Figge and Wilkins take GT, GTS wins in race 1 at Mid-Ohio
The Pirelli World Challenge Round 11 at Mid-Ohio ended with Figge earning the first race of the double header weekend. Wilkins took the honors in GTS. In the Touring Car races held on Saturday, Cooper sweeps TC and Francis Jr, Davis split TCB.
Lexington, OH - Alex Figge (GT) and Mark Wilkins (GTS) took overdue second wins of their seasons in Round 11 of the Pirelli World Challenge 2013 campaign, at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by StopTech Brakes.
Figge, of Denver, CO, controlled the race from the Motul pole position in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 in a flag-to-flag winning performance. A mix of early pace and hitting GTS traffic at exactly the right time helped him to win the 30-lap race by 1.739 seconds.
"I feel everyone would agree we were due one; it's a big relief, and monkey off the back," said Figge, who also won Round 1 of the 2013 season at St. Petersburg. "The K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 was very, very good initially. The first half was absolutely lights out. I also had it going for me that apparently, the guys behind me caught traffic as they were fighting for position. So it was a perfect storm for them. It turns out I needed that at the end as we had a little hiccup with the transmission. We held on; we needed it."
Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, GA in the No. 3 Cadillac CTS-V.R, added to his GT class points lead with a second place finish. James Sofronas, of Villa Park, CA in the No. 14 GMG/Swisher Racing/Mobil 1 Audi R8 LMS scored a needed podium in third place after a recent run of fourth or worse place finishes.
"I had a great start," said O'Connell, who started fifth. "There was a gap, and I was forced to do a lot of what I did by what James did. But I found myself gaining positions in the first couple corners. Then it was just trying to stay in front of the Audi. Then Randy (Pobst) fell back, and that allowed me to move into second."
Sofronas held off a train of cars behind him at the outset after an early pass on Jordan Taylor, of Apopka, Fla., in the third Cadillac entered this weekend - the No. 5 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R.
"It was a little too conservative on the start, but I knew I would have a good car at the end," said Sofronas. "I knew I had to get around Jordan early; he's young but man, is he a fast professional. I knew I had to get around him or I'd be in real trouble.
"Then setting my sights on the top three, our car comes in at the end. But it was not enough. We really are down on torque in the corners. So we need to hit traffic at the perfect time. Randy ran strong, did what he could to keep me behind. I put a move on him in the Keyhole. The Audi R8 LMS, GMG, Swisher car was really strong. I don't think I could have driven any harder or better. We lost a few points but we are in this thing to the end."
Sofronas' pass on Pobst netted him the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race Award.
Pobst, of Gainesville, GA in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 finished fourth ahead of Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, FL, in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing CTS-V.R. Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, NC in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette, finished sixth and took home the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race for a move on Pilgrim.
In GTS, Wilkins was able to capitalize on some unfortunate issues that befell his Kinetic/Kia Racing teammate and Motul polesitter, Nic Jonsson, of Jonkoping, Sweden, in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Kia Optima turbo. Wilkins, who drives the No. 38 B.R.A.K.E.S. Kia Optima turbo, made it past Jonsson on the front straight on Lap 23 while threading the needle between slower traffic. The win is Wilkins' second of 2013 to go along with a win in Round 6 at Detroit.
"It's great, for Kia Racing our partner B.R.A.K.E.S. and Kinetic Motorsports," said Wilkins, who closed on the GTS championship lead. "We have been working consistently on this car all year. We have driven hard all year.
"There was a little issue for Nic; he had an injured car and didn't have much left," he added. "He was just hanging on there. I didn't have to work too hard for it but kept pushing. When the opportunity was there, I went for it. He'll be back real strong."
Enjoying a welcome return to the podium for the first time since Round 3 was Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, WI, in the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. Cunningham finished second ahead of Lawson Aschenbach, of Jupiter, FL, in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro.
"It feels very great," said Cunningham. "We started out with three (podiums) in a row but haven't even driven past the podium since then. Mid-Ohio is a great track for the Acuras. We didn't have what it took to win, but it was a real strong second place. I'm proud of the RealTime guys and all the work they put into the Acura TSXs. It's been developed for five years; we're digging and digging, and we won't give up."
Aschenbach recorded his fourth straight podium of 2013, and his eighth in 11 total races in 2013.
"Mixed day really. We gained some on Jack (Baldwin), lost some on Wilkins, so points-wise it was kind of a wash," said Aschenbach. "Peter ran a good race and it was fun to battle with him. Hat's off to the Blackdog Speed Shop Team Chevy Camaro guys. The car was perfect but right now it feels like we're getting killed down the straights. We'll keep fighting."
The aforementioned Baldwin, GTS class points leader of Marietta, GA, finished fourth in the No. 73 Motul/StopTech/Foametix Porsche Cayman S with Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, CO, fifth in the No. 20 Best IT/Bondurant/Crown Seven Chevrolet Camaro.
