SEBRING, Fla. (March 15, 2002) -- Michael Galati, of N. Olmstead, Ohio, got the jump on the field from his pole position and never looked back, taking the opening round of the 2002 SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge GT Championship at Sebring...
SEBRING, Fla. (March 15, 2002) -- Michael Galati, of N. Olmstead, Ohio, got the jump on the field from his pole position and never looked back, taking the opening round of the 2002 SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge GT Championship at Sebring International Raceway. Peter Cunningham, of W. Bend, Wis., battled back from an early spin to finish second, followed by Jeff McMillin, of Erie, Pa.
Driving the No. 1 Champion Racing Audi S4 Competition, Galati launched from the standing start and drove away as chaos ensued behind him on the grid, causing a lengthy caution to clean up the Porsches of third-starting Johannes van Overbeek, Bob Miller and Greg Merril. Further upstream, in turn one, second-starting Cunningham was spinning as well, back to sixth.
On the lap-five restart, Cunningham began to move through the field, but Galati was pulling away from second place Phil McClure and Jeff McMillin. By lap six, Cunningham was up to fourth, passing for third and second in the next tour.
As Cunningham (No. 42 RealTime Racing Acura NSX SC) chased Galati, who built a four-second advantage, McClure (No. 73 Aggregate Industries/Luch's Concrete Corvette ZO6), McMillin (No. 25 McMillin Motorsports/JJ's Snacks BMW M3) and John Young (No. 44 Contract Metal Products Saleen SR) waged a furious battle for third.
McMillin finally went through into second on lap 13, earning the Rogaine Hair Raising Pass of the day, but he was well behind the lead duo, and Galati was too far in front for a challenge, taking a 4.750-second win, averaging 80.586 mph in the 66.6-mile contest.
"On the restart, my crew said 'PD [Cunningham] is coming' and I yelled back 'I'm on it!'" said Galati, the defending series Champion. "We managed to stay out front and get the win. This Audi program is fantastic. We did a lot of testing and it's really paid off."
Cunningham, who battled Galati at Sebring in 2001 and won, had to settle for second after such a disastrous start, in which he came together with fifth-starting David Farmer.
"I thought I was clean at the apex of the corner, but I did a 360, put it in first, and was very lucky not to be hit again," said Cunningham, who finished third in the Speed Touring Car series race earlier in the day. "I was really using up my car, banging out the laps, and I realized Galati was doing the same thing. I just couldn't get him this afternoon."
Cunningham ran the race's fastest lap in his pursuit, turning a record lap of 2:20.901 (94.534 mph).
McMillin made it through the start melee, and came out on top of the race-long battle with McClure and Young.
"I got a good launch, and after getting around the Saleen [Young] I just ducked around the incident and waved as I went by," said McMillin, the 2000 series Champion. "I got by McClure going into the hairpin. Finally, when I had a good run, I made the move and surprised the heck out of him."
McClure, of Floris, Iowa, came home fourth, followed by Young, of Woodside, Calif. Justin Marks, Derek Bell, Michael Culver, Farmer and George Biskup completed the top 10. The first six cars were different makes, tying a World Challenge record, with Audi, Acura, BMW, Chevrolet, Saleen and Porsche represented.
None of the drivers in the startline incident were injured. The accident started when van Overbeek, who started third, got away from the line slowly.
-scca pro racing-