Alex Figge, of Denver, Colo., scored his first Pirelli World Challenge win Saturday, taking the GT Class and overall victory at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix Presented by StopTech at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Figge's teammate, Robb Holland, also of Denver, Colo., captured his first Touring Car win, while Paul Brown, of Covina, Calif., topped the GTS class.
Starting third in his No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, Figge got the jump on polesitter Patrick Long, of Bellaire, Fla., and second-starting Patrick Lindsey, of Santa Barbara, Calif., splitting the pair, rocketing into the lead off the standing start.
“I saw a hole between the two Pats and was able to get in there,” Figge said of his move to the front in his all-wheel-drive Volvo. Pat Long was a complete gentleman and knew I was on the outside of him, and he certainly didn't force the issue. I was able to keep the inside through the keyhole.”
The race, originally scheduled for 30 laps around the 13-turn 2.258-mile circuit was slowed by three lengthy cautions for a standing start incident, a mid-race mishap and a race-ending Turn Two accident, reaching its 50-minute time limit after just 24 laps.
Figge successfully held Johnny O'Connell's No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe at bay for the two restarts, as O'Connell both attacked for the lead and worked to fend off Lindsey's No. 12 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette. On lap 18, Lindsey tried the inside of O'Connell's Cadillac at the end of the back straight and the two cars made contact, spinning out of contention. That promoted point leader Long (No. 45 TruSpeed/Privacy Star/Entrust Porsche 911 GT3) and James Sofronas (No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup) onto the final two podium positions in GT.
“I think we had a good car at the end," Sofronas said. "Challenging Patrick [Long], and then the little gift from O'Connell and Lindsey. We saw that coming from prior corners, they were just grinding on each other. I was just sitting back waiting on it to happen, and it did.”
On lap 20, Jeff Courtney's No. 99 Kenda Tire/RaceStuff.com Porsche 911 GT3 suffered an apparent mechanical failure entering the Keyhole turn, spun and hit the outside wall, knocking it over and damaging the fence. Courtney was treated and released after the incident, but the need for track repairs brought out the third, and final caution, ending the race behind the pace car.
Figge became a first-time Pirelli World Challenge winner in only his third start, missing the opening part of the season while his brand-new Volvo S60 was completed.
“It's been a thrash for the guys, and if everybody saw the state these cars were in not too long ago I think they'd be surprised that we even made the weekend,” Figge said. “The cars are running well, and for me it's just a huge amount of gratitude to the K-PAX guys for giving me the shot and I'm glad it could go the way we wanted it to.
“I felt like it was so humid and the track was so greasy that I think the all-wheel drive was the way to go today. Once I got running I felt like I had a strong pace. I was pretty nervous on the restarts and I would have liked to have had a little more green out there to get in a rhythm, but luckily we were able to stay up there and it turned out well.”
Andy Pilgrim finished fourth in his No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V, followed by Rob Morgan, in his No. 46 TruSpeed/Entrust Porsche 911 GT3.
Coupled with the pole, Long's runner-up finish moved him into the Pirelli GT Championship point lead, with 743, over Sofronas (721) and Mike Skeen (698), who stalled at the start and fought back to finish sixth. Porsche continues to lead the Manufacturers Championship, with 53 points, over Cadillac (21) and Volvo (12).
Pirelli GTS leader Paul Brown (LEFT) started second in his No. 50 Lucas Oil/K&N Filters/Wellendorf Ford Mustang Boss 302S, but moved past polesitter and defending race Champion Peter Cunningham's No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX at the start. Brown held the point for the entire race, holding off charges from fifth-starting Eric Foss, of Dallas, Texas, and his No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude Hospital/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S and Cunningham in the race's early stages.
Cunningham's race ended in spectacular fashion, as the Acura shed its left-rear wheel as the car went over the hill entering Thunder Valley, spinning around and slamming the concrete barrier. The incident brought out the second full-course caution, and earned Cunningham a trip to the medical center, where he was also treated and released.
Like Figge, Brown was able to hold the lead on both restarts and take his third win of the season, extending his point lead to 72.
“We got a really good start and PD [Cunningham] was a gentleman on the outside,” Brown said. “We went through two-wide in Turn 1 and got a little bit ahead. As soon as we got the caution, it was like ‘crap'. We knew it was going to be tough and we were hoping it wasn't going to go that way because you don't get the rhythm.
“On the restarts, it was pretty much a battle. My car seems like it takes a couple of laps to come up, and Eric [Foss] seemed like he was right on, right out of the box, so he would pressure me. In fact, he ripped the tow hook out of the back of my car he hit me so many times. It was a good race. We had stronger cars in different spots and I used it to my advantage where I could.”
Foss kept the pressure on Brown during the green laps and scored his third runner-up finish of the season. Jason von Kluge, of Ann Arbor, Mich., completed the podium in his No. 19 JDK/Varsity Ford/Steeda Ford Mustang FR500S.
Richard Golinello (No. 55 Grand Sanitation Ford Mustang FR500S) and Ben Crosland (No. 25 RaceWithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S) completed the top five in GTS.
Brown leads the Pirelli GTS Championship, with 846 points, to Foss' 774. Crosland is third, with 687. Ford holds a commanding lead over Acura in the Manufacturers' Championship, 67 to 28.
Holland started third in his No. 66 K-PAX Racing Volvo C30 and immediately moved to second when his teammate, polesitter Aaron Povoledo fell back to 12th on the chaotic start. Point leader Lawson Aschenbach, of Darnestown, Md., then took the point in his No. 71 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si, but he was never too far ahead of the Volvo.
On the lap-17 restart, Holland was able to get the run on Aschenbach on the back straight and motor past into the lead, a move that would represent the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race. From there, Holland kept the lead up until the final caution period ended the battle to earn his first series win in his 36th start.
“The yellows both hurt us and helped us,” Holland recalled. “It stretched things out once we were under green and then not only was I worried about trying to attack Lawson [Aschenbach], but I had to worry about [Ron] Zitza and [Brett] Sandberg behind me. The second one, it was like, ‘oh, not again,' because we had stretched out the lead and that closed it again. But we got away again, and he and I were on equal pace from there.