Alec Udell, of The Woodlands, TX, finished sixth in the No. 17 Motorsports Development Ford Mustang Boss 302S, and took home the Optima Batteries Best Start, plus three positions from ninth on the grid. He and Lee enjoyed a great battle all race.
Lastly, Brad Adams, of New Orleans, LA, in the No. 96 Voodoo/DatDog/Yo MTV Raps! Ford Mustang Boss 302S, was the Sunoco Hard Charger with a gain of seven places from 17th on the grid to a 10th place finish.
After Round 11 in GT, O'Connell leads Sofronas by 51 points at 1221 to 1170. Pilgrim is in third with 1054 point. In GTS, Baldwin leads over Wilkins by 77 points (1166 to 1089) with Aschenbach in third with 1012. Points are provisional until posted final.
Round 12 of the GT/GTS season goes green on Sunday at 11:40 a.m. ET.
Cooper Sweeps TC, Francis Jr. and Davis Split TCB at Mid-Ohio
Michael Cooper swept the Touring Car Doubleheader at Mid-Ohio. For the second race weekend in a row, Michael Cooper, of Syosset, NY, swept the Touring Car doubleheader in Pirelli World Challenge. Three weeks ago it was north of the border on the Streets of Toronto, and on Saturday, it was at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Rounds 9 and 10 of the TC class season, at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by StopTech Brakes.
In Touring Car B-Spec, Ernie Francis Jr. took the Round 9 win, and Robbie Davis the Round 10 win. Francis Jr. took home his fifth win of 2013, with Davis winning his third race. The battle between these two at the top of the championship intensified with Francis Jr. having a fraught Round 10.
Cooper, driving the No. 1 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda 3, started from the Motul pole position and enjoyed a race-long battle with Tristan Herbert, of Reston, VA, in the No. 33 Revo/GermanAutoParts/Brimtek Volkswagen Jetta GLI.
On Lap 7 of the 16-lap, 25-minute race, Herbert made a pass on Cooper to take the lead. But on Lap 12, after closing back on him as the leaders cycled through TCB traffic, Cooper retook the lead into Turn 4 on the inside. The latter move netted Cooper the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race, en route to his third win in succession. Cooper won by 0.888 of a second at an average speed of 82.773 mph.
"It was a really good battle with Tristan in the first race," said Cooper. "We were faster in different places. He took advantage of that on one lap. Then a few laps later I was able to get him back, and was able to hold him off. He got some pressure for behind and had to defend."
Herbert scored his first podium finish of the season in his first Pirelli World Challenge race start since the opening tripleheader weekend at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin in May.
"I have taken on a different role in motorsports, but my home will always be Pirelli World Challenge," said Herbert. "I really enjoy coming back and racing with these guys."
Brett Sandberg, of Allendale, NJ, took third place in the No. 70 C360R/GearTie.com/HPD Honda Civic Si, "best in class" of the four Compass360 Racing entries and best Honda of the seven entered in TC.
"It was a good first race; our car was really fast, and it got better in the second race," said Sandberg, who finished fourth in Round 10. "On the start of the second race, I got shuffled all the way to the back, a little bumped around. I thought something may have broke on the car, but then it seemed ok, and I worked back to front. Overall we'll take it."
Compass360 teammates were fourth and fifth in Round 9. Remo Ruscitti, of Vancouver, Canada, was fourth in the No. 71 C360R/Ultimate Racing/HPD Honda Civic Si ahead of Ryan Winchester, of Mason City, IA, in the No. 72 C360R/Ligion Industries/HPD Honda Civic Si.
Jon Miller, of Orlando, FL, finished sixth in the Shea Racing No. 68 Titan Motorsports/Loudbasstard Honda Civic Si. Miller, no stranger to exciting moves this year, captured the Optima Batteries Best Start Award by gaining four spots from ninth to fifth at the start.
The TCB race behind them was nothing short of dramatic. Joel Lipperini, of Pittston, PA, led the opening laps in the No. 81 RaceLabz Honda Fit. Any of the top seven cars in class, from four different manufacturers (Honda, Mazda, Chevrolet, MINI) could have been covered by a blanket.
But eventually the door opened for Ernie Francis Jr. to sweep through. Francis Jr., of Davie, FL, in the No. 98 Festivals of Speed/Breathless Performance Mazda 2, and his father Ernie Sr., also of Davie, FL in the No. 2 Hydraulic Jeans Mazda 2, passed Lipperini in succession in the waning laps. The move netted Francis Jr. the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award.
"It was a good race; I had to wait for my opportunity to get past the Honda in front of me," said Francis Jr. "When I got past him it was clear sailing, and I never looked back."
Lipperini fell to third place. Tyler Palmer, of Oceanside, CA in the No. 24 Blackforest Porsche/Discount Tire/Mobil 1 MINI Cooper finished fourth with Peter Schwartzott Sr., of White Plains, NY, fifth in the No. 4 Peter Schwartzott Racing Chevrolet Sonic. Palmer, who gained two positions from his grid spot, took home the Sunoco Hard Charger Award.
