LAKEVILLE, Conn. (June 30, 2005) – Team Cadillac driver Andy Pilgrim, of Del Ray Beach, Fla., doesn’t have a flashy nickname like his teammates “Mad” Max Papis and Max “The Ax” Angelelli. However, he has something that they (along with the rest of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT field) don’t going into this weekend’s round six tilt – the current lead in the SPEED GT Drivers’ Championship. -30-
Pilgrim’s rise to the top in 2005 has been a modest one, characterized more so by a stream of steady finishes in his No. 8 XM/Mobil1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V than by any particularly dominating stretch. In fact, through five events this season he hasn’t won a race, but has finished second twice (Sebring, Road Atlanta) in addition to notching a third, fourth and fifth.
The high finishing marks came on the heels of solid qualifying performances, which have started Pilgrim only as high as fourth (twice) but no lower than seventh (Road Atlanta). However, other SPEED GT drivers have qualified in similar positions, only to find themselves nowhere near the front of the pack at the checkered flag.
So what different strategy has Pilgrim used to get himself to this point?
“You can’t worry about the others,” Pilgrim said. “You have to keep your nose clean and then run and run hard. We haven’t run the cars with this much [REWARDS] weight, but I’m not sure the weight will hurt as much here at Lime Rock as at Sears Point.”
Pilgrim followed his words to the letter at Cleveland last weekend, when he managed to steer clear of a multi-car incident at turn one of the first lap. He got by and went on to finish third after starting sixth.
The key, Pilgrim said, was to stay patient, especially on a short course like Lime Rock, which, with its 1.53-mile, 7-turn layout, is the shortest course on the SPEED World Challenge schedule.
“There is only one place, maybe two, to pass here,” Pilgrim said. “But, traffic has always been a friend to me because I’m not an impatient driver. I love the bigger tracks, but I love Lime Rock too.
“It will be like last week,” he continued. “We’ll try to get a good setup for qualifying on Friday and hope it doesn’t rain. With my teammates, the Porsches, Lou Gigliotti and the Dodge Vipers, there are a lot of great drivers who are up there, so I will aim to qualify in the top six and finish the same way.”
One of those Vipers is piloted by last year’s Drivers’ Champion, Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., who is second with 117 points currently, trailing Pilgrim’s 125. He started the year with consecutive wins in his No. 1 c3controls/3R-Racing Dodge Viper, but has finished in the top five only once (Road Atlanta) since.
With a decrease in Rewarding of Equalizing Weight Assigned to Reduce Driver Sensitivity (REWARDS) weight after a 12th-place showing at Cleveland last weekend, plus another bit of help in the form of a reduced restrictor, Archer should be in position to grab a spot toward the top this round.
Scottish driver Robin Liddell (No. 66 AXA Financial/PFAFF Porsche 911 Cup) is coming off the first win of his SPEED GT career, which boosted him into third over Pilgrim’s teammate Papis and Wolf Henzler. Liddell’s 0.038-sec. advantage was the closest margin of victory in World Challenge history, which provided more than enough evidence to back up RACER Magazine’s claim that SPEED GT is the most competitive road racing series in the world.
Papis, of Miami, Fla., is chomping on the bit to get back to the top after two separate incidents left him with an unusual 18th-place finish in the No. 16 Cadillac. If Papis isn’t able to regain his form this round, Angelelli, of Monte Carlo, should be right there in the No. 12 Cadillac, as he was when he pushed Liddell to the end at Cleveland.
Also looking to rebound after Cleveland is German Wolf Henzler, (No. 55 Applied Materials/Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Porsche 911 Cup) who is driving on his team’s home track this weekend. Henzler didn’t make it to turn two at Cleveland after getting caught in the middle of the same opening scrum that dropped Papis back. He is currently sixth in the point standings, with 86.
Former Lime Rock winner Lou Gigliotti started fourth on the grid at Lime Rock last year, but a jumped start forced him to serve a stop-and-go penalty that ultimately meant a ninth-place finish. He’s back for another shot in his No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Header Corvette C6, trying to build on the momentum he had with a front-row starting position at Cleveland.
SPEED World Challenge GT action, part of the American Le Mans New England Grand Prix Weekend, gets underway at Lime Rock Park on Friday, July 1, with the first of two practice sessions scheduled for 11 a.m. The second practice session is slated to begin at 1 p.m., followed by round six qualifying at 4:20 p.m. Saturday’s race is set for 12:40 p.m.
The race will be broadcast Sunday, July 3, at 5:00 p.m. on SPEED Channel. All times are Eastern.
For more information including scheduling, or to follow the action via live timing and scoring, visit www.world-challenge.com.
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To visit the Lime Rock event page, use this link: http://world-challenge.com/2005/events/lrp/