 11 positions in his No. 04 Greenberg Cheese Company/Big Daddy Racing Dodge Viper.
Aschenbach now leads the Drivers’ Championship by six points (173 to 167) over Lou Gigliotti, who entered the weekend in the lead but finished 14th. Pilgrim dropped one position, from second to third, with 162, followed by Imery (152) and McCann (147). Dodge made up ground in the SCCA SPEED GT Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine, and now trails Porsche by five, 45 to 40. Cadillac dropped one position to third, with 35, and Chevrolet is still well within striking distance, with 34.
The series next travels to Canada’s Mosport International Raceway, a race that featured a battle for the win between Cadillac and Corvette in 2005, in two weeks time, Sept. 1-3.
Today’s Round Seven race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel Saturday, Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. (EDT).