Cooper's run to the TC win in Round 10, his fourth in succession and fourth of 2013, was less eventful than in Round 9. He got the jump from pole, which he earned as a result of winning Round 9, and never looked back after an early-race restart. It was a flag-to-flag victory for him in the 15-lap, 25-minute race, at an average speed of 77.627 mph and a winning margin of 2.566 seconds.
"The Compass guys looked like they got a really good start and held (Tristan) up a lot, and then we had the yellow almost off the start," said Cooper. "I didn't see behind me on the restart, but within two laps I was pretty clear. From there I stopped looking in my mirror and was able to get him into a rhythm. I knocked off a bunch of laps until we caught the TCB cars. I think I hit a B-Spec car; I was a little worried, but we made sure the car was OK."
The battle was for second. Winchester held off Herbert, after passing him on Lap 9, to score another podium finish. The pass was the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race. With second, the TC class points leader now has nine podium finishes in 10 starts this season.
"Yeah it was a little tough. I had some contact with my teammate, which is never good," said Winchester. "We got going after the restart and got up to second. I tried to run down Cooper, but the way it is right now, it wasn't going to happen. We still got second which was a good day."
Herbert nearly caught and passed Winchester on the final lap, attempting passing maneuvers through the final two corners, but had to settle for third.
"The second race was close, too," said Herbert. "I thought I was going to catch Ryan there right at the end, with the B-Spec traffic."
Sandberg was fourth and Ruscitti fifth. Sandberg secured the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award after passing teammate Ray Mason, of Columbus, Ohio, in the No. 76 C360R/Columbus Truck/HPD Honda Civic Si on Lap 7.
In TCB, a first lap chain-reaction accident altered the outcome of the race. The two dominant drivers from Round 9, Francis Jr. and Lipperini, were caught up in an accordion effect of contact that ended with Lipperini's car damaged and Francis Jr. stuck in the Turn 4 gravel trap. P.J. Groenke, of Toronto, Ontario in the No. 66 MulliganGold/Tundra/Verax.Ca Honda Fit was among the others caught up in the mess.
Francis Jr. explained what happened from his perspective: "To be honest, I'm not really sure what happened. Cars were flying everywhere; Lipperini flew into the side of my car, and I was off the track."
Lipperini added, "The second race, I got a decent start. But when I went down into the turn, unfortunately someone got in the back of me and it started a chain reaction. Unfortunately I think it bent something in the rear end, the car drug the whole race, and I had no straight speed. We got hit pretty good."
The chaos promoted Davis, of Dallas, TX in the No. 37 MINI of Charleston Racing MINI Cooper, from seventh to the lead in class. Palmer was second and hounded him most of the race, after the restart.
Despite Palmer using nearly every inch of the road to try to pass Davis, he was unable to pass the similar MINI. Davis won by 0.286 of a second.
"It was close and crazy!" said Davis. "The second race, I stayed out of trouble, and then I got right through the pack of trouble. I blinked and I was leading! Have to give big thanks to MINI of Charleston; I couldn't be happier to be here."
Palmer was able to capture his fourth podium finish in five Pirelli World Challenge TCB starts this season.
"The second race, on the start, we started in the middle and people were passing around me, and I thought, 'Well, just do what I can,'" said Palmer. "But I went to the outside in the grass, came back on in second place, went on from there. We almost had him. I can't thank everyone at Blackforest Porsche/Discount Tire/Mobil 1 Mini, my crew and my dad enough, Scott Kuhne let me borrow his car, everyone thankful for their support."
Dave Rosenblum, of Langhorn, PA in the No. 18 Leo's & Tommy Mens Shop/VAC Ford Fiesta finished third after passing Lipperini for third on the 13th of 14 laps. He gained nine spots from his starting position to secure the Sunoco Hard Charger Award.
"This goes to my buddy Paul Hacker, I got his ashes," said Rosenblum. "He was a great Showroom Stock driver. He won a million races between Lime Rock and here. I said I would take them to the race with me."
Lipperini was fourth and Shea Holbrook, of Groveland, FL, emerged fifth in the No. 67 TRUECar/Hendrick Honda/Lucas Oil Honda Fit.
Jack Murray, of Montgomery, TX in the No. 11 Fiat by Executive Fiat 500, took home the Optima Batteries Best Start Award after gaining 11 spots on the first lap. Murray was classified 17th.
Through 10 of 14 races, Winchester leads Sandberg in the TC points standings by 231 points, 1164-933. Ruscitti is third with 874. In TCB, the margin is razor thin as Francis Jr. leads Davis by just two points, 1036-1034. Lipperini lost ground and is third on 948.
The races from Mid-Ohio will be broadcast August 18 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on NBC Sports Network. The next races are at Sonoma the weekend of Aug. 22-25.
Pirelli World Challenge
Figge and Jonsson take poles in GT/GTS at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Figge sweeps GT and Aschenbach takes pivotal GTS win at Mid-Ohio