CLEVELAND (June 26, 2005) – Scotland’s Robin Liddell held off Italian Max Angelelli by 0.038-second at Burke Lakefront Airport to win the closest race in SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge history, as part to the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland. Andy Pilgrim, of Del Ray Beach, Fla., finished third and took over the point lead.
Turn one at the 10-turn, 2.106-mile airport circuit is famous for collecting race cars at the start of the race, and this afternoon’s SPEED World Challenge GT race was no different. Heading into turn one, Eighth-starting Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., drove deep into turn one looking to take the early lead, but made contact with Italian polesitter “Mad” Max Papis in the process, starting a turn one melee that would also include fellow front-row starter Lou Gigliotti, of Dallas, and German Wolf Henzler. Three of the four drivers would escape the incident with minor damage, with the exception for Henzler, whose car came to a rest with crash damage on the inside of the turn one grass.
The turn one incident would allow Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, Minn., to power his No. 6 Banner Engineering Corvette C6 to the front and, in the process, he won the B&M Oil Coolers Coolest Move of the Race for going from seventh to first on the first turn. Reese’s lead lasted only two laps until eventual race winner Liddell grabbed the point in the No. 66 AXA Financial/PFAFF Porsche 911 Cup on lap three and quickly opened up nearly a three-second lead by lap nine. Reese would finish fourth despite fighting a heat-related misfire.
Liddell’s lead would shrink when a full-course caution came out due to a turn eight single-car incident involving Jim McCann, of North Canton. McCann was uninjured from the accident. The green flag flew on lap 23, and Liddell did everything he could to hold off a hard charging Angelelli, which included a late race move to keep the Cadillac behind him coming out of the last turn on the final lap to win by 0.038-second at an average speed of 81.639 mph.
“I was lucky at the beginning with all the first-corner carnage,” Liddell said of the race start. “But, Leighton [Reese] and I both got on the brakes and made it through. He had a problem with the car and I got by him. On the restart, I saw that Max [Angelelli] was very strong and new he would be strong at the end. It was all I could do to hold on to the lead all the way to the finish.
“I’m absolutely over the moon right now,” Liddell said describing his win. “AXA has been great and Porsche and the PFAFF dealership have supported us. [I’m] very happy to be here. It’s a very big day for me.”
Liddell recorded his first-ever career SPEED World Challenge win in his seventh start, which includes four top-five and five top-10 finishes. The close finish broke the previous record of 0.059-second by Neal Sapp over Steve Pfeffer in the 2001 SPEED World Challenge Touring Car race at Sears Point (Infineon Raceway).
Starting fifth on the grid, Angelelli successfully navigated the turn one accident in the No. 12 Cadillac/XM Radio/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star and found himself in second place by lap seven. Angelelli continued to push Liddell late in the race, clicking of back-to-back fastest race laps on laps 29 and 30 of the 32-lap event. In the process, Angelelli established a new fast race lap record with a time of 1:18.833 (96.173 mph). Coming off the last corner on the last lap, Angelelli tried to get a run on Liddell and pulled alongside at the finish, but it simply was not enough.
“I was waiting for the last 10 laps, trying to save my tires,” Angelelli said of his strategy to make a run at Liddell. “But, he [Liddell] did the same because he was getting faster and faster. I was pretty surprised. On the last lap, I tried [to pass Liddell], but it was too dangerous to overtake him.”
With Angelelli’s second-place finish, he now has eight top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 12 career SPEED GT starts.
Pilgrim put on a consistent driving display all afternoon, as he slowly worked his No. 8 Cadillac/XM Radio/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star from his sixth starting position to finish third. Pilgrim’s finish helped him take over the point lead by eight over Archer.
“It [today’s race] was a turn one strategy,” Pilgrim said of his plan heading into the race. “If you could get through turn one, then maybe you would have a race car. It was unbelievable. The Cadillac ran great. We all [the Cadillac drivers] say that, but this car is awesome. The balance with 165 pounds [of REWARDS weight] was incredible. I couldn’t stay with Max [Angelelli] and Robin [Liddell] at the end because the weight makes a difference. But, that car was so good and it was a great race. I loved it.”
Archer ran solidly in the top five, until he went off course coming out of turn 10 and spun on lap 22. The spin dropped him to 16th, and he worked his way back to finish 12th.
Stu Hayner’s, of Yorba Linda, Calif., fifth-place finish in his No. 5 GMAC Commercial Finance/Trenton Forging Pontiac GTO was the highest for a Pontiac since Chuck Hemmingson won the SPEED Touring Car race at Pikes Peak in a Pontiac Sunfire in 1999. It was Hayner’s best finish since 1992, when he finished second in a 24-hour race at Mosport in a Chevrolet Corvette.
Local driver Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, won the Sunoco Hard Charger of the race award. He advanced 21 positions throughout the race to finish 10th. Galati’s effort was the highest-ever finish for a Volvo in series’ history.
Sonny Whelen, of Old Saybrook, Conn., was the highest finishing The Winning Team Racing Apparel Rookie of the Year candidate, finishing 13th.
Pilgrim leads the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Drivers’ Championship with 125 points, followed by Archer (122), Liddell (112), Papis (93) and McClure (88).
Cadillac leads the SCCA SPEED World Challenge Manufacturers’ Championship presented by RACER magazine with 33 points, followed by Porsche (31), Dodge (23) and Chevrolet (13).
The series heads to Lime Rock Park July 1-2 for Round Six of the SPEED World Challenge GT Championships, part of the American Le Mans Series New England Grand Prix weekend.
For all information about the SCCA SPEED World Challenge, please visit www.world-challenge.com.
- 30 –
Link to story: http://www.scca.com/News/News.asp?Ref=338