SEBRING, Fla. -- After a first lap melee that claimed nine of the race's 24 starters, pole sitter Mike Galati led all 18 laps of the opening round of the Speed World Challenge GT Series this afternoon at Sebring International Raceway. Galati, the...
SEBRING, Fla. -- After a first lap melee that claimed nine of the race's 24 starters, pole sitter Mike Galati led all 18 laps of the opening round of the Speed World Challenge GT Series this afternoon at Sebring International Raceway. Galati, the '01 GT series champion, finished almost five seconds ahead of Peter Cunningham in his Acura NSX.
"We went quick in practice and we did a lot of work on the suspension over the off season and it paid off today," Galati stated. "I thought for a little while that the race looked pretty good, and then there was a full course yellow. Then I saw Cunningham in my mirror and my crew kept telling me to stay on it because he was coming. I told them that I was on it. He was keeping me honest, but I never let up."
While Galati missed most of the action in turn one at the start of the race, Cunningham was not quite as lucky.
"I was clear at the apex of the corner then all of the sudden -- Whammo! -- I got hit in the left rear. I went for a nice little 360 and cars were zooming by me. But I put in first and drove off and nobody hit me. I was very, very fortunate in that situation.
"I don't know what was going on there -- if I wasn't carrying enough speed for how fast they wanted to go behind me or what -- but I was at the limit of my car, and that was it."
Although Cunningham survived his turn one encounter with an aggressive Corvette, he realized that his chances of catching Galati's Audi were pretty slim. "When I was really banging out some laps using up my car I knew that Michael was doing the same thing, and I realized that I wasn't going to catch him. So I kept the pressure on, but I just didn't have it for him."
2000 champion Jeff McMillin used a methodical and patient approach in today's race to bring his BMW M3 home in third.
"I got a good start, but the Mustang in front of me just sat there and I had to kind of drive out around him. Then I was side-by-side with the yellow Corvette and I can't remember exactly what happened, but all of the sudden he and Pete [Cunningham] were going for the same ground. Then last I saw they were both sideways and I just kind of waved at them and put the hammer down and drove off.
"I passed Phil McClure going into the hairpin. I had watched him for a few laps and I knew that I could close there very well. So when I had a good run on him I just stayed right behind him -- about half way through the braking zone -- and at the last second I just pulled right out. I think I surprised the heck out of him to be honest with you."
Despite running wide on the exit, McClure closed quickly on McMillin as the two exited the turn. "I saw Phil, but the Saleen was right there to worry Phil. So once he started battling Phil, he was driving half in his mirrors and that gave me a little room to get away from him.