LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 9, 2006) – Canadian Ron Fellows, of Mississauga, Ont., executed an unthinkable pass two turns before the finish of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT race, part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, to give Cadillac its first win of the year. Fellows passed then-leader Mike McCann on the outside of turn nine to take the win by 0.730-sec. in his No. 16 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star Cadillac CTS-V. Polesitter Tommy Archer also slid by McCann to finish second, leaving point leader McCann in third.-30-
The win, which was the third in five career SPEED World Challenge GT starts for Fellows dating back to 2004, also allowed Cadillac to maintain its lead in the 2006 Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine.
After a clean start to the 29-lap, 57.072-mile race, Lou Gigliotti, Dallas, Texas leaped to the front in his No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Headers Chevrolet Corvette C6 from the outside of the front row past polesitter Archer’s No. 5 c3controls/Authaus Dodge Viper. Gigliotti would lead until the eighth lap, when McCann, in his No. 82 McCann Plastics/K&N Filters Dodge Viper, overtook him and held the top spot for the next 20 laps.
Fellows, however, never let McCann out of his sights, keeping pace with the Viper throughout the middle of the race, and as the pair finished its final run down the back stretch, Fellows dove first inside, then outside McCann at Turn Nine and squeezed by before the cars entered Turn 10. The move not only won Fellows the race, but also the B&M Oil Coolers “Coolest Move of the Race” Award.
“It was the lap before, coming on to the back straight, I was struggling to get power down and so was Mike [McCann],” Fellows said. “So that was the place where I thought I was going to get him going down the inside, and then we both almost hit the wall trying to get power down.
“He went a little bit tight on to the back straight, so I thought I could get a run on him. He did the right thing. He went down the inside, and I just thought ‘let’s try around the outside.’ When he braked, I got on the brakes, and I think we were both suffering from soft brake pedals. So, I didn’t really have a whole lot of choice but to go around him anyway.
“You could see there was a lot of grip on the track from the Champ Car race, and the Cadillac CTS-V, she stuck.”
After the pass, McCann missed a shift, causing his Viper to slow considerably and opening the opportunity for Archer, who had the race’s fastest lap of 1:27.368 (81.091 mph) on Lap 19, to pass him in Turn 10 and finish second.
Though he finished high, Archer said his Sunday run was anything but easy as a weekend-long problem flared up multiple times during the race.
“I was experiencing a problem all week long that wouldn’t let me run more than about five laps,” Archer said. “So, if I wasn’t racing these guys, I was busy shutting my car off during the race so that the computers would recycle. Sometimes I didn’t know when it was going to lay down on me, and it laid down three times on the backside [of the course].
“Once I recycled it, the car picked up its pace and I said, ‘hey, I think we’re back in the game.’”
Following the race, McCann was asked whether or not he ever gave thought to bumping Fellows out of the way as the Cadillac driver made the pass.
“I don’t drive that way,” McCann said. “He made a good pass, and he deserved it. He made a good pass, made it happen. I was like ‘wow, I can’t believe he’s doing that.’ I’m like you guys. I was like ‘that’s pretty good!’
“Then I made a mistake by grabbing the wrong gear, and Tommy took advantage of that as well.”
After relinquishing his early lead, Gigliotti settled into fourth on Lap 15, where he would finish. James Sofronas, of nearby Newport Beach, Calif., was fifth in the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 after starting seventh.
With a solid drive that earned him a career-best sixth-place finish, Rob Foster, of Phoenix, Ariz., won both the Piloti Rookie of the Race as the top finishing rookie and the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for moving up eight spots from his 14th-starting slot.
Andy Pilgrim finished seventh in his Cadillac CTS-V after starting from pit lane due to spinning on the formation lap. Rookie Lawson Aschenbach, who led the points entering Long Beach after a win in St. Petersburg, finished eighth after spinning twice during the event that ran green all the way.
McCann, who won at the season opener in Sebring, regained the point lead by one over Aschenbach, 74-73. Pilgrim is third, with 68, followed by Gigliotti (65) and Sofronas (64). Cadillac leads the SCCA SPEED GT Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine with 23, followed by Dodge (18), Porsche (14) and Chevrolet (nine).
The SCCA SPEED GT race, part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, will be broadcast on SPEED Channel Sunday, April 16 at 2 p.m. (EDT), 11 a.m. (PDT).
Round Four of the 2006 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships is set for May 19-21 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Lexington, Ohio.
For more information, visit www.world-challenge.com.
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