DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2004) – While the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge season is still nearly two months away, several of its drivers got a jump on their 2004 seasons at the Rolex 24 At Daytona this weekend, resulting in a sweep of the podium for series regulars.
Andy Pilgrim will return to the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Championship this year with the newly-formed Team Cadillac after a several year absence. A previous class winner at the Daytona endurance race, Pilgrim captured his first overall win in dramatic fashion with teammates Forest Barber, Christian Fittipaldi and former SPEED GT ace Terry Borcheller. They inherited the lead in an ailing car from NASCAR star Tony Stewart, who lost a wheel and retired with less than 20 minutes remaining.
Mike Fitzgerald, who has run more SCCA SPEED World Challenge races (61) in the last four years than any other driver, led the Orbit Racing Porsche team to a second place overall finish, first in the GT category. In a race that was marred with multiple hours under both caution and red flag conditions due to torrential rain, Fitzgerald’s team, which also included Porsche factory driver Johnny Mowlem, may have won overall, given the fact that they ran laps 20-plus seconds faster than the hobbled winner in the late stages of the race.
Finishing third overall, and nearly taking second in the closing stages, was SCCA SPEED World Challenge career-wins leader Peter Cunningham , who, with former SCCA SPEED GT race winner Johannes van Overbeek, made up part of Flying Lizard Motorsports. After leading early from the GT pole, the team dropped to 12th in class as it began to rain. Cunningham got in the car as the su n s et and made a furious run from 12th to third before the race’s midpoint. Despite making up two-plus laps that Orbit was ahead, Flying Lizard came up just over six seconds short, following a late charge in the rain by Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller.
Other SCCA SPEED World Challenge drivers that experienced success during the race, but didn’t have the finish that they’d hoped, included:
- Max Angelelli (Pilgrim’s Team Cadillac teammate), who led overall and set the race’s fastest lap before mechanical failure sidelined the team.
- Defending SCCA SPEED GT Champion Randy Pobst, who started from the pole in the SGS class and finished second in class.
- Former SPEED Touring Car Championship runner-up Hugh Plumb, who led the early stages of the race in SGS before eventually finishing seventh in class.
- SCCA SPEED Touring Car driver Charles Espenlaub, who ran in the top three in SGS before finishing fifth in class.
- SCCA SPEED Touring Car Champion Bill Auberlen, who, along with teammates, and World Challenge veterans, Boris Said, Nic Jonsson and Justin Marks , ra n s econd in GT before mechanical failure forced them from the event.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona was the first round of the Grand-America n s eries. The SPEED World Challenge season will make its first standing start of 2004 at Sebring International Raceway for the fourth-consecutive year as part of the 52nd Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring week March 17-20. In 2004, the series will visit Lime Rock Park , Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Infineon Raceway, Portland International Raceway, Mosport International Raceway, Road America , Road Atlanta Motorsports Center and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.