TORONTO — Johnny O’Connell and Lawson Aschenbach scored wins in eound 10 of the GT and GTS class Pirelli World Challenge 2013 season in the Acura Sports Car Challenge, part of the Honda Indy 200 at Toronto.
O’Connell’s fourth win of 2013 in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R moves him into the GT class points lead, unofficially, over James Sofronas. O’Connell’s teammate Andy Pilgrim in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, finished second for the third straight race. O’Connell completed 34 laps of the 1.765-mile Exhibition Place street circuit at an average speed of 86.302 mph, edging Pilgrim by just 0.479 of a second.
O’Connell and Pilgrim also finished 1-2 at the most recent GT race, round nine a little more than one week ago in Lime Rock Park. On this day, the pair admitted it was not nearly as straightforward a result as at Lime Rock.
“We were fortunate today,” said O’Connell. “I really think from the get-go, Alex (Figge) in the Volvo was really strong. I pushed as hard as I could in the opening laps. When you’re in that situation, you know traffic will come to you and help you out.”
Pilgrim made it to second after some poor luck affected other cars. He never was able to make a passing attempt on his teammate, but consolidated Cadillac’s lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
“I was trying as hard as I could, but by the time I got to him, I had nothing for him,” said Pilgrim.
Mike Skeen, in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette, came home in third ahead of Sofronas in the No. 14 GMG/Swisher Racing/Mobil 1 Audi R8 LMS. Randy Pobst, in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, rounded out the GT top five.
Pobst’s teammate Alex Figge, in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, got the edge on Motul polesitter O’Connell off the start. Figge held off the charges of both O’Connell and Sofronas, who stayed glued to his bumper as the GT leaders cycled through GTS traffic.
O’Connell got past on lap 11 and shortly thereafter, Figge’s luck went from bad to worse with a spin at turn six. He recovered and resumed, but his result didn’t match his pace all weekend.
“He caught some competitive traffic, two guys racing through 10 and 11, and finishing the final corner,” said O’Connell. “Sometimes when you’re second, you can do the math a little better. That was the race right there. Luck plays a part in that equation. I got a call on the radio, that there was water in (Turn) 6, but seeing that I changed down to second at what’s usually a third gear corner. Then I saw him spinning and thought, that’s the break I needed.”
Sofronas, then, hounded O’Connell as the Audi’s tires came in over a longer stint. But Sofronas, too, lost control of his car when in the battle for the lead. He spun at turn one on lap 22 but didn’t do a full loop, and he too returned to the action.
“In traffic, you have to be so careful and get some luck, because today Alex and James basically dropped out of the way,” explained Pilgrim, who was running right behind Sofronas at the time. “James was coming today. He was coming on Johnny and gapping me. He had some problem, I don’t know if it was ABS or gearbox-related, but he did finish so it wasn’t terminal. There was a lot of luck but still a good solid Cadillac.”
In GTS, Aschenbach, in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, also scored his fourth win of 2013. Aschenbach controlled the race from the Motul pole and his closest challenger, besides Lee, was Nic Jonsson in the No. 36 Kia America/Kia Racing/Kinetic Kia Optima. Jonsson’s charge ended with mechanical issues on lap 19.
“We had a pretty good Camaro today,” said Aschenbach. “I had a feeling this race would go for long green flag runs, so we set up for that. Hats off to the Blackdog Speed Shop Team Chevy Camaro guys. We learned quite a bit on Friday, and it helped us win the race. It was a great weekend for us, and a great weekend for points.”
It was a Camaro 1-2 as Andy Lee finished second in the No. 20 Best IT/Bondurant/Crown Seven Chevrolet Camaro, some 9.264 seconds behind him. The result is Lee’s fifth podium finish of the 2013 season.
“We got really fortunate that they ran into problems too, and that gave us a good enough gap (for second),” Lee said of the Kia’s demise. “I thought we had a car to win; I felt we still had some in reserve. But it’s still a good result for Chevy, with a 1-2, to extend our lead in Manufacturers’ Championship.”
Meanwhile, there was a pivotal change for third place on the last lap. GTS class points leader Jack Baldwin, in the No. 73 Motul/StopTech/Foametix Porsche Cayman S, ended third ahead of Mark Wilkins in the No. 38 Kia America/Kia Racing/Kinetic Kia Optima, who had been third.
The podium is Baldwin’s ninth in 10 races this season, while Wilkins was cruelly denied a home race podium. The result was still Wilkins’ eighth consecutive top-five finish, though, in fourth place. Roger Rodas finished an impressive, season-best fifth in the No. 52 Always Evolving Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302S.