CONCORD, N.C. (March 19, 2007) – SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship drivers got their first taste of oval racing Monday with a test on the Lowe’s Motor Speedway course they will run Round Four of the series’ Championship on May 24.
Utilizing the 1.5-mile oval with two chicanes, one on the front stretch and one on the back stretch, 17 cars took part in the test that ran into the night, under the facility’s lights.
“We wanted an addition to CTC Qualifying night for the Coca-Cola 600,” Lowe’s Motor Speedway President and General Manager H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler said. “I’ve seen these cars run before and they offer a different look. You’ve got the Porsche 911s, Corvettes and Cadillacs. You’ve got really special cars that I think the people in the stands are really going to enjoy.
“I would love to run them on the oval [only], but my heart can only stand so much of that. We’ve got a little front chicane—chicanery I call it. Then on the back stretch, there’s another little loop you’ve got to go through. Today, we were going 160 [mph] with the chicanes. Obviously we want to have a safe race and we want to have a close race. I think this little bit of chicanery will do that as well as appease the fans that like oval racing.”
Reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson made his SCCA SPEED GT debut driving the No. 48 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V that he will pilot after he qualifies for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.
“I had the pleasure to go down and drive the car at Sebring,” Johnson said. “To learn that racetrack and to learn a new car was certainly a challenge and Andy [Pilgrim] and Lawson [Aschenbach] have been great working with me. Working with Pratt & Miller has been a pleasure too.
“It’s been a great experience, and I’m definitely learning the limits of the car today. I spun out and took out one of those [temporary] barriers on the back stretch, so I’ve learned the limit of the brakes.”
Despite one being a tube frame, carbureted car on slicks and the other being a heavily-modified street car on DOT-approved Toyo tires, Johnson said the SPEED GT Cadillac is remarkably similar to his more familiar Nextel Cup car.
“It out-performs the Cup car in the braking zone,” Johnson said. “But when you turn in, the power down side of it and the way the car maneuvers through the corners is very similar. That was the thing that shocked me the most the first time I drove it at Sebring is that it drives a lot like a Cup car.”
The test, which ran off and on for some eight hours Monday until 9 p.m., was not only an opportunity for teams to work on setups for the single-day event in May, but for series officials to sample several different configurations of the back stretch chicane.
The track configuration that will be utilized, rain or shine, in May saw the most use, with nearly five hours of running time, including the final one hour, 15 minute session under the full Lowe’s Motor Speedway lights.
Unofficially, Andy Pilgrim turned the fastest lap in that configuration in his No. 8 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V at 112.978 mph (47.797 seconds). Lou Gigliotti was just a tick behind in his No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Headers Chevrolet Corvette at 112.879 mph (47.839 seconds).
Johnson, who won his second-straight Nextel Cup race in Atlanta on Sunday, was third in his No. 48 Cadillac at 111.783 mph (48.308 seconds), followed by K-PAX Racing Porsche 911 GT-3 teammates Randy Pobst (111.575 mph) and Michael Galati (111.423 mph).
SCCA Pro Racing’s SPEED World Challenge GT Championship next visits the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 13-15. Before returning the Lowe’s Motor Speedway on May 24, the series will also travel to Miller Motorsports Park, in Tooele, Utah, May 17-19.
The series began its 2007 season last Friday as part of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. That race will be broadcast Sunday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED.
For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com.
CONCORD, N.C. – Unofficial combined session times from Monday’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship test day at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile modified oval, with position, car number in parenthesis, driver, car, fastest time and speed in miles-per-hour.
1, (8), Andy Pilgrim, Cadillac CTS-V, 47.797, 112.978 mph.
2, (28), Lou Gigliotti, Chevrolet Corvette, 47.839, 112.879.
3, (48), Jimmie Johnson, Cadillac CTS-V, 48.308, 111.783.
4, (22), Randy Pobst, Porsche 911 GT-3, 48.398, 111.575.
5, (23), Michael Galati, Porsche 911 GT-3, 48.464, 111.423.
6, (30), Eric Curran, Chevrolet Corvette, 48.479, 111.388.
7, (21), Stu Hayner, Pontiac GTO, 48.766, 110.733.
8, (1), Lawson Aschenbach, Cadillac CTS-V, 49.030, 110.137.
9, (05), Jason Daskalos (R), Dodge Viper, 49.272, 109.596.
10, (5), Tommy Archer, Dodge Viper, 49.337, 109.451.
11, (87), Doug Peterson, Chevrolet Corvette, 49.598, 108.875.
12, (99), Jeff Courtney, Dodge Viper, 49.674, 108.709.
13, (13), Brian Smith, Dodge Viper, 49.798, 108.438.
14, (6), Jeffrey Robbins (R), Dodge Viper, 49.931, 108.149.
15, (20), Dane Moxlow (R), Pontiac GTO, 50.041, 107.912.
16, (34), Tony Kester, Chevrolet Corvette, 50.074, 107.840.
17, (12), Brian Kubinski (R), Chevrolet Corvette, no time on this configuration.