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Laguna Seca: Porsche Motorsport race report

PORSCHE DRIVERS TAKE TITLES IN SPEED GT, IMSA GT3 CUP CHALLENGE MONTEREY, Calif., (Oct. 22, 2006) -- Kevin Roush, of Upland, Calif., driving the Wheel Enhancement Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car, scored his third win of the season in the IMSA GT3...

PORSCHE DRIVERS TAKE TITLES IN SPEED GT, IMSA GT3 CUP CHALLENGE

MONTEREY, Calif., (Oct. 22, 2006) -- Kevin Roush, of Upland, Calif., driving the Wheel Enhancement Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car, scored his third win of the season in the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Michelin as he passed two of the previous race leaders when they made on-track mistakes late in the race.

Shawn Price, of Hillsborough, Calif., led the first part of the event before he fell back on the one of the re-starts following the four yellow flags that limited the number of green-flag laps in the event. Price, driving the Farnbacher-Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, finished fourth.

The other race leader, pole-sitter and Road Atlanta winner Bryce Miller, had a brief off-road excursion in his Marquis Jets Porsche, and let Roush slip by on the last lap. Miller finished second.

All eyes were on the relative positions of points leader Nathan Swartzbaugh in the AASCO Porsche and Dino Steiner in the NGT Porsche, who trailed Nathan by eight points going into the last event. Swartzbaugh never really got untracked during the event, qualifying fourth and finishing sixth, but Steiner's third place finish was not enough to overcome the deficit, giving Nathan the season championship.

In the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR -- type 996 class, Dino Loles had already clinched the season championship, but Darrell Carlisle solidified second position for the year.

The IMSA GT3 Cup challenge pits identically-matched Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars, built at the Porsche factory, against each other in 45-minute races run by amateur drivers at selected American Le Mans Series venues.

For 2007, the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge will have only Porsche 911 GT3 Cup -- type 997 race cars. Next year's schedule will be announced shortly.

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

Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., drag-raced Ricardo Imery, of Caracas, Venezuela -- both driving Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars - 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., driving the AXA Financial Jon Groom Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, crossed the line in ninth to win the SPEED GT Drivers' Championship. It was Porsche's first SPEED World Challenge GT manufacturers and drivers title.

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.

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.

-credit: porsche motorsport

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Series PWC
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Tommy Archer , Randy Pobst , Leighton Reese , Dino Steiner , Lawson Aschenbach , Lou Gigliotti , Ricardo Imery , Jon Groom , Shawn Price , Kevin Roush , Darrell Carlisle , Dino Loles , Bryce Miller