Laguna Seca: GT race report

MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 16, 2005) -- "Mad" Max Papis, of Miami, Fla., made a championship-caliber pass on two cars on Lap 14 of the 20-lap SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT race Sunday afternoon at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and then held on...

MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 16, 2005) -- "Mad" Max Papis, of Miami, Fla., made a championship-caliber pass on two cars on Lap 14 of the 20-lap SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT race Sunday afternoon at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and then held on through a late full-course caution to earn his second win of the year in his No. 16 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V and Cadillac its first SPEED GT Manufacturers' Championship Presented by Racer Magazine.

Cadillac took the top two spots as Papis' teammate, Max "The Ax" Angelelli, of Monte Carlo, put together a solid run in the No. 12 CTS-V to move up eight spots after starting 10th. Though he finished third in the No. 1 c3controls/3R-Racing Dodge Viper, Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., fell just short in his bid to defend his 2004 SPEED GT Drivers' Championship, coming up six points behind Cadillac's Andy Pilgrim (248-242), who finished fourth.

The pass, which earned Papis the B&M Coolers "Coolest Move of the Race" award, came as the front-leading trio of Papis, Wolf Henzler and Lou Gigliotti entered Turn Two. As then-leader Gigliotti, of Dallas, Texas, appeared to enter the turn a bit hot, his No. 28 LG Pro Long Headers Corvette C6s momentum pushed Henzler's No. 55 Applied Materials/Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 Cup to the outside, opening a door on the inside for Papis, who was in third, to squeak through.

Papis bolted through and then held on for a two-lap sprint to the checkered flag following the third full-course caution of the afternoon. Afterward, Papis dedicated his win to Gonzalo Rodriguez, who was killed in a Champ Car practice session at Laguna Seca in 1999.

"Today was very special to me, this track is special to me," Papis said. "I want to dedicate this race to one of my best friends, Gonzolo Rodriguez, who was here. He was very special to me, and I want to dedicate this race to him.

"This Championship is sweeter than ever because of the position we had with Tommy and Andy and the Porsches and Cadillacs," Papis said. "We had to focus 200 percent. My race was spectacular. I was so relieved when I looked back in the mirror and saw Max Angelelli had his car right there behind me. I didn't know how he made it there, but it must have been an amazing race."

Angelelli had to work for his spot on the podium as he and Archer battled one another for much of the race. The two first hooked up as soon as the race started, battling their way through the field up to third, and then jostling back and forth for second-place on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn track.

"I knew I had a good car for the race, even though I started 10th," Angelelli said. "I'm very happy for Team Cadillac and all the guys there because they deserve it, finally winning the trophy and the championship.

"I really enjoyed racing with Tommy, it was very fair. I think we had a good race."

Archer, who started on the fifth row next to Angelelli, said that he gave it his all.

"I had to be aggressive today, because the only thing I could do today was lose," Archer said. "So I felt that I should just go out there today and try to stay out of everybody else's way. There was a little bit of shoving and pushing out there, but my nose was pretty clean. I figured we'd have a pretty good race."

Cadillac nearly swept the podium on its Championship-sweeping day as SPEED GT Drivers' Champion Andy Pilgrim, of Delray Beach, Fla., held fast to the formula that kept him at the top of the leaderboard for most of the year: qualify strong, stay out of trouble and finish high.

The title was a World Challenge first for Pilgrim, who managed to secure the Championship without winning a single race in 2005. He did finish second twice, and never finished lower than 10th.

"I tried my best not to get into the middle of some of the most amazing side-by-side, fender-banging, door-banging stuff I've ever seen on a road course," Pilgrim said. "I had the best seat in the house. That was incredible!

"The focus has been on the Manufacturers' Championship this year. The individual award was never really a focus. It was just absolute luck, no doubt about it we've had some good luck, but I also made some good decisions, and here we are as champions."

James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., overcame dropping a wheel in the early stages of the race (which left his No. 14 GMG/Cargraphic/Greek Brothers Porsche 911 Cup without a sway bar for the remainder) to finish fifth.

Behind Pilgrim (248) and Archer (242), Robin Liddell, of Edinburgh, Scotland, was third in the final standings with 214 points after finishing 24th -- three laps down after an early-race flat tire ended any chance of winning. Wolf Henzler (210) also had a flat, albeit much later in the race, and finished 22nd. On the strength of Sunday's performance, Papis rose to fifth with 188 points.

Cadillac, which entered the weekend three points down to Porsche in the SCCA SPEED GT Manufacturers' Championship Presented by Racer, stormed to the Championship with Papis' drive and Porsche's misfortune, taking the title 63-59. Chevrolet was third with 40 points, and Dodge was fourth with 38.

Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill., won the season's final Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing 12 positions to finish ninth after starting 21st in the No. 34 Kleinschmidt Inc./Blackdog Racing Corvette C6.

-scca pro racing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Max Papis , Andy Pilgrim , Robin Liddell , Tommy Archer , Max Angelelli , Lou Gigliotti , James Sofronas , Tony Gaples , Wolf Henzler , Gonzalo Rodriguez