PORTLAND, Ore. (July 31, 2005) – Dino Crescentini, of Malibu, Calif., climbed behind the wheel of the No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Header Chevrolet Corvette C6 for the first time this season prior to this week’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT event at Portland International Raceway, renting the ride from the car’s owner and regular driver Lou Gigliotti.-30-
It proved to be a wise decision as Crescentini earned his first-ever SPEED World Challenge win in his first-ever SPEED GT start Sunday afternoon, taking the Round Eight victory by 1.781 seconds over Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, Minn., and Wolf Henzler, of Nuertingen, Germany, at the 1.964-mile, 12-turn circuit.
Early on, it appeared that Crescentini wouldn’t be in the hunt as he dropped far back from then-leader Henzler, who was battling in the No. 55 Applied Materials/Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 Cup to keep Reese’s No. 6 Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette C6 behind him. At one point, Crescentini was more than five seconds behind Henzler before ripping off three fast laps to close the gap halfway through the 33-lap race and eventually take the lead on Lap 26 with a move that earned him the B&M Coolers “Coolest Move of the Race.”
He never trailed over the remaining seven laps, averaging 90.566 mph for the race en route to his first win, thus becoming the seventh different SPEED GT winner in eight races.
“I just came here to have fun this weekend,” Crescentini said. “I thought I’d give it a shot. I knew it was a good car having seen the win at Sears Point, but I just didn’t know it was set up so well.
“The strategy today was to keep the car safe. It’s not my car, its Lou’s, and he told me, believe me, constantly, to bring it back in one piece. He told me just to hang back, and that’s what I did. There was a big gap between Leighton, who was second at the time, and me.
“The car just kept coming to me and coming to me. I was able to maintain a good speed, and then Leighton missed that turn.”
After moving into second, Crescentini said a runner-up finish behind Henzler would have been fine, but then opportunity presented itself.
“There were spots where I had [Wolf],” Crescentini said. “I figured ‘let me pour it on here a little bit, and let me take a chance making a pass in the chicane.’ I did, and it stuck and here I am. I can’t believe it!”
Reese came into the Portland weekend looking to score his first SPEED World Challenge victory since 1991 and had a good chance to do so. However, even though he ran the race’s fast lap with a 1:18.069 (90.566 mph), any aspirations of winning went up in smoke on Lap 24, just after taking the lead from Henzler a lap as his tires locked going into the Festival Curves thanks to a missed downshift, dropping him into third.
“It’s disappointing,” Reese said. “This is a bittersweet deal for us because we had the pole and probably the best car. I made one little mistake in the chicane there when I couldn’t find second gear. I knew from the drivers’ meeting that there would be a stop-and-go penalty if you didn’t stop in there, so I made sure I came to a stop and the other guys got by.”
“I just drove as hard as I could from there, and I caught Wolf, but it took forever to get by him. We raced clean, he didn’t block me or anything. I knew it would probably be the three of us on the podium, but I just got the order wrong.”
Henzler held the lead the longest, jumping to the front from his second-starting position at the standing start and keeping it until Reese overtook him. Henzler regained the point when Reese missed his shift, but then settled into second place when Crescentini made his move.
It was the first podium finish for Henzler since winning at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May.
“I had a good first three laps,” Henzler said. “After that, though, Leighton and Dino came up very fast and I had no chance to keep them behind. I fought with Leighton, and he did a very good job. He drove very fairly and it was a good fight. I just couldn’t keep him and Dino behind me.”
Reigning SPEED GT Drivers’ Champion Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., finished fourth in the No. 1 c3controls/3R-Racing Dodge Viper, while Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio started and finished fifth in the No. 24 Volvo North America Dealers/At Speed Motorsport Volvo S60 R, the highest finish ever for a Volvo.
Cadillac’s Andy Pilgrim, of Delray Beach, Fla., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for moving up five spots to finish 10th after starting 15th. His efforts were just enough to keep him atop the SPEED GT Drivers’ Championship standings, two points ahead of Archer, 179-177. Robin Liddell, of Edinburgh, Scotland, is third with 169 points and finished ninth Sunday afternoon, battling back through the field after serving a stop-and-go penalty for a jumped start. He was running second in the No. 66 AXA Financial/PFAFF Porsche 911 Cup when he stopped.
Henzler is fourth with 155 points, and Pilgrim’s Cadillac teammate, Max Papis, is fifth with 144 after winding up eighth this weekend.
Porsche had been playing catch up all season in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine, but finally wrestled the top spot away from Cadillac, which had been in the lead since Cleveland. With 43 points, Porsche leads Cadillac’s 42, followed by Dodge and Chevrolet which are tied at 31. Through eight races, all four manufacturers have two wins apiece.
The SPEED GT Round Eight race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday, Aug. 7.
For more information, about Round Eight from Portland International Raceway, or for Round Nine’s Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver, visit www.world-challenge.com.
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