VIR: Series race one report

Pobst, Jakubowski and Buras Earn World Challenge Wins At VIR ALTON, Va. (September 11, 2010) -- Randy Pobst extended his GT Drivers' Championship lead with his fourth World Challenge win of the season Saturday at the Race Keeper VIR Grand Prix...

Pobst, Jakubowski and Buras Earn World Challenge Wins At VIR

ALTON, Va. (September 11, 2010) -- Randy Pobst extended his GT Drivers' Championship lead with his fourth World Challenge win of the season Saturday at the Race Keeper VIR Grand Prix presented by MTM Special Ops Watch at VIRginia International Raceway. Ernie Jakubowski, of Oakville, Ont., and Todd Buras, of Daytona Beach, Fla., earned the GTS and Touring Car wins, respectively.

Pobst, who started on the pole when the GT grid was set by points after a red flag wiped out qualifying, rocketed away from the standing start and into the lead through the opening lap. Championship rival Kuno Wittmer gave chase in his No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper from his second position on the grid, and by lap four trailed by just 0.764-second after turning the race's fastest lap in a time of 1:56.927 (100.678 mph).

By lap six, Pobst's No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 had led the GT field into lapped traffic from the slower Touring Car class, which allowed him to stretch his lead to more than four seconds over Wittmer.

When rain began to fall on lap 13, the dynamic of the race changed again, with Pobst's all-wheel-drive Volvo more equipped to deal with the loss of traction than Wittmer's Dodge power. On lap 15, pushing harder than the conditions would allow, Wittmer spun and backed into the tire barrier in Turn 15. Wittmer was able to continue, still in fourth place, and held the position to the finish.

Given that breathing room, Pobst wouldn't be challenged again on his way to a 6.882-second margin of victory. Pobst averaged 97.219 mph over the 22-lap, 71.94-mile race.

"My season has come down to the starts," Pobst said. "My car has been kind of moody and today, it was in a great mood. I think I had smoke coming out of all four tires on the standing start. I was able to use the gap that I gained at the start to keep Kuno [Wittmer] behind me at the end of the straightaways. It made for really interesting racing. I was able to build the gap in the tight stuff and in the esses. My K-PAX Volvo was so fast in the climbing esses. I don't think I slowed down at all."

Pobst's closest call came late in the race, when, on a run into turn one, he made the decision to split the No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX GTS machine of Peter Cunningham and the No. 40 Go 4 It/Gila Monster Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI Touring Car of Carolyn Kujala. That pass earned him the MTM Special Ops Watch Move of the Race.

"My race was the opposite of what my teammate Andy's was," Pobst said of the traffic. "For me, this was one of the races where the traffic worked out for me every time. Every time I'd put a gap on Kuno it was because of the traffic. I caught the car in a place where they wouldn't slow me down, and he caught them right into a winding part where you couldn't pass."

Behind Pobst and Wittmer was a battle for third that would become a battle for second after Wittmer's spin. James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., and Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., started third and fourth, respectively, and pulled away together at the start of the race, with Pilgrim's No. 8 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 leading the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 of Sofronas.

Pilgrim gapped Sofronas early, but by lap 13 that gap began to shrink. By lap 17, the two were running nose-to-tail. With the rain falling and the track surface wet, Sofronas pulled along side Pilgrim under braking going into Turn One on lap 18, and powered by through Turn Two to hold onto second place. That pass also earned Sofronas the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award.

Sofronas kept Pilgrim at bay through the remaining laps for his fourth-consecutive finish in the top four.

"From the start, it was not a good race," Sofronas said. "With our launch control, we had an amazing amount of wheel spin. I just sat there spinning the tires and I saw all these cars coming up behind me. By the time I got traction, the top three were gone and I saw Jason Daskalos coming like a freight-train. He was coming to the inside and I shut the door. Apparently, he may not have had room and he hit me from behind. I'm not sure how far back he was, but my rear bumper was damaged. I almost spun and I looked in my mirror and he was spinning at 100 mph. I was just hoping no one collected him. I want to see the video to see what happened. You don't like to have an incident like that.

"The car was evil in right handers after that. I couldn't get the power down. I just got used to it. It was slight but enough to affect the Porsche. I did see Andy just get absolutely screwed a couple of times while I was not nearly as hampered. I was on his bumper and he'd lose me in the tight stuff and I'd gain on him on top end."

As much as the traffic helped his teammate get away for a victory, it cost Pilgrim multiple times throughout the race.

"I can honestly say that was the worst race for traffic I've ever had," Pilgrim said. "Some laps I lost as much as six seconds. It was just bad timing. You know, it happens to everybody. Sometimes in a 24-hour race, you'll have a stint where you can't get out of traffic and then you'll have another where you don't see any. It was just awful."

Rob Morgan (No. 46 TruSpeed Motorsports/Querencia Porsche 911 GT3), Jason Daskalos (No. 5 Daskalos Developments Dodge Viper) and Jeff Courtney (No. 99 Kenda Tire Dodge Viper) battled for most of the race before finishing fifth, sixth and seventh.

Daskalos rocketed away from his sixth spot on the grid and toward Turn One, but made contact with Sofronas and spun to the end of the GT field. After catching up to Morgan and Courtney, the three swapped positions over several laps at the end of the race before settling into their final positions.

It was Morgan's best finish of the season.

Tony Gaples, Fred Roberts and Bill Ziegler completed the top 10.

