BOWMANVILLE, Ontario — Mike Skeen made it three in-a-row in Pirelli World Challenge GT competition at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, winning the first of two races on the weekend as part of the Motul CTMP Grand Prix presented by Optima Batteries.
Michael Galati gave Kia its first series win in Pirelli World Challenge GTS competition.
Starting from the pole in his No. 02 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette, Skeen watched second-starting Randy Pobst rocket to the lead with his all-wheel drive in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 on the standing start. Pobst jumped to a huge lead, which was for naught as teammate Alex Figge spun into the Turn One gravel and necessitated a full course caution for extraction.
Skeen got the jump on the restart and put the Corvette back out front for good to score his fifth-career win, his third-straight after sweeping the pair of races in 2011.
Behind Skeen, Pobst ran second until the car experienced a mechanical failure and caught fire on lap 10, bringing out another caution. The fire and subsequent caution was the Kia Turning Point of the Race.
“This Hawk Performance Corvette is awesome,” Skeen said. “CRP Racing did a great job. We’ve had no hiccups this weekend. Thank goodness, because we’ve had a pretty tough year. It feels really good for the guys. They were up until three last night working on everything.
“After the Volvo [Pobst] got around us on the start, I tried to figure out what was going to happen and how I could get him. I got lucky on the restart. I think everybody was surprised how quickly we went back to green. I got him on the restart. Then he fell off unfortunately. He had the fire. I hope he’s alright. I am really glad to be here and really happy for all of the guys.”
Pobst was treated, released and cleared to drive after the fire, although his car may not be available to race on Sunday.
The extended cleanup period set up an eight-lap dash to the checkered flag. Skeen got away quickly and Andy Pilgrim gave chase in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R with his teammate, point leader Johnny O’Connell in tow.
Behind those three, Steve Ott battled Lawson Aschenbach’s No. 1 Privacy Star/Entrust/TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3, making a pass with two wheels in the grass for the position on the Andretti Straightaway. The move earned Ott and his No. 85 Racing For Our Heroes/Loctite Porsche 911 GT3 the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race.
Pilgrim never got the chance to try for the lead, though, as a flat tire forced him to the pit lane on lap 25. That promoted O’Connell to second and Ott to third, where they would finish.
Aschenbach continued on to finish fourth, followed by Tony Gaples, who made his 100th series start in the No. 11 Kleinschmidt/Black Dog Chevrolet Corvette.
O’Connell’s finish helped him extend his Championship point lead to 191—1011 to 820 over Pilgrim.
In Pirelli World Challenge GTS, Galati parlayed his 24th-career series pole into Kia’s first win as a manufacturer. Galati started the No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima first, but saw Jack Baldwin’s No. 68 Team Hot Wheels/Invoice Prep Porsche Cayman S and Aaron Povoledo’s No. 26 Total Lubricants/Dell Cherries Ford Mustang Boss 302S go by on the start. Galati was quickly back out front after the restart, and was never seriously challenged en route to his 24th victory.
“This is my favorite track in the world,” Galati said. “I’ve won a lot of races here. I feel at home here. People say Ohio is my home track. This is my home track. I love this track because it’s so fast.
“I opened up a gap. I was surprised how well the car was doing early on. But, then when the full course yellow came out, I thought, ‘Oh no not again.’ But, I got a good restart. Then, the car started going away a little bit. It started to understeer and I had to be very clean driving it. But, the Optima performed fantastically. I owe this to my team Kinetic Racing and Kia. Mark [Wilkins] and I did a great job – one-two today. The car was awesome.
“It was fantastic to get this win for Kia. This is history in the making. Who would have thought that Optima, after 5 or 6 races, would finish one-two? It’s a great car.”
Behind him, the racing was fierce for second and third. Povoledo and Mark Wilkins (No. 38 Kia Motors America Kia Optima) battled side-by-side lap-after-lap up the Andretti Straightaway for second before Wilkins finally took the spot for good on lap 25.
Povoledo finished fourth, but earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award for his early pass for second place. Alec Udell, finished fifth in the No. 16 MDG/Ford Racing/Kart Nation Ford Mustang Boss 302S.
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