SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (Dec. 3, 2006) -- He did it the hard way but Puerto Rico's Edison Lluch captured his second American GT Challenge championship Sunday, edging his son in a dramatic weekend at the Autodromo Las Americas.

The senior Lluch became the first driver to win the AGT title twice, but a series of setbacks during Sunday's final event of the season nearly allowed his son, Edison Lluch Jr., to steal the crown away.

"It is quite a thrill to win back to back championships and have Edisito win the Rookie of the Year," the two-time champ said. "I will see everyone next year and I will do it again."

The AGT Challenge matches American muscle cars from different series and rulebooks in competition. A series of minor, technical adjustments in the AGT rules allow Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaros and other cars from the old Trans Am series, the SCCA GT1 class and other circuits to race fairly.

The final AGT championship standings will become official later this week, but the unofficial totals had Lluch senior first with 132 points and Lluch junior (Puerto Rico) next with 98. Dave Machavern (USA) was third with 86 tallies and Joey Scarallo (USA) fourth with 85. Mark Shaffer (USA) was fifth with 76.

All AGT events consist of two heat races and the points are paid out for the overall finish. When the weekend started, both Lluchs had a chance to win the title, but the junior member of the team needed to grab every available point and have his Dad struggle.

The struggles began in qualifying when the defending champion had a mechanical problem and was not able to post a time. Then Lluch senior won the first heat, only to fail post-race technical inspection.

With his father's finish thrown out, Lluch junior finished second in the first heat and his title hopes were still alive.

Lluch senior had to start the second heat in the back of the pack. But, champion that he is, the senior driver quelled his son's title bid by winning the second heat race. The two men raced door-to-door for a while before Lluch senior's season-long strategy to value handling over horsepower paid off.

"His monster motor was pulling me down the back straight," the older Lluch said. "I could only close in the brake zones because I was running the small carburetor. It took several laps to get into a position and I finally went deeper into the brakes than I thought possible, but I did get around Edisito for the win in the second race and the championship."

This time there were no post-race problems for the senior Lluch.

Series owner Woodson Duncan praised the repeat champion's competitive zeal and called Lluch a credit to the AGT series.

"With the technical violations mounting for Edison this year, you would think he does not respect the rules," Duncan said. "This is not the case. His violations are caused by his competitiveness. He simply leaves no margin for error when he sets the car up. His violations are generally for being a pound or two under weight. He should set the car up 15-20 pounds over the limit so if something comes off he can still make weight. His drive to win is so strong he has everything, including his magnificent driving, on the razor's edge. I have raced with Edison for three years and he is an honest competitor but he leaves no margin and it bites him sometimes."

Lluch's international racing experience sets him among the most respected drivers in the Northern Hemisphere. As the AGT continues its growth, other drivers in the series may soon be able to say the same.

The complete 2007 AGT schedule will be released soon. More information on the American GT Challenge is available at www.americangt.com.

-credit: le