Centric Parts CEO Dino Crescentini might not have been able to improve on his seventh place qualifying position, but the 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach Grand Prix presented by StopTech was still a memorable day at the beach for “Team StopTech” as the StopTech supported Hot Wheels Cayman S of Jack Baldwin claimed victory in GTS and several other members of Team StopTech finished in the top ten.
As the ultra performance and racing division of Centric Parts - and the official brake system of the Pirelli World Challenge, StopTech was also the presenting sponsor of the race in Long Beach. The system of choice for race and championship winning teams, StopTech brake components and systems were on several top ten finishing cars in the 35 car field that saw GT and GTS classes competing in their third race of the 2012 season. Among them was Crescentini, who qualified - and finished – seventh in his No. 4 StopTech Porsche 911 GT3 Cup in front of the home crowd.
“From the beginning, StopTech has always been about providing the best braking technology and solutions for performance vehicles,”said Crescentini. “There is no better and more exciting proving ground for our company and its products than racing – and it’s always especially gratifying in Long Beach to be racing right in our backyard. Lessons we learn on the track transfer directly over to our whole line of StopTech, Power Slot and Centric Parts brake and clutch components and systems.”
Despite moving up to fifth on the start and fourth eventually, Crescentini fell back to his starting position of seventh by race’s end. “We had a really great race. We qualified seventh but were excited to be just a few tenths off the leaders on the grid. I got a great jump at the start and made a good pass to move up to fourth, but the car just went away from me as the race went on. Still, it was a great finish for Team StopTech with James (Safronas of GMG Racing) finishing fourth, and Jack Baldwin taking the win in GTS,” added Crescentini.
Baldwin, driving the StopTech-supported No. 68 Hot Wheels/Invoice Prep Porsche Cayman S in GTS, had commented prior to the race that he didn't believe he would be able to beat polesitter Peter Cunningham into Turn 1, owing to what he believed was a horsepower advantage Cunningham's Acura had over his former Cayman Interseries Porsche. Baldwin may have been surprised, then, when he found himself at the head of the class going into Turn 1 the first time around. His start was so good that it won him the Kia Turning Point of the Race award.
“I thought a lot about that start,"described Baldwin. "I don't have a lot of practice at it, but I started out drag racing back in the day and I just thought, 'You know what? I'm going to go out there and just come off the line like I used to. I'm just going to forget about this launching stuff.' I just watched the light. It was like a tree and it was, 'OK, boom!' I let the clutch out, it kind of slipped a little bit, it kind of hooked up and man, I was passing everybody. I couldn't believe what a start that I got. It was like a start that you dream about. I was just whizzing by people.”
Baldwin held the GTS lead throughout the race but his mirrors were full of the No. 50 eBay Motors Ford Mustang Boss 302S driven by Justin Bell as the laps wound down. Baldwin's car had some body damage from contact with another car and that coupled with the fact that Bell closed up somewhat dramatically behind Baldwin made it appear that Bell would somehow find a way to score his third straight GTS win after sweeping the St. Pete doubleheader.
As it turned out, Baldwin was merely managing his gap. He stretched his advantage slightly over the closing laps to come out on top, finishing ahead of runner-up Bell and third-place Colin Braun. It was Baldwin's first career World Challenge victory and it came in just his third series start.
“We were fortunate enough to win today at Long Beach," Baldwin said. "For me, it was real special because this is home base for Mattel Hot Wheels. Their office is right down the street in El Segundo and they were all here. For me, if there was one to win, this was the right one, so I feel real good about that."
“And those StopTech brakes,”he added,“They just never gave us a bit of trouble throughout the whole weekend. From start to finish they were always there and always strong enough to let me go deeper into the corners than the others. We might be down on horsepower compared to some of the other front-runners, but it speaks volumes that we tied for fastest lap…to the third decimal point…with the Boss Mustang. The handling and braking of this Cayman is incredible.”
Meanwhile, back in GT, fourth place went to James Sofronas in the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3, also a key member of Team StopTech. The No. 77 GoPro/StopTech/Eibach Ferrari F430 GT of David Welch, started an impressive fourth and finished tenth in just its third race ever, while rookies Andy Lee and Harry Curtin also claimed top ten positions in their StopTech equipped Best IT Chevy Camaros running in GTS.
The Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach Grand Prix presented by StopTech will be televised on NBC Sports Network at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 29.
The 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Championships will return to action at Miller Motorsports Park with a single race for the GT and GTS classes and a tripleheader of racing for the Touring Car class. The new B-Spec class will also make its World Challenge debut with a Utah tripleheader.