MONTEREY, Calif. - After nine races at tracks from Sebring and Long Beach to Salt Lake City and Toronto, the quest for the SCCA SPEED World Challenge SPEED GT championships will come down to 50 minutes of racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on ...
MONTEREY, Calif. - After nine races at tracks from Sebring and Long Beach to Salt Lake City and Toronto, the quest for the SCCA SPEED World Challenge SPEED GT championships will come down to 50 minutes of racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, Oct. 21. The season finale of the 10-race series will decide the drivers and manufacturers championships, and Team Cadillac is in strong contention for both titles. Cadillac leads the manufacturers' standings, and Cadillac drivers Lawson Aschenbach and Andy Pilgrim are second and third respectively in the driver rankings. Ron Fellows could be the wild card as he will drive Team Cadillac's third race-prepared CTS- V at Laguna Seca.
After a one-two finish by Aschenbach and Fellows at rainy Road Atlanta on Oct. 5, Team Cadillac is in position to repeat its 2005 sweep of the SPEED GT manufacturers' and drivers' titles. With a 10-point lead over Porsche, Cadillac can wrap up the manufacturers championship by winning the pole or finishing sixth or better in the race. With 40 points on the line at Laguna Seca, the drivers championship scenarios are more complex, as Aschenbach trails Porsche driver Randy Pobst by four points and Pilgrim is 17 points out of the lead.
"Team Cadillac is in a great position going into the final race of the season," said GM Road Racing Group manager Steve Wesoloski. "Our strategy of running a third car at selected events has worked well for us, and we were able to come out of Road Atlanta with a 10-point lead. Anything can happen in racing, but that's a good cushion going into the last race.
"Winning the manufacturers championship for Cadillac is our primary objective and that's what we'll focus on," Wesoloski revealed. "If we can secure that, then our drivers will go for the win - and hopefully Lawson or Andy will bring home the drivers championship."
The silver lining in Pilgrim's disappointing seventh-place finish at Road Atlanta is zero REWARDS weight for Laguna Seca. His No. 8 Cadillac will race at the series-mandated 3,254-pound base weight - 60 pounds lighter than Fellows' No. 16 and 120 pounds less that Aschenbach's No. 1.
"Cadillac needs one point to win the manufacturers championship, and I'll do my best to get it," said Pilgrim. "If there's a shot at winning the pole, I'll take it, because the bonus points will lock up the manufacturers championship. That would be fantastic because then we can just race on Sunday and see what happens.
"Having zero REWARDS weight is definitely going to help me, but our car's heavy base weight and long wheelbase doesn't really suit Laguna Seca's mid-speed turns and low-grip surface," Pilgrim continued. "Regardless of what happens, I love the area, I love the course, and I love the fans at Laguna Seca."
Aschenbach is aiming to repeat as SPEED GT champion, but he knows he'll have an uphill battle to retain his title - literally and figuratively.
"There's nothing better than a championship coming down to the last race," said Aschenbach. "That track is going to be tough for me carrying 120 pounds of REWARDS ballast, and I know that the extra weight is going to make it difficult for me to pass. Fortunately Team Cadillac has raced there for years, and our engineers have good data from last year after the track was repaved.
"My plan is to work hard on the setup and try to qualify in the top five," he reported. "Randy, Andy and I are very close in the championship, and any one of us can win the title. I have to finish a couple of spots ahead of Pobst to have a chance, so it's going to have to be a good weekend for me."
Fellows will have a front-row seat when the championship drama unfolds on Sunday afternoon. This will be his fifth start of the season with Team Cadillac. He previously posted runner-up finishes in rain-soaked races in Toronto and Atlanta.
"My role is first to provide Cadillac with a third opportunity to clinch the manufacturers' title and then to help Lawson and Andy," said the Canadian ace. "The Laguna Seca track can be difficult because the sand that gets blown onto the course wears down the asphalt and reduces grip. We didn't have enough time running in the dry at Road Atlanta to see how much the across-the-board weight increase before that race affected the cars' relative performances. With the REWARDS weight I'll be carrying, I may not qualify particularly well, but I'm optimistic that we'll race just fine. Who knows, maybe it will even rain again!"
-credit: gm racing/tc