ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Mike Skeen and Tim Pappas were first-time winners this season in Pirelli World Challenge GT and GT-A competition, while Nic Jonsson took his second GTS win of the year during the Cadillac Grand Prix at Road America.
Skeen’s win is his eighth, Jonsson’s his third and Pappas’ his first in Pirelli World Challenge. For Skeen it is his first win since last July’s round eight at Lime Rock Park; Jonsson won earlier this year at round two in Long Beach.
For Skeen, driving the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra, he started fifth but had already made it up to third place by lap three. Once he was second behind Andy Pilgrim in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, he hounded the leading Cadillac for a solid eight laps.
The deciding moment of the race came on lap 15. In an over-under move Skeen got a run on Pilgrim exiting the right-handed turn 12, Canada Corner, and then moved to Pilgrim’s right to have the outside line at the following left-handed turn 13.
Skeen powered past in the Audi through the corner, and began to streak away from there. The move was awarded, ironically, the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race as the Cadillac was on the receiving end of Skeen’s pass. Skeen led the final nine laps of the 23-lap race and won by 1.838 seconds.
“Our strong spot was getting a run out of the Kink into Canada,” Skeen said. “That lap he pinched too much; I got a nice over-under, then side-by-side through 13. Andy’s awesome to race against and a very gentlemanly racer. Both him and Johnny are so professional, and easy to race.”
The battle for second and third place was intense, and ultimately ended with a pair of first-time Pirelli World Challenge GT podium finishers.
Robert Thorne in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3 made the key pass for second on lap 22, as he dove to the inside of both Pilgrim and Tim Bergmeister in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R at turn five. Bergmeister made the move on Pilgrim to the inside, but as both exited wide of the corner, Thorne snuck through past both of them for the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award.
The result for Thorne is his first GT podium, although he has a Touring Car class win already to his credit in the series. It betters his previous best result of sixth, achieved at round five in Detroit.
“I was waiting for the right time to show up. I didn’t have to be impatient,” Thorne said. Once I saw them go in and deep, I knew what could happen and I went to their inside. I’m not sure if they thought I was coming. Tim was a little surprised. But I was waiting for the race to come to me. I’m overly excited; it speaks volumes about the K-PAX McLaren team.”
Although he missed out on the runner-up finish, Bergmeister still had by far his best race of the season and ended in third. A seventh place scored at another permanent road course, Barber Motorsports Park for round three in April, was his previous best result.