Road Atlanta GT preview

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Oct. 3, 2001)*The 2001 SCCA Pro Racing Speedvision World Challenge GT Championship has come down to the final event, with former teammates, now chief rivals, Michael Galati and Peter Cunningham battling for maximum...

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Oct. 3, 2001)*The 2001 SCCA Pro Racing Speedvision World Challenge GT Championship has come down to the final event, with former teammates, now chief rivals, Michael Galati and Peter Cunningham battling for maximum points in the doubleheader Petit Le Mans Presented by Audi weekend. Galati (No. 9 Champion Audi Audi S4 Competition), a three-time Speedvision Touring Car Drivers' Champion (twice with Cunningham's RealTime Racing), holds a 14-point (222 to 208) advantage over Cunningham (No. 42 RealTime Racing Acura NSX SC) with a maximum of 68 points available in the two remaining races*hardly a comfortable margin. One month ago, Round Eight at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was a tale of two very different weekends for Galati and Cunningham. While Galati was able to jump into the lead off the standing start from fourth on the grid, Cunningham was soon around to take the win. Galati would later spin and finish a disappointing 10th. "We can't afford to have a Laguna Seca race," said Galati, who won the 1996 and 1998 Touring Car Championships while driving for RealTime Racing in a Honda Prelude and Acura Integra R, respectively. "We need to get ourselves in a position to be on P.D. [Cunningham]'s bumper and race him hard. Two races back-to-back, we can't afford to have any bad luck. It is going to come down to the wire." With the exception of Mazda Raceway, Galati has had a consistent season of top-five and podium finishes. In the Speedvision World Challenge Championships, a driver's success brings on personal weight penalties, but the Champion Audi team and Galati have taken the consequences of success in stride, despite maxing-out the REWARDS (Rewarding of Equalizing Weight Assigned to Reduce Driver Sensitivity) weight program (five percent base vehicle weight) at 155 pounds at the most recent round. "Our car is a little heavy compared to others, but Road Atlanta has a lot of good turns and our cars handle real well," added Galati, who also won the 1999 Touring Car crown and the Road Atlanta round with his own team. "We need to get our usual good start and stay in front. I like the track a lot and have raced and won there many times." While Galati has finished in the top-10 at every race this season, a strategy perfected by Jeff McMillin in his 2000 Championship run, Cunningham's mechanical DNF at Lime Rock Park had him playing catch-up all season. However, Cunningham has had a stellar season otherwise, breaking the all-time wins mark (formerly 19 by Lou Gigliotti) at Sebring, and extending it to 23 with four wins on the season. His five poles are also tops this season, and Cunningham believes Road Atlanta may be a circuit that favors his Acura. "I've been going to Road Atlanta since 1984 and it's a wonderful place with exciting corners, particularly 11, 12 and one," said Cunningham. "The medium and high-speed corners are where the mid-engine layout of the Acura will excel. "I was surprised with the number of points we were able to score at the first few races, particularly with the new configuration of the car. In this series, the team is a big part of the equation, and when [crew chief] Andrew Armistad is on your team, it helps tilt the scales [in your favor]. "At the beginning of the season, I knew that Michael [Galati] would be tough. The combination of that driver and team is something we're familiar with. I believe we can win the Championship, and if we don't, we're going to go down fighting. There are a number of factors that will contribute to who wins the Championship. If I have to lose it to someone, it's less painful to lose it to my good friend Michael." Mathematically, the top five drivers in points have a shot at the title, including third place Johannes van Overbeek (No. 81 Flextronics/Intel Porsche 911 GT3 Cup), with 187 points, defending Road Atlanta winner Mike Fitzgerald (No. 38 Westward Ho Casino/Petersen Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup), with 117, and McMillin (No. 1 JJ's Snacks/John Hancock BMW M3 E46), with 161. Porsche has pulled-out a nine-point advantage after its second place finish at Mazda Raceway, and now leads Audi 54 to 45. Acura moved up to within one point of Audi with its recent win, and, with a maximum of 18 points available at Road Atlanta, any of the three could emerge the Manufacturers' Champion. Bob Miller (No. 23 Rogaine/DirecPC/At Speed Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup) holds a nine-point advantage (127 to 118) over Justin Marks (No. 80 Flextronics/Intel Porsche 911 GT3 Cup) for Rookie of the Year honors. Bobby Sak (No. 01 Valvoline/Les Stanford/Pirate Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5) also has a shot at that title, with 79 points. The 2001 Speedvision World Challenge GT Champion will receive a $50,000 bonus, with second place earning $17,000; $8,000 for third; $7,000 for fourth, with the remainder of the $100,000 points fund paid through 10th place.

<pre> Speedvision GT Drivers' Championship Point Standings (After Eight of 10 Rounds)

Ps.     Driver, Car                                                             Points  Wins    Poles
1.      Michael Galati, #9 Champion Audi S4 Competition                         222     3       1
2.      Peter Cunningham, #42 RealTime Racing Acura NSX SC                      218     4       5
3.      Johannes van Overbeek, #81 Flextronics/Intel Porsche 911 GT3 Cup        187     1       2
4.      Mike Fitzgerald, #38 Westward Ho Hotel-Casino Porsche 911 GT3 Cup       177     0       0
5.      Jeff McMillin, #1 JJ's Snacks/John Hancock BMW M3 E46                   161     0       0
6.      Jimmy Adams, #77 Motor Coach Industries Porsche 911 GT3 Cup             150     0       0
7.      Justin Jackson, #79 J-3 Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup                 149     0       0
8.      Bob Miller (R), #23 Rogaine/DirecPC/At Speed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup        127     0       0
9.      Phil McClure, #73 Aggregate Ind./McClure Conc. Chevrolet Corvette C5    126     0       0
10.     Justin Marks (R), #80 Flextronics/Intel Porsche 911 GT3 Cup             118     0       0

-SCCA/SCCA ProRacing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Michael Galati , Lou Gigliotti , Justin Marks , Bob Miller , Phil McClure , Peter Cunningham , Jeff McMillin , Johannes van Overbeek , Justin Jackson
Teams RealTime Racing