It was a day of mixed fortunes for Team Cadillac as Andy Pilgrim won today's Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma, but teammate Johnny O'Connell had a tough day.
Pilgrim was able to get a strong standing start from his front row grid position. He sped by pole-sitting teammate O'Connell, who had a bad start after he had trouble selecting first gear that had him stopped in the middle of the track while the GT and GTS field filed past.
"It was a scary moment," O'Connell said. "When the lights go out and you can't get select first gear, you are working to get it going knowing that 30 cars are coming up on you. I was able to get it into gear and get going. The first four corners were chaos. I made a move on the inside of one of the GTS cars and there was another one on the outside of him and there was nothing I could do at that point.
He was able to get the car going, but five turns later was involved in a crash that resulted in heavy rear damage. The team was able to get the car going for one more lap, gaining three points toward the championship. "We will now have to go to Houston on a mission," O'Connell admitted after falling 15 points behind James Sofronas (Audi) leads with 1,350 and Pilgrim is third with 1,279.
Pilgrim was side by side with the Volvo of Randy Pobst into Turn Two, but was able to hold the lead. On lap seven the only caution of the race flew. Pilgrim was able to control the restart to lead every lap of the race for this first victory of the season.
"At the brake zone I thought we were going to go through the turn together and then he came down a little and we touched and he went around. It was a racing deal, I tried to miss him. I thought he would have given me a little more room," Pilgrim related. "Then on the restart Mike Skeen [No. 2 Corvette] was right on I and I knew the Audi guys were right there as well. After our troubles in practice the Team Cadillac guys did a great job to put a good car under me for the race. We had a great day, it was good win."
Duncan Ende scored his overdue first podium of the season in the No. 24 STANDD.org/Merchant Services Audi R8 LMS, after a sterling drive from 13th and last place on the GT class grid to finish second.
"I guess we finally 'hit', rather than missed, for the first time," said Ende. "It's been a tough weekend this weekend. We had an aborted session on Friday, and my (qualifying) session got aborted on Saturday. There was obviously a bit of attrition ahead of me that helped, but it's good to get up here."
Finishing third was Ende's GMG Racing teammate and new official class points leader Sofronas in the No. 14 The Thermal Club/Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 LMS.
Mike Skeen, in the No. 2 CRP Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette, finished in the second position on the road, but series officials stopped scoring the driver after lap 18. The CRP Racing team ignored repeated requests from officials to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact with Sofronas onthe first lap. The No. 2 car was shown the black flag three different times. Skeen was classified 11th after the change in position was confirmed.
In GTS, former Pirelli World Challenge GT Drivers' Champion and Rookie of the Year Brandon Davis took the first win for the new TRG-Aston Martin partnership in the No. 27 Barracuda Networks Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in only his second start of the year. It's his sixth career win.
"This deal came together late in the game," said Davis, who led 18 of 26 laps. "The TRG guys did a great job to scramble and get me ready. That really allowed me to perform well with a balanced car."
Andy Lee and Lawson Aschenbach finished second and third in the No. 20 Best IT/Bondurant/Crown Seven Chevrolet Camaro and No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, respectively.
Aschenbach's podium finish is his 10th in 13 races this season and helps him in the championship chase.
"Yeah it's a huge points day," Aschenbach said. "Lost some time the first day. We were a little bit behind and it showed in the race. But still, a great job to Brandon, and the Blackdog Speed Shop Team Chevy Camaro had the the speed to get third."
Davis started second alongside Motul polesitter and championship points leader Jack Baldwin, in the No. 73 Motul/StopTech/Foametix Porsche Cayman S.
From the standing start, Baldwin got caught behind the freight train of cars swerving to avoid O'Connell's stalled CTS-V. Lee rocketed to the front of the GTS field from his fourth place starting position through Turn 2 with Davis, Alec Udell and Aschenbach in tow.
"I had an unbelievable start; I can't wait to watch the on board," Lee said. "We went from fourth to first, and I almost took out O'Connell as he stalled. My mirror hit his mirror!"
The contact between O'Connell, Cunningham and Baldwin left all three cars significantly damaged, but still able to limp back to pit road. Baldwin was unable to continue from there and while Cunningham returned for a few laps, he retired shortly thereafter. It's Baldwin's first and thus far only DNF of the season and Cunningham's third in what has amounted to a frustrating 2013 campaign for the seven-time series champion.
