In markedly different weather conditions from the first half of the Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Presented by StopTech doubleheader on Saturday night, Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., earned a sweep in GT, while Kevin Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., took the GTS class victory and Todd Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., was victorious in Touring Car in a wet race on Sunday morning at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The start of the race was delayed 45 minutes from its originally scheduled start time due to visibility problems and significant rains earlier in the morning, but it seems the weather only delayed the inevitable.
A wet racetrack was a perfect match for the all-wheel drive K-PAX Racing Volvo S60s, allowing Pobst and teammate Alex Figge, of Denver, Colo., to quickly pull away from the rest of the field when the race finally got going on Lap 10. The first nine laps were run under full-course caution due to a spin into the gravel coming onto the front straight by Patrick Lindsey, of Santa Barbara, Calif., as the green flag flew. A number of other cars also had off-course excursions on the opening lap.
Driving the No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo, Pobst's biggest challenge in the 48-minute timed race may have been the conditions. He crossed the stripe 0.736 seconds ahead of Figge to score the doubleheader sweep at Mid-Ohio. It was the 29th victory of Pobst's career and moved him into a tie for second in career World Challenge victories with Pierre Kleinubing.
“At K-PAX, we run a Volvo S60 R-Design,” Pobst said. “It's all-wheel drive and this one is a turbocharged five-cylinder that makes a tremendous amount of midrange torque. That was the key. The all-wheel drive could take that torque and put it to the ground through the Pirelli rain tires. Pirelli's tires have been really, really great in this series, and the grip was fantastic, but the track was treacherous.
“Mid-Ohio is a difficult mistress, very moody. Certain places had great grip and certain places had almost no grip, especially The Keyhole and The Carousel. They were crazy. Congratulations to my teammate, Alex Figge, for a second place. I'm so happy for this K-PAX Racing team and the work they've done keeping these Volvos running. They are space shuttles!”
The second place result for Figge in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 was redemption. He ran second to Pobst for much of the race on Saturday night before a mechanical problem removed him from contention.
“It was a tough weekend with a problem with my back on Friday and, obviously, real unlucky yesterday to have a DNF,” Figge said. “I just made a rookie, rookie mistake with the ABS in the beginning of the race [today]. It took me a couple laps to sort that out and by that point I wasn't going to risk throwing the car off going after Randy. He was doing an awesome job. It wasn't too bad, slick, but maybe I had the best position. I had a gap both ways so I could just drive my own race and not push beyond the limits of the conditions. I don't mean to make it sound boring, but it was pretty much just managing my own race more than a real intense battle with the other competitors. I'm happy to have the podium for sure.”
Finishing third, some 27 seconds back, was Lawson Aschenbach, of Darnestown, Md., in the No. 1 TruSpeed/Privacy Star/EnTrust Porsche 911 GT3. Aschenbach overcame a spin on the pace lap to secure the final podium position, but SCCA Pro Racing officials fined Aschenbach $1,000 and 20 points post-race for retaking his starting position after the spin.
“It was a crazy race,” Aschenbach said. “The rain, obviously, makes everything interesting. I guess you could say we were the best of the rest today. This Porsche GT3 was just flawless. Everybody at TruSpeed, Privacy Star and Entrust gave me a great car today. The conditions were really, really tricky, especially with being laid down, Touring Cars and GTS cars. It was just a hectic race. Hats off to the team. I'm very proud of the third and hopefully we can carry the momentum to Sonoma.”
Jordan Taylor, of Apopka, Fla., earned his second top-five result in as many World Challenge races with a fourth-place run in the No. 5 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R. Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., was fifth in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R.
Points leader Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., finished seventh in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R to unofficially clinch the 2012 World Challenge GT championship. He holds a 176-point lead, 1,259-1,083, over Pilgrim in the unofficial driver standings with only the season finale at Sonoma remaining on the 2012 schedule. The maximum number of points available is 165.
Driving in just his third Pirelli World Challenge event, Gleason earned the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race Award with his pass for the lead around Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., in The Keyhole (Turn 2) on Lap 11. That proved to be a race-winning maneuver for Gleason, as he drove the No. 60 Napleton Porsche Cayman S to the GTS class victory.
“I had to make a couple risky passes out there to really make this happen,” Gleason said. “Between some GT cars that were slower and in the way and passing some other GTS cars, I had to take a couple chances, but in the end it all paid off. I've got to give a ‘hats off' to all the guys at Napleton Porsche. Without them and all their hard work, I wouldn't be up here this weekend.”
Al Carter, of Greenville, Del., came home second in GTS in the No. 57 BePOSITIVE.org/JetSet Magazine BMW M3. Cunningham followed his Saturday GTS victory with a third-place run on Sunday in the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX to extend his lead in the unofficial driver standings to 140, 1,250-1,110, over Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Colo. Lee finished seventh on Sunday in the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro.
Mark Boden, of Winnetka, Ill. finished fourth in GTS in the No. 58 BCKSTGR/Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 and Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, was fifth in the No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima.
In Touring Car, Lamb got a great jump at the start – such a great jump, in fact, that it earned him the Optima Batteries Best Start Award – to move into the class lead on the opening lap. He would lead the rest of the way in his No. 71 National Karting News/HPD Honda Civic Si from Compass360 Racing to score his third Touring Car victory of the season.
Even more importantly, the victory kept Lamb very much alive in the championship race, as points leader and Saturday winner Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., did not finish owing to a mechanical failure on his No. 03 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Mazdaspeed 3. Cooper now leads Lamb by 104 points, 1,384-1,280, with three races still remaining on the Touring Car schedule.
“It was a pretty disastrous start for a lot of people,” said Lamb. “There were cars spinning everywhere. We started way back at the backside of the track when we got the green flag being the third class in line there. I know this track really well in the rain. It's definitely an advantage for us. The cars are really good in the rain. We knew that we needed some rain to keep up with the turbo cars today and it really worked out for us. I'm really happy with this Compass360 team. They did a great job putting the team together. These Hondas are really strong. We just need a little help to hang with the turbos down the straightaway. All in all, I'm very happy. I'm happy to be on the top step and we'll see if we can go to Infineon and keep this trend going.”
Lamb led a Touring Car 1-2 for Compass360 as teammate Ryan Winchester, of Mason City, Ia., earned his fourth second-place result of the season in the No. 72 Ligon Industries/HPD Honda Civic Si. Third place in Touring Car went to Ian Baas, of Noblesville, Ind. in the No. 49 APR Tuned/Motul/Rays Volkswagen GTI.
Peter Schwartzott, of Freeville, N.Y., came home fourth in Touring Car in the No. 41 Peter Schwartzott Racing Honda Civic Si. Schwartzott also won the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for improving from 49th on the starting grid to 23rd overall. Ray Mason III, of Columbus, Ohio, completed the Touring Car top five in the No. 70 HPD/Ultimate Racing Honda Civic Si.
Aside from the opening-lap incident, the remainder of the race was run without a full-course caution. The weather was the Kia Turning Point of the Race.
The Cadillac Mid-Ohio Grand Prix will air on NBC Sports Network at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 25.
Next up for the Pirelli World Challenge Championships is the season finale weekend at Sonoma, Calif. on the weekend of August 24-26. The weekend includes a single race for GT and GTS and a tripleheader of races for Touring Car and Touring Car B.