With the win, Pobst now has 1075 Drivers' Championship points on the season and has improved his lead to 191 markers over both Wittmer and Sofronas, who are now tied with 884. Pilgrim is fourth with 800, followed by Daskalos with 755. The win also increased Volvo's Manufacturers' Championship lead to 7 over Porsche, 68-61, with Dodge now at 42.

Pobst can clinch the Drivers' Championship with a solid run in Sunday's race.

The record book shows that Jakubowski led just one lap, but he led the most important lap on his way to his first career World Challenge GTS class win.

Driving the No. 91 Fuchs/CDOC/Forgeline Porsche Cayman, Jakubowski made the standing start from the rear of the GTS grid. A great start and Porsche power pulled him up five positions to second by the end of the first lap, and the bright yellow machine found itself locked in a battle with Nick Esayian in the No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX for second place.

Jakubowski managed to hold off Esayian and looked certain to end with his fourth podium finish of the year, behind Cunningham and what seemed to be an insurmountable lead with two laps until the checkered flag. Cunningham pulled to pit lane with mechanical difficulties as the white flag flew, leaving Esayian with 17-turns to pass the Porsche for his first win.

Esayian made one last-ditch effort to get past Jakubowski, but the two crossed the finish line nearly bumper-to-bumper for Jakubowski's first win, with Esayian hot behind.

"I only knew that I'd won when my crew chief told me," Jakubowski said. "I was focusing those last couple of laps of just finishing. It was raining and actually getting muddy in a couple of turns out there, so our whole goal was to just be consistent and stay on track.

Obviously, Peter [Cunningham] had a problem and we got our first win, which is a little surprising. It's surprising that we got it so soon, but we're trying as hard as we can to win any of them."

Kevin Helms, of Charlotte, N.C., finished third in his No. 04 DBA/Carbotech/AST/Exedy Acura RSX, followed by Tommy Sadler (No. 44 Motorsports Solutions Acura TSX) and Cunningham.

Cunningham holds a 157 point advantage over Esayian, 1196 to 1039. Acura clinched the GTS Manufacturers' Championship in the previous round at Mid-Ohio.

Buras sat on the pole in the No. 50 Irish Mike's Racing/Krispy Kreme Volkswagen Jetta GLI, but fell behind on the standing start to Robert Stout in the No. 18 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lucas Oil Scion tC in the run to the first corner.

Buras caught Stout by the end of lap one and began to slowly pull away, steadily stretching the lead. When the rain began just past the midway point of the race, Buras began to slide back to the Scion.

Stout closed the gap, but never got close enough to attempt a pass for the lead and settled for second.

"We can't launch like the Scions can," Buras said. "He slipped coming down to the start-finish and I got the lead and I never looked back. It started to rain and then it was just a see-saw back and forth gap. Where I was weak, he was strong and where he was weak, I was strong. He's a great competitor. Robert Stout has come a long way in the last six or so races. Lots of great competitors here."

It was a special win for Buras, who opened the season with a pair of Touring Car wins on the streets of St. Petersburg, but was injured in a racing incident just a few weeks later in a Grand-Am Series race -- coincidentally, at Virginia International Raceway.

"On April 30th, we were here with Grand-Am," Buras said. "I came over the blind corner [Turn 10] and a BMW M3 was parked sideways in the middle of the track. I came over the top of the hill and hit it with the rear of the car. I broke four ribs, had severe whiplash, severe trauma to the neck and a pulmonary contusion to the left lung. That was four months ago. It's been a long recovery. My doctor said 'go make it hurt and then make it hurt some more' after the healing was done. I got back into shape, lost 20 pounds and now I feel pretty good."

The winning car was untested, but Irish Mike's Racing clearly hit on the right combination.

"We got this car built three weeks ago," Buras continued. "It wasn't tested. We tested it here on Thursday. We've been thrashing and throwing stuff at it but we've got it pretty close. The car can still be much better. Thanks to Irish Mike's and thanks to SCCA for being awesome. This series is awesome and I hope it just continues to gain momentum for next year."

Brett Sandberg, of Allendale, N.J., earned his first podium with a third-place finish in the No. 28 Whitehall Stables Acura TSX. Sandberg improved from sixth on the grid to earn the trophy.

Robb Holland passed more cars than anyone else to finish fourth in the No. 22 3Zero3 Motorsports/Track Pro/Emich VW Volkswagen GTI, earning the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start for passing the most cars on lap one, and earning the Sunoco Hard Charger award for improving the most positions overall in the race.

Devin Cates, in the No. 23 Cates Engineering Volkswagen GTI, started from pit lane after problems starting the car on the pre-grid and climbed through the Touring Car field to finish fifth.

Stout holds a 207-point advantage in the Touring Car Drivers' Championship with 1071 points over Eric Meyer, with 864. Scion also holds the advantage in the Manufactuers' Championship, with 69 points, over Volkswagen, who has 48 points on the strength of four wins, Mazda (46 points), and Honda (33 points).

The World Challenge Championships GT, GTS and Touring Car classes qualify on Sunday morning at 10:20 a.m., followed by Round 11 at 1:35 p.m. EDT.

-source: scca pro racing

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About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Randy Pobst , Peter Cunningham , Rob Morgan , Nick Esayian , Kuno Wittmer , James Sofronas , Tony Gaples , Kevin Helms , Jeff Courtney , Robb Holland , Jason Daskalos , Fred Roberts , Eric Meyer , Devin Cates , Robert Stout , Brett Sandberg , Ernie Jakubowski , Carolyn Kujala , Bill Ziegler
Teams RealTime Racing , K-Pax Racing , Irish Mike's Racing