Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, FL, and Brandon Davis, of Huntington Beach, CA, took GT and GTS class wins in Round 13 of the Pirelli World Challenge 2013 season, the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma. