BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 4, 2007) – Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, had to manage a wet track and navigate a wild final 10 laps to win the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Round Nine race at Road Atlanta, part of the 10th Anniversary Petit Le Mans. Adam Pecorari, of Aston, Pa., finished second.
Driving the No. 95 Mazda North America/Tindol Mazda 6, Galati started from the pole position (23rd-career SPEED World Challenge pole) and immediately fell to second at the start as Seth Thomas, of Cumming Ga., used the torque in his No. 38 Bimmerworld BMW 325i to get by Galati in Turn One.
Thomas and Galati played “follow the leader” for the first 15 laps, while breaking away from the rest of the field. On lap 13, the race’s first caution came out to retrieve Jim Osborn’s, of Ooletwah, Tenn., No. 24 A Mother’s Arms/Austin Hatcher/Volkswagen Jetta from the Turn 10 gravel.
When the race went green on lap 16, Thomas had his hands full with Galati on the restart. As Thomas and Galati approach the start-finish line, Galati accelerated around Thomas to take the lead into Turn One.
“At that restart, I did everything you’re supposed to do according to the rulebook, but it didn’t appear that the guys around me did what they were supposed to do,” Thomas said. “That put me in a dangerous spot.”
“When we came down [to the green flag] he was very slow,” Galati said of Thomas. “I was thinking he was going to use the torque in his motor, so I started picking it up, trying to get those revs up and just stay stuck to his bumper. Then he got to the green [acceleration] cone and he didn’t move, so I dodged to the left and got on the throttle. I was kind of surprised, I thought he was gonna go. I don’t know what happened to him.”
Unfortunately for Thomas, Peter Cunningham, of Grafton, Wis., and Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec, also passed Thomas down the front straight – dropping Thomas to fourth. From this point forward, the race got even wilder.
Thomas slid to the inside of Turn 10 briefly touched the wall, came back across the track and made contact with Cunningham setting off a car-banging chain reaction behind Cunningham.
“Going into the brake zone in Turn 10, Wittmer braked a lot earlier than I normally have to,” Thomas said. “When Wittmer hit the brakes, I went to mine. I got a little bit of front lockup and then breathed on the brakes, but still got into the back of him. At that point the car just went spinning and I was a passenger curling up in the fetal position going ‘no, no, no!’”
This incident brought out the second full-course yellow. After the safety team cleaned up the Turn 10 incident, the race went green on lap 22. Galati now had the hard-charging Pecorari behind him in his No. 19 STaSIS/Clear Capital/Nalley Audi Audi A4 for the final four laps. To this point, Pecorari had put on an impressive drive through the field from 19th to second. During the final two laps, Pecorari did everything he could to get by Galati. But, in the end, Galati earned his 21st – career SPEED World Challenge win.
“I knew for sure [Pecorari] was coming,” Galati said. “I know all about the Audi four-wheel drive, so I just put my thinking cap on, drove ten tenths and was thinking ‘c’mon baby!’”
Galati won the 25-lap, 63.5-mile Round Nine race by 0.266-second (average speed 74.636 mph) over Pecorari.
“Tindol’s had a lot of weird ups and downs, but this makes it so worth it,” Galati said of his team’s win. “To be able to clinch the Championship for Mazda is fantastic. I want to thank my crew chief Bill and everyone at Tindol Motorsports, Mazdaspeed, Sunbelt and everyone who’s helped us out. The car was running really well.”
Pecorari’s effort earned him the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing 17 positions throughout the race.
“After the first yellow flag we were seventh,” Pecorari said. “The second half of the grid was a little easier to get around. Obviously with the four-wheel drive we had an advantage, but from seventh on, it was close. I was surprised; I thought I’d have a lot more speed compared to the front-wheel drive cars, but they drove their butts off. I just moved up one by one.
“There was an incident that allowed me to pick up two positions and then I got by Kuno [Wittmer]. Then, with four laps to go, we had another yellow and I was right behind Michael. I thought I had enough to get by him, but he was on it. He didn’t make one mistake and he’s obviously a really amazing driver, so I’m happy with second right now.”
Still recovering suffering from a dislocated shoulder, James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., tied a career-best third place finish (also accomplished in 2004 at Road Atlanta) in his No. 36 Bimmerworld 325i.
“It’s really not what we were hoping for this weekend,” Clay said of his team’s finish “I was looking for the top step until I woke up this morning took a look out the window and saw the rain. These cars have always been a little rough in the rain, so honestly, I’m super impressed and super happy with how we did despite the rain. The car drove awesomely. Nathan McBride, our engineer had it set up and I had a great car.
“Luckily there was that double yellow and I had a chance to relax, settle in and rest my arm a little bit. I figured out that going onto the back straight I could get a heck of a run if I didn’t have anyone behind me. I could park it, turn it and add that acceleration for making it a longer straight. I managed to do it twice in-a-row. I got a little bit of a run, Pierre [Kleinubing] clung onto it, but I’ve done that over, under before. Then, I just had to do it again and be on the podium after I saw what happened to Seth [Thomas]. Somebody from this team deserved to be up there, so I just put my head down and did it.”
Wittmer finished fourth in the No. 44 Certified Pre-Owned Acura/RealTime Acura RSX, while defending SCCA SPEED Touring Car Champion Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., was fifth in the No. 1 Certified Pre-Owned Acura/RealTime Acura TSX.
Chip Herr, of Litiz, Pa., won the B&M Holeshot Award for advancing six positions at the start of the race. Stan Wilson, who finished sixth, won the Piloti Rookie of the Race, while seventh-place finisher Charlie Putman won the Toyo Tires Cup.
Nick Esayian (Acura TSX), Brandon Davis (Acura TSX) and Jeff Altenburg (Mazda 6) finished eighth through 10th, respectively.
Altenburg maintains the SPEED Touring Car point lead with 251 points, followed by Randy Pobst (232), Kleinubing (223), Herr (210) and Sofronas (205).
With Galati’s win, Mazda wrapped up the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship presented by RACER Magazine. Going into the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mazda now has 64 points and a 23-point gap to Acura and Audi who are tied at 42 points. BMW sits fourth with 31 points. The most Acura, Audi or BMW could possibly accumulate in the final round is 11 points.
Today’s race airs at 2 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, Oct. 13 on SPEED. The SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Final Round Oct. 19-21.