TOOELE, Utah (July 15, 2006) – Lou Gigliotti, of Dallas, held off a charging Ricardo Imery to capture his second win of 2006 and take the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship point lead in the inaugural run at Miller Motorsports Park, part of the Larry H. Miller Dealers Utah Grand Prix weekend. Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., was third.
Starting from the pole position in his No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Headers Chevrolet Corvette C6, Gigliotti took the lead at the start and never relinquished it, winning the 14-lap, 62.804-mile contest by 0.523 second, averaging 88.469 mph.
At the standing start, Gigliotti led second-starting Imery in his No. 64 AXA Financial/Cavenas Elevators Porsche 911 GT3 and Imery’s teammate, point leader Lawson Aschenbach, into turn one.
Aschenbach’s day would get off to a poor start, though, as the rookie was issued a stop-and-go penalty for advancing prior to the start. When Aschenbach pitted to serve his penalty, Leighton Reese, who started fourth in his No. 6 Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette C6, advanced to third, and then to second when Imery had a quick off-and-on at turn 21 on the second lap.
“Ricardo [Imery] went off the track and gave me a head start,” Gigliotti said of his start. “You saw how close it was at the end. If he had been in second the whole race, we could not have held him off. He was just too strong.”
From there, Reese put the chase on Gigliotti. The two traded fast race laps as they navigated the 4.486-mile road course for the next eight laps. On lap 10, Reese got alongside Gigliotti for the lead as they drag-raced into turn one. Gigliotti held the point and then Reese’s day took a heartbreaking turn as he pulled off course at turn six with a broken driveshaft.
“It was Leighton and I [battling for the lead], but foolish me, I thought a fellow Corvette driver would just want to run together,” Gigliotti said of his battle with Reese. “But, he didn’t. He kept trying to pass me. So, I had to burn my car down to stay ahead of him. He obviously burned his car down more. I think if we both would have taken it easy, we both could have had something at the end. But, I did not have any car at the end.”
From there, it appeared to be clear sailing for Gigliotti, who had built nearly eight seconds between his Corvette and Imery’s Porsche. However, after battling with both Reese and the mid-90 temperatures, Gigliotti’s car began to fade, while Imery’s car got faster. With Pilgrim’s No. 1 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star Cadillac CTS-V in tow, Imery cut the lead to just one second as the white flag flew. Try as the Infineon Raceway winner would though, Imery could not find a way past the Corvette on the final tour, allowing Gigliotti to score his 22nd win, becoming the first repeat winner of 2006.
“Richardo probably burned his car up trying to get to me,” Gigliotti said of his late battle with Imery. “He had a couple of shots at me and I just held him up in some places where he was good and then scooted out of there in places where I was good. I was able to beat him at the end of the straightaway. Luckily, I was able to hold him off.”
Imery, of Caracas, Venezuela, also had a good day in the points, and his second place finish gave him the Piloti Rookie of the Race award.
“I had a good shot at him [Gigliotti] at the end,” Imery said of his last lap battle for the lead. “I saved my tires for the last three or four laps and then I just went at it. I think if we would have had one more lap, I could have had him. But, unfortunately at the start, I went to the outside I picked up some stuff on the tires and unfortunately I went off on the second to the last turn and gave Leighton [Reese] second place. Then Leighton had a mechanical problem, that’s how racing goes, he gave it back to me.
“Then I set my sights on Lou. But, at the end he had a little more power than the 911 Porsche on the straightaway. In all, it was a great finish.”
Pilgrim’s race followed his signature calm and steady pace, and the defending series Champion’s third place finish moved him up to second in the Drivers’ Championship.
“I got a great start,” Pilgrim said. “I got past Leighton and Lawson [Aschenbach] had a problem and had to go into the pits, which was good. But, it was really about taking care of the tires early on and then maybe having something for who was ever in front of me at the end. Richardo and Lou were coming back to me, but we did not have enough time. There were certain places where they were quite a bit quicker than I was. But, I didn’t really have anything to go after them with.”
Canadian Ron Fellows drove the team car to Pilgrim’s Cadillac, again sporting the Project Gotham 3 graphics on the No. 16 car, to finish fourth after starting sixth. His pass on Michael McCann for fifth earned the B&M Oil Cooler’s Coolest Move of the Race.
McCann, of North Canton, Ohio, was the highest finishing Dodge, coming home fifth in the No. 82 McCann Plastics/H&N Filters Dodge Viper.
Bob Woodhouse was sixth in his Viper, followed by Rob Foster’s Viper, a resurgent Aschenbach in his Porsche, Brett Pearson and Kyle Foster's Viper.
Pearson earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award in his No. 77 Ventex Corp/Pearson Motorsport Dodge Viper for advancing from 18th on the grid to finish 10th.
With the win, three-time series Champion Gigliotti moved into the point lead for the first time this season, with 155. Pilgrim moved from third to second, with 143, followed by Aschenbach, who is the top rookie, with 142, Imery (131) and McCann (124).
Porsche extended its lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine from one point to three, and now leads Cadillac 38 to 35, followed by Dodge, with 31 and Chevrolet, with 29.
Today’s race will be broadcast Saturday, July 22 at 4 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED Channel.
The next race for the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship will be in one month’s time, Aug. 18-20 at Road America for Round Seven of the 10-race Championship.
For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com.