Pobst All the Way in Monterey Pirelli World Challenge; Cunningham, Lamb Take Class Wins
May 11, 2012 - MONTEREY, Calif. - Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., led all the way to win the Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, piloting his Volvo S60 to the GT class win. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., captured the GTS win, while Todd Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., won in Touring Car.
Randy Pobst leads the field into Turn Two at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Weber Image)
Starting from the pole with his No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, Pobst got the holeshot on the standing start, built a 3.5-second lead over teammate Alex Figge, of Denver, Colo., by lap three and was never seriously challenged to win at the undulating 11-turn, 2.358-mile circuit for the third time, and first since 2006. It was Pobst’s first series win of the 2012 season, the 27th of his career.
“This is the combination of so much hard work by the K-PAX Volvo racing team and this track and the Volvo working well together,” Pobst said after the race. “The car’s better than ever. We had some trouble keeping it running last year. I think they’ve got it sorted out, though. We’re going to have some good races with these guys for the rest of the year. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is just right for the Volvo with its all-wheel drive, especially coming out of Turn 11. It just rocks off that corner!”
Pobst set a new lap record during the race, with a 1:27.491 (92.087 mph).
Figge started third in his No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, but launched into second at the start around the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V of Andy Pilgrim. From there, he maintained second for the duration of the 28-lap, 62.664-mile contest, closing twice under caution, but never forcing the issue with his teammate.
“A great day for the team and for Volvo,” Figge said. “Andy Pilgrim was really a gentleman, as he always is, driving clean and his own race. That made it a lot more fun for me as well as we had a little dice on the restart. Other than that, it was just about putting laps in and making sure we had a one-two for the guys.
“The restarts were the only places to maybe try something, but the cars don’t run really well in traffic, even behind a similar car. Yesterday, in qualifying, it was Randy’s day and he had the pace today. It wasn’t going to be some easy move to go by Randy, so I think it was better to run a clean race, take the points and the one-two.”
Pilgrim was happy with his third-place run, and had to hold off a charging Lawson Aschenbach at the finish, who started from the rear of the field in his No. 1 TruSpeed/Privacy Star/EnTrust Porsche 911 GT3 after missing qualifying.
“Manufacturers points is all we care about,” Pilgrim said. “Of course, I was going to try and get to Alex Figge, because I wanted him to be a cushion between us and the Porsche. It just really kept me focused. Lawson raced me fair and really close. The brakes on our car made it for us. He didn’t make anything on us on brakes.
“It was a really good run. It was an elastic-band effect with Volvo. They were slow going into the corners and rockets coming out. I had the best shot on restarts, to try and get Alex. He was very clean, we were bumping, but it was clean. He gave me room and I gave him room. But once I got to the end of the corner, they took off. I tried, really, because I wanted to put him between me and Lawson. Having Lawson behind me, holy smoke…I had to just be perfect for those four or five laps at the end. Luckily, we were.”
For his efforts, moving from 15th on the grid to finish fourth, Aschenbach earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start award (advancing five positions on the opening lap) as well as the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race.
Steve Ott, who started sixth but moved to fourth on the opening lap, running closely behind Figge and Pilgrim for the first 10 laps, finished fifth in the No. 85 Racing For Our Heros/Loctite Porsche 911 GT3 to equal his career-best.
Mike Skeen (Chevrolet Corvette), Johnny O’Connell (Cadillac CTS-V), Justin Marks (Porsche 911 GT3), Tomy Drissi (Porsche 911 GT3) and Bret Curtis (Porsche 911 GT3) completed the top 10 in GT.
Cadillac drivers sit one-two in the Championship point standings, with O’Connell on top, with 573, followed by Pilgrim, with 559. Pobst moved to third, with 502, followed by Aschenbach (427) and Sofronas (409), who retired with a mechanical problem on the front straight to bring out the race’s first caution on lap 15.
Cadillac also maintained the Manufacturers Championship lead over Porsche 37 to 33, with Volvo closing the gap, with 25, followed by Chevrolet, with eight.
Cunningham started from his fourth-consecutive GTS class pole position in the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, but saw Jack Baldwin’s No. 68 Voodoo Ride-Invoice Prep/Hot Wheels Porsche Cayman S get the jump from the second starting spot. It wasn’t long, though before Cunningham made the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race to put his Acura back up front, a position he held from lap two until the finish to capture the first win of the new V-6 powered Acura in Pirelli World Challenge GTS competition.
