ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 3, 2005) – Despite domination of the practice and qualifying charts by Porsches, it was the Dodge Viper of Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., who made the biggest statement, winning his second-straight SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship race at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Robin Liddell, of Scotland, made several valiant attempts to take the lead in the race’s closing moments, but settled for second. Lou Gigliotti, of Dallas, Texas, was third.-30-
Starting third in his No. 1 c3controls/3R-Racing Dodge Viper, Archer was second to polesitter Wolf Henzler after the start, but made a diving move for the lead in turn 10, just as the first of five full-course cautions was called for an incident. Liddell, in the No. 66 AXA Financial Porsche 911 Cup, also squeezed by Henzler, moving up to second where, he would stay. Archer average just 62.198 mph in a race slowed by five cautions, cutting the number of laps from 32 to 29, or 52.2 miles.
Going into the weekend, many observers felt it was an event tailor-made for the Porsches. After Henzler led both the practice and qualifying sessions, it appeared that was the case. However, Archer reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a hidden gem.
“I figured that there was a possibility that on the first lap Wolf wouldn’t attack turn 10 the same way he did in qualifying,” Archer said. “I figured that if I got by him, then I had a chance. It was a chance I took, and I knew that if I got ahead of [Liddell and Henzler], I possibly could lead for a few laps.”
A few laps turned into the rest of the race as Liddell tried in vain to pass Archer’s Viper. The Porsche actually took over the lead on lap 26, but only briefly in turn one as Archer re-took the spot. While acknowledging Archer’s good day, Liddell said that had things gone more smoothly mechanically in his Porsche, he might’ve been able to take the lead.
“I was absolutely flat-out the entire time,” Liddell said. “The brakes just weren’t biting as much as they should have been. We struggled a little with the brakes because we started with new pads on the rear. I guess I just glazed them up too much, so we didn’t really have a good brake today. The car really wasn’t good enough to win.”
Gigliotti moved to third after Henzler was black-flagged and assessed a 30-second penalty for jumping two restarts after early cautions. Getting some help from the fourth position, Gigliotti, in the No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Headers Corvette C6, was able to earn his third-straight podium at St. Petersburg, dating back to 1996.
“It was a lot of work, we had to get by some pretty good cars,” Gigliotti, who started eighth, said. “The good thing early on was the car in fourth place behind us was holding up the big pack, and that didn’t allow the Cadillac to catch up. If that wouldn’t have happened, I probably would have had my hands full.”
Henzler, in the No. 55 Applied Materials/Jongbloed Wheels Porsche 911 Cup, fell all the way to 22nd after reporting into the pits to serve his penalty. The penalty was assessed after Henzler pulled out of line on successive restarts.
He battled back, however, taking advantage of later full-course cautions and climbing through the field to finish behind fourth-place finisher Andy Pilgrim, of Del Ray Beach, Fla., who drove the No. 8 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V.
“While I am disappointed I did not finish higher for the team and our sponsors, I am glad we could get back in the points,” Henzler said.
For his pass on Phil McClure for sixth, Henzler was awarded the B&M Oil Coolers “Cool Move of the Race.” Tom Oates, who advanced from 25th to finish eighth was named the Sunoco Hard Charger.
Archer extended his Drivers’ Championship Point lead to 12 over Liddell (65 to 53), followed by Pilgrim (51), Henzler (46) and McClure (40). Dodge extended its Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine Point lead to six over Porsche (18 to 12), followed by Cadillac (10) and Chevrolet (five).
Today’s race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel April 10 at 2 p.m. (EDT).
SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT is back in action as part of the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix at Road Atlanta, in Braselton, Ga., April 15-17.
All information for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is available at www.world-challenge.com.
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