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Autobahn: K-PAX/3R Racing race report

Randy Pobst scores his first win of 2009 in K-PAX Volvo S60 at Illinois Autobahn Andy Pilgrim survives wild restart melee to finish 4th Joliet Illinois (July 26, 2009): Two time defending World Challenge GT champion Randy Pobst finally scored...

Randy Pobst scores his first win of 2009 in K-PAX Volvo S60 at Illinois Autobahn
Andy Pilgrim survives wild restart melee to finish 4th

Joliet Illinois (July 26, 2009): Two time defending World Challenge GT champion Randy Pobst finally scored his first win of the 2009 season as he drove his #1 K-PAX/3R Racing Volvo S60 to the win in Sunday's SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Grand Prix at Autobahn Presented by Blackdog Speed Shop.

Andy Pilgrim survived a poor start and an early race spin to finish the #8 K-PAX Volvo S60 in 4th position.

Randy Pobst, of Gainesville Georgia, got a slow start as the Porsches of pole sitter James Sofronas and Tony Rivera sailed through turn one in first and second place but turn two would be a critical moment for Pobst and his first 2009 win as he got a great launch with his #1 K-PAX Volvo S60 out of turn one and dove past both Rivera and Sofronas to take a lead he would virtually never relinquish.

"Our Volvos have a small engine with a big turbo and with all-wheel drive we have a tremendous amount of traction," said Pobst. "On the starts we rev it up as high as we can and bang the clutch home and if the wheels spin, we take off and we are in great shape. If we get enough traction we bog down and I think both Andy [Pilgrim] and I both bogged.

"By the time I finally got going Tony Rivera had gotten by me and James [pole sitter Sofronas] was gone. We ran through the first corner and I got a good shot out of that first corner cold tires on an all-wheel drive car in a long acceleration zone is good and I had a shot at Rivera going into turn two. I figured 'now or never, baby' because I knew he would be difficult to pass. I just dive-bombed him on the inside into turn two and that worked.

"Meanwhile James Sofronas has gotten into turn two a little hot and he had a little wiggle. I dived down the inside of him, skimmed his mirrors and took the lead. I think that was the key moment of the race because if I hadn't gotten the lead then I might not have won the race."

Pobst controlled the race from the front as Rivera tried his best to chance him down. Pobst led all but one lap of the race as Rivera was credited with leading a lap after he edged out Pobst at the start finish line during the first race restart.

It was a great win for the K-PAX team and I am really happy," said Pobst. "I ran here on Tuesday coaching my friend Cooper McNeil and that day of track time was a tremendous help to me. As soon as I pulled out on the track for practice I was ready and we were 2 and a half seconds faster than everybody else but we never went any faster but everyone else kept getting closer and closer. There is a lot of good competition in the World Challenge Series.

The first restart was all too exciting for Pobst so after the second race restart Pobst left nothing to chance and brought the #1 K-PAX/3R Racing Volvo S60 home for his first Volvo win and the second for the K-PAX Volvos in 2009.

"The first restart was tough and I got hit from behind but I was still on the brakes and I guess that saved me because that hit was solid, but since I was still breaking he didn't spin me," said Pobst of the crash filled first restart. "That restart was just like a Saturday night special, down the inside and over slow just a bit just in case and sure enough kaboom. But my Volvo held. Volvos are built strong!"

Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton Florida, brought his #8 K-PAX Volvo S60 home in the 4th position but he had to pass a lot of cars to do it as he bogged down at the start and found himself in 12th position by the time the field filed through the first few turns of the race.

"In the beginning I got a terrible start and dropped back to 12th because the car just died at the start, because we had one of those it just doesn't want to start days," said Andy Pilgrim of his slow start. "I worked my way back up to 7th behind Eric Curran."

Pilgrim worked his way back up to 7th but spun trying to pass Curran's Corvette for 6th dropping back to 16th and forcing him to start his drive to the front all over again.

"There was one corner where we were really good, coming out onto the straight-a-way, and I was trying to be aggressive in the turn 5 and I spun out," said Pilgrim. "After qualifying we made a big change to the back of the car and we knew it was going to be loose but it was very loose on the way in [to the turns] and I knew it. I just couldn't quite save it.

"That dropped be back to 16th. I managed to pass a couple of cars before the full course yellow.

I am sitting in my car in 14th, just miserable, thinking 'Oh great' because I can see Rivera in 2nd and I can see Brandon Davis [Series GT points' leader] in 3rd or 4th and I am thinking 'perfect, this just stinks'."

But the course had gone yellow after Tony Gaples smacked the turn two tire wall and the cagy veteran driver slowed to avoid the carnage on the first restart and raced his #8 K-PAX Volvo S60 back up the charts to finish 4th,a scant second and a half from a podium finish.

"Then I remember the double file restart," said Pilgrim with a wry smile. "I absolutely knew that if I had any chance at all I had to make it through that first turn because I just knew that it was going to be a mess on the restart. So basically I backed off. I gave myself room in front, one car passed me on the inside, another car was on my outside but bottom line I said 'I don't care, I have to have room to go.

"I saw Schaldach go down the inside in the grass and I thought, 'OK, it is gonna happen, here we go' and just all hell broke loose and cars were coming everywhere. I had room to go left and then I saw Rivera's Porsche spun out backwards. I missed him and then another car came around me but somehow I got out of there!

"Then coming down into turn two there was Crescentini disabled going into the corner and I had to go around the outside of him and I wasn't sure if he could make the turn because poor old Dino Crescentini who got hit in that mess as well. I get through all of that and where am I? In 7th!

"Unfortunately we had that next yellow because if we had more green flag laps or at least fewer yellow flag laps I think we could have finished 3rd or possibly second. I had already passed Kubinski earlier and his tires were going off on the long runs but we didn't have enough laps at the end for his tires to go off."

It was an exciting day for Pilgrim as he passed many cars and survived the huge wreck in turn one in the process as he took the #8 K-PAX Volvo S-60 to the finish line in pristine condition. All in all a great day everything considered.

"So we ended up 4th but considering how it happened it feels like a win based on how the race progressed and how many cars we passed, it sure felt like a win, because when you think about it, me spinning might have saved me because if I hadn't I probably would have been right in the middle of that mess," said Pilgrim with a big smile. "I am really happy. Happy for Randy for the win, he has been wanting to win since New Jersey. It means a lot to him. And I'm happy for the K-PAX team for getting another win. It is really fantastic!"

The forth place finish for Andy Pilgrim moves him up to 3rd position in the Drivers' Championship with 539 and Randy Pobst's win moved him up to 5th in the drivers' championship with 483. Brandon Davis still leads the championship with 598 points. The win by Randy Pobst moved Volvo up to 3rd position in the Manufacturers' Championship Presented by Racer Magazine with 27 points. Porsche leads with 38 points.

Next race for the K-PAX/3R Racing Volvo S60s of Randy Pobst and Andy Pilgrim will be Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championships, the Mid-Ohio Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington Ohio on August 7th through the 9th 2009. For information about this race and to follow this race via live timing or via audio broadcast go to the World Challenge Web Site at www.World-Challenge.com.

-credit: k-p/3rr

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About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Randy Pobst , Eric Curran , Tony Rivera , James Sofronas , Tony Gaples , Dino Crescentini , Brandon Davis
Teams Blackdog Speed Shop