PWC

Detroit: GT Series round eight preview

SPEED GT Returns to Detroit Motor City DETROIT, Mich. (Aug. 28, 2008) -- There's an electric feeling in the air as Round Eight of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship moves onto the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Some of...

SPEED GT Returns to Detroit Motor City

DETROIT, Mich. (Aug. 28, 2008) -- There's an electric feeling in the air as Round Eight of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship moves onto the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Some of the excitement can be attributed to the end of the season crunch to gain every point possible, but the majority of it lies in the fact that this weekend, many of the SPEED GT teams are racing in front of the very people that designed and created the machines they drive.

The significance of the venue may be a bit lost on point leader Randy Pobst and the K-PAX Racing team, as it's American muscle that their Porsches are trying so hard to beat each race. With a 102-point lead in the Drivers' Championship and the knowledge of his No. 1 K-PAX Racing Porsche's prowess on tight and twisty street circuits, Pobst can easily brush off the glares of the Motor City. Will he be able to brush off the likes of Andy Pilgrim, Brandon Davis and teammate Michael Galati as easily?

Pobst was not in the 2001 race at Detroit with SPEED World Challenge, but he has raced here before, finishing second and sixth in a North American Touring Car Championship doubleheader. Pobst won on the tight Toronto street course last year and finished second to Davis at Long Beach in April, so his street-course skills can not be questioned.

Davis too thrives on street courses. His first-ever World Challenge win came on the streets of Denver during the 2006 SPEED Touring Car season. This April, he scored his first SCCA SPEED GT win at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in the No. 10 ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang Cobra. He's hit some trouble as of late, crashing out of the race at Road America and losing a clutch on the standing start at Mosport. The team is looking for a big comeback this weekend in front of Ford fans.

Galati is one of only two drivers in the field who competed in the 2001 World Challenge race at Detroit. He even led the first five laps of the race before polesitter and eventual winner Peter Cunningham took over. Though he has historically done well on street courses (fourth-place finishes in the last two Long Beach races and third at Toronto in 2007), he hasn't won on a street circuit since the 1998 race at Trois-Rivières.

Sandwiched between Pobst and Galati in the Drivers' Championship is Pilgrim in the No. 8 Remington Shaving Cadillac CTS-V. Pilgrim's string of podium finishes was broken at Road America following a fiery engine failure and more recently, a sixth-place finish at Mosport. The 2005 SPEED GT Champion now sits 102 points behind Pobst. With only three rounds remaining, Pilgrim needs a mistake from Pobst and Porsche to close the gap in the Driver's Championship and push Cadillac further up the Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine. The GM marque is currently third, with 32 points, behind Porsche (43) and Dodge (36).

Eric Curran is the only other driver entered this weekend who raced in the 2001 World Challenge race on the streets of Belle Isle. He finished seventh in a Corvette which remains his ride of choice in 2008. After a dismal start to the season, Curran and the Whelen Engineering team are experiencing a turn around, capping off a third-place finish at Road America with a win at Mosport. Like Davis, Curran also has a Denver Grand Prix and Long Beach Grand Prix win to his credit, so look for the No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette to be a key player up front.

Four drivers entered this weekend have raced at Detroit before with the Trans-Am series. Brandon Davis' father Mike Davis, who drives the No. 11 ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang Cobra finished 12th in both the 2000 and 2001 Trans-Am races. Lexus IS pilot Jeff Altenburg raced in the 2000 race as well. Dino Crescentini raced Trans-Am here from 1993 to 1996 and will drive the No. 4 Centric Parts/StopTech Porsche 911 GT3 this weekend. Former Trans-Am series Champion Brian Simo will take over the No. 13 Foametix/Woodhouse Performance Dodge Viper for Round Eight. In seven Trans-Am starts at Detroit, Simo stood on the podium three times, climbing the top step in 1999.

Simo and fellow Viper drivers Jeff Courtney and Jason Daskalos are on a mission to help Dodge catch Porsche in the Manufacturers' Championship in addition to keeping their own top-10 spots in the Drivers' Championship. In the No. 99 Kenda/TJM/MPI Coin Dodge Viper, Courtney has had trouble qualifying at the front, but has won two Sunoco Hard Charger awards this year for his ability to pick his way through the field. Daskalos, on the other hand, has been qualifying the No. 5 Coastal Pet Products Dodge Viper very well recently, only to suffer heartbreak at both Road America and Mosport, where circumstances beyond his control held him to finishes lower than his potential.

Currently sixth and seventh in the Drivers' Championship, James Sofronas and Michael McCann could be looking at their first podium finishes of the season at Detroit. Driving the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3, Sofronas had been putting in steady top-10 finishes at each race until a patch of oil at Mosport caused him to spin in the closing laps and cross the finish line in 15. His light and agile Porsche should do well around the Belle Isle Street Circuit.

After switching from a Dodge to a Cadillac this season, McCann is on the upswing of his learning curve. The season may have started a bit slow in the No. 16 Remington Shaving Cadillac CTS-V, but McCann just collected his second top-five finish of the year at Mosport.

Cadillac, Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford: these are the names that were born in Detroit and will take on Porsche in a classic battle of sports car giants at Belle Isle. Will one of the big three rise to the top in front of the hometown crowd, or will a Porsche rain on their collective parade? Round Eight of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED GT Championship goes green at 12:45 p.m. (EDT) with live timing and lap notes available throughout the weekend at www.world-challenge.com. The race will air on SPEED, Wednesday, Sept. 12, at noon (EDT).

-credit: scca pro racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Brian Simo , Peter Cunningham , Eric Curran , Jeff Altenburg , Michael McCann , Dino Crescentini , Brandon Davis , Mike Davis , Jeff Courtney , Jason Daskalos