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Road Atlanta: GT race report

PILGRIM CAPTURES SPEED GT WIN AT ROAD ATLANTA BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 29, 2006) -- Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, years in the penultimate round of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Championship at Road Atlanta, as part of the Petit Le Mans. Tommy...

PILGRIM CAPTURES SPEED GT WIN AT ROAD ATLANTA

BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 29, 2006) -- Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, years in the penultimate round of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Championship at Road Atlanta, as part of the Petit Le Mans. Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., and Canadian Ron Fellows, finished second and third, respectively.

While it was a near perfect evening for the Round Nine SPEED GT race, the start of the race was not so perfect for Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka, Minn., as he took the lead into Turn One, but had to bring his No. 6 Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette C6 into the pits to serve a stop and go penalty for jumping the standing start.

As Reese pulled into the pits, Archer took the lead in his No. 5 c3controls/Dodge Motorsports Dodge SRT Viper going into Turn 12. Coming out of Turn 12, Max Angelelli, of Monte Carlo, Monaco, attempted to pass Archer for the lead on the inside coming down the hill onto the front straightaway when his No. 12 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star Cadillac CTS-V slid wide making contact with Archer sending Angelelli into the tire wall backwards. Angelelli would re-fire the car and continue to the pits.

After staving off Angelelli's attempt for the lead, Archer then had to contend with a hard charging Pilgrim, the current defending series champion. Pilgrim did not get off to a great start, but was able to close the gap on Archer following the incident with Angelelli. With Pilgrim driving patiently behind Archer, Pilgrim finally powered his No. 1 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star Cadillac CTS-V around Archer in Turn 11 on lap seven.

Pilgrim demonstrated just how fast his Cadillac was, as he turned the race's fastest lap with a 1:28.063 (103.834 mph) en route to the win by 2.777-seconds, while also setting a new average speed record of 102.467 mph.

"Really and truly it was a mess at the beginning," Pilgrim said of the start to his race. "I had a terrible start. It wasn't my fault, in a sense, that we didn't have traction control. With no TC, it just spun violently off the line. I have no idea why. Max [Angelelli] got a great start, he got by me. Luckily, I only dropped one spot to Max so it was okay. And, Leighton [Reese] got a good start. Leighton was up there, but we knew he was going to have to come in because I guess he jumped the start. Then of course Tommy and Max got together. That was crazy. I just stayed online.

"I thought Max was going to keep going out, but it just took him awhile to do it. I was like, 'Oh come on, get off the line,' because I thought he might slide right down the track and onto the front straight, but he finally went off.

"Tommy was quick right at the beginning and he was like pulling away from me at the beginning, but he soon started sliding around and I wasn't sliding around. He was about 100 pounds heavier than I was this weekend for the first time ever, so I think that made a difference. I was able to keep the tires under me, but I just had to run a hard, fast pace. I knew that people were going be there, but I just put my head down and ran as hard as I could run and just kept doing it until the tires went off and about eight laps from the end, the tires were pretty cooked. I was really struggling to keep the times close and I was really dropping off at the end. I was glad I wasn't under pressure. I wanted to get that lead early so I could cruise a little bit at the end and that's why I had to run so hard at the beginning."

Once Pilgrim was by Archer, Archer and Fellows put on an epic driving display, as they battled for position and Fellows passed Archer on lap 14 for second. Archer was not going to let Fellows off that easily and would continue to ride the bumper of Fellow's No. 16 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/On Star Cadillac CTS-V until the final lap. Coming out of Turn 11 heading into Turn 12, Archer made his move to the inside coming down the hill, with Fellows on his outside, Archer made the pass stick to finish second.

"We worked hard," Archer said of his battle with Fellows. "Ron worked hard. I worked hard. It was a matter of who slipped at the wrong time and Ron got a little slip coming out of 10b and I got up next to him and he tried to crowd me a little bit, but you know he's a professional about it. It was SPEED GT race that some of us will remember for a long time."

Archer's second place finish was his third consecutive podium finish and his fifth podium of the season.

Coming off a third place finish a three weeks ago at Mosport, Fellows replicated that effort today with another third place finish.

"Well we apparently had one too many laps," Fellows said of his battle with Archer. "It was a good battle with Tommy [Archer]. I was struggling for forward traction and I thought I could hold him off for that last lap. He had better bite than I did and I thought I could keep him off. I was just spinning the tires all the way up the hill and down the hill and he was able to get inside and there was nothing I could do to defend really. I tried to turn in and run side-by-side with him, but I couldn't get the thing to stay on the road.

"It is what it is and congratulations to Andy. This is great for him and the fight goes to another race."

In nine SPEED World Challenge starts, Fellows has five podium finishes, including three wins.

Bob Woodhouse, of Blair, Neb., put on an impressive driving display of his own bring his No. 13 Woodhouse Auto Family Dodge Viper home fourth, while also earning the B&M Oil Cooler's Coolest Move of the Race for passing rookie and current SPEED GT point leader Lawson Aschenbach, of Gaithersburg, Md., and Lou Gigliotti, of Dallas, on the inside of Turn 10. Aschenbach and Gigliotti would finish fifth and sixth, respectively.

Aschenbach was the Piloti Rookie of the Race for being the highest finishing rookie.

Tom Papadopoulos, of East Hills, N.Y., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award in his No. 43 Autosports Designs Racing Aston Martin DB9 for advancing from 21st on the grid to finish 12th.

Aschenbach leads the SPEED GT point standings over Pilgrim by seven points, 214 to 207. Gigliotti is third with 206, followed by Ricardo Imery (189) and Archer (186).

Dodge extended its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine with 55 points, followed by Cadillac and Porsche with 50, and Chevrolet with 35.

Today's race will be broadcast Saturday, Oct. 14 at 3 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED Channel.

The SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the season finale Oct. 20-22.

-credit: www.world-challenge.com

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Series PWC
Drivers Ron Fellows , Andy Pilgrim , Tommy Archer , Leighton Reese , Lawson Aschenbach , Max Angelelli , Lou Gigliotti , Bob Woodhouse , Tom Papadopoulos