SONOMA, Calif. (July 16, 2005) – Prior to Saturday afternoon’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Round Seven race, polesitter Lou Gigliotti, of Dallas, Texas, talked about the importance of getting a clean start in his No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Headers Corvette C6. He did exactly that and then never looked back, averaging a record 86.779 mph over the caution-free 25-lap SPEED GT race en route to earning the 20th win of his World Challenge career.-30-
Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill., had the best run of his World Challenge career by finishing second, 7.121 seconds back, in the No. 34 Kleinschmidt Inc./Blackdog Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6, and defending SPEED GT Drivers’ Champion Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., finished third in his No. 1 c3controls/3R-Racing Dodge Viper.
The win broke a tie between three-time Drivers’ Champion Gigliotti and Michael Galati for third on the all-time wins list and snapped a 24-race winless streak for Corvette, which dated back to Phil McClure’s win at Mosport International Raceway in 2003. The win also stopped a personal 16-race winless streak for Gigliotti, who hadn’t visited victory lane since 1997.
Gigliotti received a major boost when then second and third place runners Wolf Henzler, of Nurtingen, Germany (No. 55 Applied Materials Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 Cup), and Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, Minn. (No. 6 Banner Engineering Corvette C6), took each other out of the three-way battle for the lead.
The two, running just behind Gigliotti, battled side-by-side on lap nine when they came together at turn seven. The incidental contact caused flat tires on both cars, forcing them into the pits. Though they continued, the incident effectively ended their victory chances. Henzler, who won the B&M Oil Coolers “Coolest Move of the Race” for a start that vaulted him into second past Reese, rebounded to post the race’s fast lap with a 1:42.322 (89.013 mph) on lap 12 and finish seventh, while Reese later retired.
After the race, Gigliotti said that when then-second place driver Henzler was close, it gave him a lot to think about.
“With Wolf on my bumper, I knew I’d burn my rear tires off. I was just hoping he’d burn his off before us,” Gigliotti said. “With Wolf on our bumper, it was going to be tough. I could beat him in a few places, and Wolf would catch up to me in [turn]11. I wasn’t going to give him the inside, and one time we were side-by-side. A clean driver and really good racing. It was a pleasure to drive with Wolfie.”
With Henzler and Reese out of contention, Gaples assumed second place and never relinquished it, staying just out of Archer’s reach. Gaples, whose previous best finish was a sixth at Infineon in 2004, said he was at first surprised to be in second, but then determined to hold on to his spot.
“It’s great to be here. It’s a lot of fun to be up here on the podium,” Gaples said. “I got to see Leighton [Reese] and [Wolf] Henzler pull into the pits and I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that it put me into second place. I just did my best to stay there.
“I knew that Tommy [Archer] was coming and the guys on the crew said ‘speed it up a little bit,’ and that’s what I did.”
In the end, Archer said, he wasn’t sure his weighty Viper ever had enough to overtake Gaples.
“I was hoping that I could get close enough to him [Gaples] so that he would make a mistake or something,” Archer said. “The weight really took a toll on the tires today. There are normally cautions here. There were no cautions and I was a lot heavier than these guys were on the same size tires.”
2004 SPEED GT Rookie of the Year Mike McCann, of North Canton, Ohio, finished a career-best fourth Saturday in the No. 82 McCann Plastics/K&N Filters Dodge Viper, while Robin Liddell, of Edinburgh, Scotland, took fifth in the No. 66 AXA Financial/PFAFF Porsche 911 Cup.
Jon Groom, of Boonton, N.J., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing eight positions to finish 12th after starting 20th.
Mark LoPilato, of Granbury, Texas placed highest among rookies (14th) in the No. 42 US American Resources Porsche 911 Turbo. His finish gave him 36 points and a current second-place standing in The Winning Team Racing Apparel Rookie of the Year chase. Sonny Whelen, of Old Saybrook, Conn., leads with 72 points.
By finishing third, Archer would have closed the gap slightly on current Drivers Championship leader Andy Pilgrim, of Del Ray Beach, Fla., who wound up a season-low eighth in the No. 8 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V after fading toward the end of the race. However, an early race incident between Archer and the Max Papis-driven Cadillac CTS-V meant a violation of Archer’s two-race probation for a Cleveland incident.
For his part, Archer was penalized five points, $3000 and had his probation extended two additional races. With the penalty, Pilgrim leads Archer by nine points (163-154) with Liddell third, with 151. Henzler (127) and Papis, of Miami, Fla. (126), are fourth and fifth, respectively.
Though it didn’t score any points at the Infineon Grand Prix, Cadillac maintained its lead in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by Racer Magazine. With 42 points, Cadillac leads Porsche’s 38, followed by Dodge (28) and Chevrolet (22).
For more information about Round Seven from Infineon Raceway, or for Round Eight’s July 29-31 Grand Prix of Portland, visit www.world-challenge.com.
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