ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Series newcomer Thomas Enge won Sunday’s Pirelli World Challenge race during the Cadillac Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Enge took the overall and GT class victory, while three-time series champion Lawson Aschenbach took the GTS class victory and Andrew Palmer took the top honors in the new GT-A classification.
Enge made the decisive pass in the No. 25 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 to complete a comeback victory after a slow getaway from the standing start at the 1.8-mile street circuit. Enge won by 0.775 seconds, at an average speed of 72.436 mph in the full FIA GT3-spec car.
He fell back on the start, but methodically worked his way back through the field prior to the race’s only full course caution, which changed the complexion of the race.
It waved just before half distance for contact at Turn 4 between Jim Taggart, of Cary, N.C. in the No. 7 Taggart Autosport/Smartcharms.com Porsche GT3 R and Erik Davis, of Burbank, Calif., in the No. 75 Always Evolving Racing/Autotopia, LLC Ford Mustang Boss 302S.
“Unfortunately things didn’t go well at the start, obviously I dropped back, I don’t know to which place. P10 or something,” Enge said. “I knew if I kept calm and stayed out of trouble, I had a great car to come to the front and to make it back.”
Enge passed Andy Pilgrim in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R with just more than five minutes remaining on lap 29, taking the gap through the inside of turn one to complete the move. The move netted Enge the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race award.
“Everything else went really well, including the pass,” Enge said. “Everything else came better, car, tires, setup, durability during the race. I’m really happy we could present these beautiful Reiter Engineering Lamborghinis here in U.S.A. with this great championship.”
Pilgrim, who scored nine podium finishes in 2013, secured his first of 2014 in the first race of the year. It was a strong effort for him, as he said the podium result was more than he expected.
“We didn’t get a great start like we thought we would,” Pilgrim said. “The Cadillac CTS.V.R was great right off of the bat. Enge did not get a good start. He had to come from way back. The yellow really helped him and hurt us. Without the yellow I am not sure he could have caught me. Enge came back to us. It was a good first race; I am disappointed not to get the win, but happy to be on the podium. It was unexpected.”