SONOMA, Calif. (June 24, 2006) – In only his seventh SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT start, rookie Ricardo Imery, of Caracas, Venezuela, went flag-to-flag in his No. 64 AXA Financial/Cavenas Elevators Porsche 911 GT3 to win the SPEED GT portion of the Dodge Save Mart 250 weekend at Infineon Raceway. Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., finished second, 0.743-sec. behind, and reigning SPEED GT Driver’s Champion Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., was third.-30-
Imery set the pace early from the pole, opening up a comfortable margin over fellow front-row starter Archer. Imery never pulled away, but didn’t give Archer a chance to battle for the lead either.
“I’m glad to be here, glad to take my first win,” said Imery, who had never turned a lap at Infineon Raceway prior to this weekend. “It’s good to get the win against these professional drivers who I’ve looked up to for a long time.
“It was a tough race. I had to put my head down and make sure I didn’t make any dumb moves. The tires took a while to come in, so Tommy had a fairly good shot going into turn four I think. Andy kind of helped me out a little because he was pushing Tommy.
“When the tires came in, the car was working beautifully, the Porsche 911 was beautiful, especially through the high-speed stuff.”
From a casual view, it appeared that Archer settled into second early on in his No. 5 c3controls/Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper and was able to maintain his position with relative ease. Archer, however, said it may have looked that way, but that in reality, it was much tougher than it looked.
“I could catch up to Ricardo in a few places, and then he would just accelerate away. And, on the other end, I had the Cadillacs coming up behind me,” Archer said. “I had to wait for the tires come in. There were a couple of times that the Cadillacs would come up close. It was just one of those yo-yo races that I would come up to the Porsche, then he’d go away, and the Cadillacs would come close. I just had to keep concentrating on putting laps together.”
At the start, Pilgrim, in his No. 1 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star Cadillac CTS-V, held fast to his third starting position. However, his Cadillac teammate, Johnny O’Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., passed him and paced the Cadillac CTS-Vs through the middle and late portions of the 27-lap, 40-minute timed race.
In fact, it wasn’t until a pass less than 100 feet from the finish line that Pilgrim was able to regain the last podium spot.
“Johnny got ahead of me to see if he could have a go at Tommy,” Pilgrim said. “At the end, though, he was running very ragged. He was pushing really hard…and he had some big slides on the last lap. I got very close to him, and he let me win the drag race to the line. But, basically, his tires were shot.”
Behind O’Connell’s No. 16 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star Cadillac CTS-V, Mike McCann, of North Canton, Ohio, finished fifth in his No. 82 McCann Plastics/K&N Filters Dodge Viper.
Defending race-winner Lou Gigliotti was in the fold early on, but a stop-and-go penalty was assessed to the No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Headers Chevrolet Corvette C6 after contact with the Ritch Marziale-driven No. 56 All-Cut Concrete Cutting Dodge Viper, which forced Marziale, of Tempe, Ariz., to retire with damage. Despite spinning from the contact and serving the penalty, Gigliotti charged late, turning the fastest lap of the race (1:19.650 – 89.943 mph) to finish 10th after starting 11th.
During his move back up through the field, Gigliotti was also awarded the B&M Oil Coolers Coolest Move of the Race for his pass on both Sonny Whelen (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette C6) and Kevin Chambers (No. 67 WIT Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette C5).
Chambers, of Hollister, Calif., wound up 13th and took home the Sunoco Hard Charger Award after moving up seven spots from his 20th-starting position.
Imery’s win, which earned him the Piloti Rookie of the Race as the top-finishing rookie, powered Porsche to the top of the SPEED GT Manufacturer’s Championship standings as it inched a point ahead of Cadillac, 31-30. Currently, Dodge is third with 29 points, and Chevrolet is fourth with 19.
Rookie Lawson Aschenbach finished eighth in Saturday’s race in his No. 66 AXA Financial Porsche 911 GT3, good enough to maintain his top standing in the SCCA SPEED GT Driver’s Championship. Aschenbach leads Gigliotti 122-118, followed by Pilgrim’s 117, McCann (103) and Imery (96).
SPEED Channel coverage of the SCCA SPEED GT race from Infineon will be broadcast Saturday, July 8th, at 4 p.m. (EDT).
For full recap coverage from Sonoma, including results and lap notes, and information for Round 6 from Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park, visit www.world-challenge.com.
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