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Laguna Seca: GT race report

Pobst Wins Closest Race in SPEED GT History, Aschenbach and Porsche Take 2006 Championships MONTEREY, Calif., (Oct. 22, 2006) -- Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., drag-raced Ricardo Imery, of Caracas, Venezuela, down the front stretch of Mazda...

Pobst Wins Closest Race in SPEED GT History, Aschenbach and Porsche Take 2006 Championships

MONTEREY, Calif., (Oct. 22, 2006) -- Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., drag-raced Ricardo Imery, of Caracas, Venezuela, down the front stretch of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to win the 2006 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT finale by 0.310-second, the closest finish in SPEED GT history. The victory also earned Porsche the SPEED GT Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine. Rookie Lawson Aschenbach, of Gaithersburg, Md., crossed the line in ninth to win the SPEED GT Drivers' Championship.

Starting second, Pobst slotted behind polesitter Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, Minn., on the start. Reese was able to keep a steady gap back to Pobst for the first half of the race and through two full-course cautions for cars stuck off course. The gap closed as Pobst continued to reset fast race lap, and not too long after the second caution period, the No. 23 At Speed Motorsports Porsche 911 Cup began to put pressure on the leader. Opportunity struck on lap 16, when Reese's No. 6 Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette ran wide in Turn Six, but Pobst followed the leader into the gravel handing the lead to Imery. The off damaged the left-front suspension on Reese's car and made him a sitting duck for Pobst, who made the pass for second-place three laps later.

Pobst spent the closing laps hunting down the No. 64 AXA Financial/Cavenas Elevators Porsche 911 GT3 of Imery. The final lap became a dogfight with Pobst using every inch of the road to find a way by Imery. Pobst's final chance at victory came in Turn 11 as he drifted inside Imery and the pair of Porsche's drag raced down the front stretch to the checkered flag. As the timing monitors refreshed, it was Pobst by 0.031-second over Imery, the closest finish in SPEED GT history and second-closest finish in SPEED World Challenge history, runner-up to the Denver SPEED Touring Car race earlier this year.

Pobst's victory in the 27-lap, 60.426-mile race was his first SPEED GT win since driving an Audi RS6 to the Lime Rock winner's circle in 2004.

"The object of At Speed hiring me for these last two races was to help Porsche in the Manufacturers' Championship. The turning points of the race for me were obviously the Exxon Valdez oil slick in turn six. Wow, what a mess! Leighton [Reese] was the first one in it and he slid wide and I sort of did a Tokyo Drift through the gravel.

"After that, as good as I thought the car was, I didn't think there was any way to catch back up to Ricardo [Imery] until I saw the traffic and I thought 'maybe...' When Ricardo got through the traffic, they started looking in their mirrors more and it was much easier for me. The last lap was just an all-out battle and 31-thousandths good for me."

Imery's runner-up finish earned him the Piloti Rookie of the Race Award, a bittersweet prize for the Venezuelan.

"All I can say is that this one stings a little bit. There was some sort of liquid or oil in turn six and Leighton [Reese] and Randy [Pobst] fell off and I went to the inside because I knew there had to be something wrong. When I got into the lead, I put my head down and really tried to put laps together.

"Then, we just began to hit lapped traffic. I'm pretty disappointed in some of the back markers, but that's racing. It was tough for me to get by and then it seemed easy for Randy. In the last corner, I just got the power down and got a little sideways and Randy got a better launch out of the corner. That was it--31 thousandths. It stings, but it's good for Porsche and a good day for Jon Groom Racing."

With the Porsche one-two, Porsche captured the 2006 SPEED GT Manufacturers' Championship by three points over Dodge (59 to 56). Last year's Champion Cadillac finished third with 55 points, followed by Chevrolet, with 39 points.

Although Max Anglelli, of Monte Carlo, Monaco, started and finished the race in third, he only spent four laps in the final podium position. The No. 12 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star/Cadillac CTS-V was forced to pit on lap two for damage following contact with the No. 82 McCann Plastics/K&N Filters/Dodge Viper of Michael McCann in Turn Two. Luck was on Angelelli's side however, as the first of two full-course yellows allowed him to make two visits to the pits for repairs without going a lap down. Angelelli worked his way back through the field from the restart on lap four, setting a new race lap record of 1:30.306 (89.216 mph) on his charge back to third. Angelelli also earned the B&M Coolest Move of the Race for his lap 19 pass on the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group/Porsche 911 GT3 of James Sofronas in Turn Two.

"Not much to say. I just got hit in the first corner in the first lap and I couldn't believe it. I cut a tire so I had to pit, and then I had to pit again for more repairs. I just did what I could. When I was last, it took me two laps to get past the second to last car. I figured I was going to be back there all day. I never imagined I would make it back onto the podium."

Reese was able to bring his injured Corvette home in fourth, followed by Sofronas, who was part of the four-car battle for the lead and also had a turn six trip through the oil and gravel.

Tommy Archer (Dodge Viper), Lou Gigliotti (Chevrolet Corvette), Andy Pilgrim (Cadillac CTS-V), Aschenbach (Porsche 911 GT3), and Tony Gaples (Chevrolet Corvette) completed the top ten.

The No. 67 WIT Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette C5 of Kevin Chambers won the final Sunoco Hard Charger award of 2006, advancing 15 positions in the race, from 33rd to 18th.

A ninth-place finish was good enough to earn Aschenbach (No. 66 AXA Financial Porsche 911 GT3) his first SPEED GT Drivers' Championship, as well as Piloti Rookie of the Year Honors.

"I have to thank my team--AXA Financial gave me a great car all year. We struggled a little bit in Atlanta as well as earlier this weekend. Qualifying wasn't what we expected and it put us back for the start of the race. I tried to just keep the nose on the car, and not do anything stupid on the track. I just tried to stay around Lou [Gigliotti] and Andy [Pilgrim].

"It's a great day for Porsche today, with the Manufacturers' Championship as well. Randy and Ricardo did a great job for them today. My hat's off to my team--Team AXA Financial. They really have heart and didn't give up. It was impressive for them to keep digging and keep my head up. I'm very happy to be the Champion this year. It didn't quite come the way I'd like it in the end, but we'll take it."

Completing the 2006 season with finishes inside the top ten at every round, Aschenbach finished six points ahead of both Lou Gigliotti, of Dallas, Texas, and Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., who tied for second with 225 points. Imery (218) and Tommy Archer (206), of Duluth, Minn., completed the top five.

Today's race will be broadcast on SPEED, Saturday, October 28th at 2 p.m. (Eastern).

-credit: scca

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Series PWC
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Tommy Archer , Randy Pobst , Leighton Reese , Lawson Aschenbach , Lou Gigliotti , Ricardo Imery , Jon Groom , James Sofronas , Kevin Chambers , Tony Gaples , Michael McCann