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Sebring: GT race report

ARCHER TAKES SEBRING SPEED GT OPENER IN THRILLER SEBRING, Fla. (March 18, 2005) -- Tommy Archer started second on the grid Friday afternoon at Sebring International Raceway and trailed pole-sitter Wolf Henzler for less than five seconds...

ARCHER TAKES SEBRING SPEED GT OPENER IN THRILLER

SEBRING, Fla. (March 18, 2005) -- Tommy Archer started second on the grid Friday afternoon at Sebring International Raceway and trailed pole-sitter Wolf Henzler for less than five seconds before snapping to the lead just after the standing start.

From there, no one ever seriously challenged Archer's No. 1 c3controls/3R-Racing Dodge Viper as the reigning SCCA Pro Racing SPEED GT World Challenge Drivers' Champion cruised with an average speed of 98.371 mph to the Round One win, run as part of the 53rd Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Andy Pilgrim, of Del Ray Beach, Fla., and Scotland's Robin Liddell completed the top three.

"To me, the key was the start," Archer said. "If I could get Wolf [Henzler] at the start and not have to deal with him being faster than me in the corners, then I could control the race."

Being in front, Archer said, also meant he didn't have to battle with others in the field as much, letting him save a little bit of his car for the end.

"Those guys made my job a little bit easier because they were all fighting back there," Archer said. "That allowed me to save the tires a little bit, which was good because I started sliding around a bit at the end."

Pilgrim, who started second in the No. 8 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V, finished second for the second year in a row at Sebring after making arguably the most spectacular pass of the race on lap 16 to jump from fourth to second. Liddell reeled off a string of impressive laps during the middle of the race in the No. 66 AXA Financial/Pfaff Porsche 911 Cup to complete the podium after falling back to 12th at the start.

Henzler, in the No. 55 Applied Materials/Jongbloed Wheels Porsche 911 Cup, had a lock on the second position for most of the race before Pilgrim's fantastic dive to Henzler's and Liddell's inside enabled him to glide past from fourth to second place.

The move earned Pilgrim the B&M Oil Coolers "Cool Move of the Race."

"I had a run on the outside there," Pilgrim said. "But then I thought 'This is not where I want to be.' So, I went back down to the other side and actually just lifted a bit in order to position myself right there.

"I was really committed late, and I think Robin's [Liddell's] intention was to go to the right. I expected to get by Robin, so it was really a surprise when I got by him and Wolf [Henzler]."

Liddell said it took him a while to acclimate himself and his ride to the track, but things worked better toward the end.

"The car really bogged down a lot at the start," Liddell said. "I lost a lot of spaces and fell outside the top 10. Coming back, I had a few hairy moments and the car has some marks on it now, but nothing too hairy.

"I was probably too aggressive on the tires in the early stages, but at the end of the day, I had to fight my way back toward the top."

Behind Henzler, Max Papis, of Miami, Fla., made an impressive SPEED World Challenge debut in the No. 16 XM/Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose/On Star Cadillac CTS-V, starting and finishing fifth.

Mike McCann, of North Canton, Ohio, earned the GS510 Deeper, Harder, Longer Braking Award for his lap 16 pass of the No. 2 Aggregate Industries/ 3R-Racing Dodge Viper driven by Phil McClure, of Floris, Iowa.

Rookie Jameson Riley, of Wilton, Conn., also had an impressive showing in the No. 26 Volvo Cars of North America Volvo S60 R as he earned the season's first Sunoco Hard Charger award for finishing 17th after starting 27th.

The SCCA Pro Racing SPEED GT race can be seen on SPEED Sunday, March 27, at 2 p.m. (EST).

Round Two of the SPEED GT Championship is set for April 1-3 as part of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

For more information about SPEED GT or SPEED World Challenge, visit www.world-challenge.com.

-scca pro racing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Max Papis , Andy Pilgrim , Robin Liddell , Tommy Archer , Phil McClure , Wolf Henzler , Jameson Riley