Road Atlanta: Team Cadillac race report

BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 5, 2007 - Lawson Aschenbach and Ron Fellows raced to a one-two finish for Team Cadillac in one of the most chaotic events in the history of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge. After several multi-car accidents, a deluge, and a ...

BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 5, 2007 - Lawson Aschenbach and Ron Fellows raced to a one-two finish for Team Cadillac in one of the most chaotic events in the history of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge. After several multi-car accidents, a deluge, and a red-flag period, the race was reduced to a 10-minute sprint on a rain-soaked track. Fellows showed his mastery in the wet, passing the Porsche of race leader Randy Pobst on the next-to-last lap. He was followed by Aschenbach, who then took the lead on the final circuit.

The one-two finish by the CTS- V race cars extended Cadillac's lead in SPEED GT manufacturers championship to 10 points over Porsche with one race remaining. Aschenbach is second in the drivers championship, four points behind Pobst. Andy Pilgrim, who finished seventh in the No. 8 Cadillac CTS- V , is now third.

"It feels so good to get that first win!" exclaimed Aschenbach, the 2006 SPEED GT champion. "After four seconds and a third, finally we get a first. I couldn't be happier for Team Cadillac after all we've had to overcome this year."

Two Team Cadillac entries gained positions before the start of the race when the qualifying times of Eric Curran and Lou Gigliotti were disallowed for technical infractions. Consequently the three Cadillacs started in a line on the outside of the grid, with Pilgrim second, Aschenbach fourth and Fellows sixth. The three Cadillacs held their positions when the race began with its traditional standing start, but a melee at the back of the grid involved several cars and blocked the track.

After eight laps under caution, the race went green just as heavy rain began to fall on portions of the track. Fellows was the first driver who pitted for rain tires, and as the deluge inundated the circuit, cars were soon spinning. Still on dry tires, Aschenbach and Pilgrim both slid off in the Esses, but were able to continue and make it to the pits for wet-weather tires. A second full-course caution slowed the field for five more laps, and series officials finally red-flagged the race at the 46-minute mark.

Controversy erupted when Pobst's race-leading Porsche was allowed to change to rain tires during the red-flag period and resume its position at the front of the field. With the race's 50-minute time limit already exceeded, officials extended the race for 10 minutes after the final restart. When the green flag flew, Fellows promptly moved to second on the 17th lap with Aschenbach close behind. The pair pursued Pobst relentlessly as the minutes counted down, and Fellows took the lead on the 21st lap with a pass in the fast Turn 1.

"I've been in this situation at Road Atlanta before when we had a flood and a red flag in a Trans-Am race," Fellows recalled. "I've had a little practice driving in the rain at Le Mans this year, and the trickiest part today was from Turn 3 to the exit of Turn 5. There was a lot of standing water and I'd lose the car completely. I'd just aim the car at the right place in the puddles.

"Randy was getting good jumps out of the slower corners, but I was a lot faster in Turn 12," Fellows explained. "On the lap before I made the pass, I wanted to see how much grip there was on the inside. The next time I made it stick."

Aschenbach then followed Fellows' example and passed Pobst for second in Turn 10A. "When they decided to red flag the race and put everyone back in position, we just had to buckle down and go after a race win," Aschenbach said. "I was following Ron and picked up on his line, and was able to get by Randy. I was going to try to set him up coming up the hill, but he braked and slowed down, so I went under him. I can't thank Ron enough."

Hampered by a dry-weather chassis setup, Pilgrim was unable to move up when racing resumed.

"We had a great dry setup, but when it rained there wasn't much we could do," Pilgrim reported. "I had stiffer springs than the other guys; when it rained, we couldn't soften the car and it wouldn't turn in the wet. It was one of those weird races, but Lawson got a win, Ron was second, and it's all good for Team Cadillac."

Aschenbach's victory continued Cadillac's domination at Road Atlanta. Team Cadillac has now won the SPEED GT race four straight years at the Georgia road course, highlighted by a 1-2-3 finish in 2005.

"You couldn't script a race as wild as this one," said GM Road Racing Group manager Steve Wesoloski. "We gambled bringing in Ron's car for rain tires, but it didn't work out because cars were still going fast on slicks. Then the leader comes through the pits, doesn't put on rain tires, and then the race is red-flagged. After 10 minutes of actual racing, Team Cadillac gets a one-two finish - unbelievable!

"We've got the best guy in the rain with Ron Fellows, and Lawson followed his lead," he continued. "That's why brought three bullets to this race."

-credit: gm racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Ron Fellows , Andy Pilgrim , Randy Pobst , Lawson Aschenbach , Lou Gigliotti , Eric Curran