Team Voodoo Ride/Invoice Prep/Hot Wheels scored another GTS-class podium with a strong second place finish by former Trans-Am champion Jack Baldwin in the StopTech-supported No. 68 Porsche Cayman S at the Pirelli World Challenge Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
After qualifying second in GTS, Baldwin got the jump on polesitter Peter Cunningham and took the lead for the first two laps. It wasn’t long, though before Cunningham made the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race to put his Acura back up front, a position he held until the finish to capture the first win for the new V6-powered Acura in Pirelli World Challenge GTS competition.
“I was pleased we had such good speed at the start,”Cunningham said.“Jack [Baldwin] was coming and he was doing a great job and pressuring pretty hard and I managed to just stay ahead of him to the checker.”
The second place finish, along with the retirement of pre-race points leader Justin Bell, put Baldwin in second place behind Cunningham in the Championship, with 552 points to Cunningham’s 602. Bell was running in the top five in his No.50 eBay Motors Ford Mustang Boss 302S but was involved in a heavy incident coming out of the last corner with Touring Car polesitter Tristan Herbert’s No. 33 HPA/RennGruppe/Brimtek/SG Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI, which brought out the race’s final caution on lap 21. Neither driver was injured.
Meanwhile, StopTech-sponsored Andy Lee brought the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro home fifth, moving him up to fourth in GTS points with 502, just 24 behind Bell.
In Touring Car, StopTech-supported Tristan Herbert started from the pole, but was jumped by the Honda Civics of Compass360 teammates Todd Lamb (No. 71 National Karting News/HPD) and Ryan Winchester (No. 72 Ligon Industries/HPD) at the start. Point leader Michael Cooper, who also uses StopTech equipment, started fifth in his No. 03 Mazdaspeed Motorsports MAZDASPEED3, but had contact at the start and had to immediately pit to change a flat tire, dropping him to last.
Lamb led the entire way, but had to deal with a charging Jeff Altenburg, in his StopTech-equipped No. 43 HPA/RennGruppe Brimtek/SG Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI in the race’s closing laps. Their battle was broken off in the end by a slower GTS car that separated the two and allowed Lamb to open up more of a gap to the checkered flag.
“Toward the end, we got a couple of yellows and bunched up the field a little bit,” Lamb said. “I tried to conserve the car for the first part of the race knowing that, toward the end, we’d definitely be getting a yellow and there would be a battle. We’ve struggled against the turbos all season, so we knew they were probably going to conserve tires and come on strong at the end. It was a shame to see Tristan get taken out there, but at the same time we’re here to get some points. I had a pretty good battle with Altenburg there at the end, we raced nice and clean but I definitely had to be defensive and hold him off. It was tough.”
It was Lamb’s second Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car win of his rookie season, and helped him take the point lead over that series’ defending Champion Cooper, 771 to 755.
“It was a great points day,”Lamb added. “It’s nice to win races, but we’re here to win the Championship for Honda. A huge step in the right direction today, so we should be close to leading the points.”
Altenburg scored his best finish of the year at a track that he has twice won at previously. Winchester finished third, his fourth-consecutive podium result, but his car failed post-qualifying technical inspection, promoting Patrick Seguin and his StopTech-shod No. 80 Theberge Homes/capsparts.com Volkswagen GTI to third, followed by Shea Holbrook’s No. 67 TrueCar.com Honda Civic Si. Cooper salvaged a fifth-place finish after his pit stop. Seguin was also the Sunoco Hard Charger for most positions improved throughout the race.
Herbert now sits third in points, with 515, followed by Gustavo Michelsen (476) and Winchester (463).
Out front in GT, Team StopTech had high hopes with StopTech CEO Dino Crescentini qualifying sixth (and starting fifth after one of the Cadillacs was penalized post-qualifying) in the No. 4 StopTech Porsche 911 GT3, right behind teammate James Sofronas in the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3. A bit further back, Mike Skeen qualified 16th driving the No. 02 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette while teammate Jason Daskolos was one row in front of him driving the No. 12 Nissan GT-R.
Mechanical gremlins and unfortunate contact put Sofronas and Crescentini out early, and Daskolos fought transmission trouble all day, leaving Mike Skeen to grab the team’s only top 10 GT finish in the 28-lap, 62.664-mile race, with a strong sixth place effort
Cadillac drivers sit one-two in the Championship point standings, with O’Connell on top at 573, followed by Pilgrim with 559. Pobst moved to third (502), followed by Aschenbach (427) and Sofronas (409).
The series next travels to Detroit for the Cadillac V-Series Challenge at Belle Isle, part of the IZOD IndyCar weekend, June 1-3.
Full results and points are available at www.world-challenge.com