“I was pleased we had such good speed at the start,” Cunningham said. “We were able to get a good run out of six. We went side-by-side up the hill and we touched a little, but we ended up in the lead there. From there, it was a controlled pace for a while. I could do my laps and still be nice to the tires. Then those two yellows, of course, we’ve been there before so we know what can happen. The first restart was great, and I had a good advantage after the first lap. Of course, then the yellow came out again. After the second restart, Jack was coming and he was doing a great job and pressuring pretty hard and I managed to just stay ahead of him to the checker.”
With the win, and coupled with the retirement of pre-race point leader Justin Bell, Cunningham took over the Championship point lead, with 602 to Baldwin’s 552. Bell was running in the top five in his No. 50 eBay Motors Ford Mustang Boss 302S but was involved in a heavy incident coming out of the last corner with Touring Car polesitter Tristan Herbert’s No. 33 HPA/RennGruppe/Brimtek/SG Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI, which brought out the race’s final caution on lap 21. Neither driver was injured.
“When I came around and saw Justin in the wall, that was awful,” Cunningham said. “Justin is a good friend, and you don’t want to get points because the friend was in the wall so that’s a bummer for that team. We’ve had our days, too, so it was a good day points wise for RealTime and Acura and for the drivers points. We’re proud to get these points and carry on now to Detroit.”
Cunningham also set a new track record for GTS during the race, with a fastest time of 1:34.137 (85.585 mph).
Aaron Povoledo, of Toronto, Canada, finished third in the No. 26 CapaldiRacing.com Ford Mustang Boss 302S, passing the No. 34 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX of Nick Esayian on the final lap of the race. Andy Lee brought the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro home fifth.
Lee now sits fourth in GTS points with 502, 24 behind Bell. Michael Galati finished sixth in his Kia Optima and sits fifth in points, with 391.
Acura took over the Manufacturers Championship lead, with 32 points to Ford’s 31, Chevrolet’s 20 and Kia’s 13.
Touring Car had the biggest shakeup in its race, both from the starting grid and related to the Championship.
Herbert started from the pole, but was jumped by the Honda Civics of Compass360 teammates Todd Lamb (No. 71 National Karting News/HPD) and Ryan Winchester (No. 72 Ligon Industries/HPD) at the start. Point leader Michael Cooper, who started fifth in his No. 03 Mazdaspeed Motorsports MAZDASPEED3 had contact off the start and immediately had a flat tire, necessitating a trip to the pit lane, dropping him to last.
Lamb led the entire way, but had to deal with a charging Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., in his No. 43 HPA/RennGruppe Brimtek/SG Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI in the race’s closing laps. Their battle was broken off in the end by a slower GTS car that separated the two and allowed Lamb to open up more of a gap to the checkered flag.
“Toward the end, we got a couple of yellows and bunched up the field a little bit,” Lamb said. “I tried to conserve the car for the first part of the race knowing that, toward the end, we’d definitely be getting a yellow and there would be a battle. We’ve struggled against the turbos all season, so we knew they were probably going to conserve tires and come on strong at the end. It was a shame to see Tristan get taken out there, but at the same time we’re here to get some points. I had a pretty good battle with Altenburg there at the end, we raced nice and clean but I definitely had to be defensive and hold him off. It was tough.”
It was Lamb’s second Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car win of his rookie season, and the former SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion took the point lead over that series’ defending Champion Cooper, 771 to 755.
“It was a great points day,” Lamb added. “It’s nice to win races, but we’re here to win the Championship for Honda. A huge step in the right direction today, so we should be close to leading the points.”
Altenburg scored his best finish of the year at a track that he has twice won previously.
Winchester finished third, his fourth-consecutive podium result, but his car failed post-qualifying technical inspection, promoting Patrick Seguin and his No. 80 Theberge Homes/capsparts.com Volkswagen GTI to third, followed by Shea Holbrook’s No. 67 TrueCar.com Honda Civic Si. Cooper salvaged a fifth-place finish after his pit stop. Seguin was also the Sunoco Hard Charger for most postitions improved throughout the race.
Herbert now sits third in points, with 515, followed by Gustavo Michelsen (476) and Winchester (463).
Honda leads the Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship, with 48 points, to Mazda’s 35. Volkswagen is third, with 26.
Today’s race will be broadcast Sunday, May 27 at 11 p.m. (EDT) on NBC Sports Network.
The series next travels to Detroit for the Cadillac V-Series Challenge at Belle Isle, part of the IZOD IndyCar weekend, June 1-3.
Full results and points are available at www.world-challenge.com.
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