Baldwin's misfortune opened the door for Aschenbach and Lee to close the points gap for the championship, and they took full advantage.
The Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma airs on NBC Sports Network on September 8, at 3:30pm eastern.
SONOMA, Calif. - Results from Sunday's 27 lap 64.395 mile (GT) and 26 lap 62.01 mile (GTS) Pirelli World Challenge Championship GT/GTS Round 13 race, part of the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. GT, (2), Andy Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fla., Cadillac CTS-V.R, 27.
2. GT, (13), Duncan Ende, Los Angeles, Calif., Audi R8 LMS, 27, -6.711.
3. GT, (4), James Sofronas, Villa Park, Calif., Audi R8 LMS, 27, -7.369.
4. GT, (3), Randy Pobst, Gainesville, Ga., Volvo S60, 27, -9.452.
5. GT, (8), Elton Julian, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Audi R8 GT3 Ultra, 27, -14.470.
6. GT, (7), Kevin Buckler, Sonoma, Calif., Aston Martin GT3, 27, -19.596.
7. GT, (9), Jason Daskalos, Albuquerque, N.M., Dodge Viper Comp Coupe, 27, -52.383.
8. GT, (12), Bill Ziegler, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Audi R8 LMS, 27, -1:05.389.
9. GT, (10), Fred Roberts, Toronto, Ontario, SRT Dodge Viper Comp Coupe, 27, -1:51.013.
10. GT, (6), Alex Figge, Denver, Colo., Volvo S60, 8, Elect.
11. GT, (5), Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette, 27, -5.685.
12. GT, (1), Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga., Cadillac CTS-V.R, 2, Crash.
13. GT, (11), Bryan Heitkotter, Fresno, Calif., Nissan GTR, 1, Trans.
Time of race: 48 minutes, 33.750 seconds.
Average speed: 79.561 mph
Margin of victory: 6.711 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-27, #8 Andy Pilgrim
Fastest race lap: #8 Andy Pilgrim, 1:36.677 (88.811 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #3 Johnny O'Connell, 1:35.400 (90.000 mph)
1. GTS, (2), Brandon Davis, Huntington Beach, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 26.
2. GTS, (4), Andy Lee, Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 26, -2.482.
3. GTS, (5), Lawson Aschenbach, Jupiter, Fla., Chevrolet Camaro, 26, -6.850.
4. GTS, (3), Alec Udell, The Woodlands, Texas, Ford Mustang Boss 302R, 26, -9.658.
5. GTS, (8), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Camaro, 26, -25.286.
6. GTS, (23), Mark Wilkins, Toronto, Ontario, Kia Optima, 26, -26.298.
7. GTS, (19), Ric Bushey, Virginia Beach, Va., Nissan 370 Z, 26, -44.601.
8. GTS, (10), Roger Rodas(R), El Salvador, , Ford Boss 302S, 26, -45.987.
9. GTS, (12), Erik Davis(R), Burbank, Calif., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 26, -48.544.
10. GTS, (9), Drew Regitz(R), Denver, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 26, -53.887.
11. GTS, (11), Mark Klenin, Lonetree, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 26, -1:06.050.
12. GTS, (20), Ardee Toppe, The Woodlands, Texas, Ford Mustang Boss 302, 26, -1:19.716.
13. GTS, (14), Mitch Landry(R), Lakes Charles, La., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 26, -1:46.208.
14. GTS, (16), Robert Stout, Brownsburg, Ind., Scion FR-S, 25, Mech.
15. GTS, (21), Buz McCall, Boca Raton, Fla., Porsche Cayman S, 25, -1 lap.
16. GTS, (17), Brian Kleeman, Towson, Md., Nissan 370 Z, 25, -1 lap.
17. GTS, (13), Brad Adams, New Orleans, La., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 25, -1 lap.
18. GTS, (22), Lucas Ordonez, Spain, , Nissan 370Z, 25, -1 lap.
19. GTS, (18), Darrell Anderson(R), Virginia Beach, Va., Ford Boss 302R, 25, -1 lap.
20. GTS, (24), Nic Jonsson, Sweden, , Kia Optima Turbo, 13, Mech.
21. GTS, (7), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Acura TSX, 5, Mech.
22. GTS, (6), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 1, Mech.
23. GTS, (1), Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 0, Crash.
24. GTS, (15), Steve Doherty, Plainfield, Ill., Nissan 370 Z, 0, DNS.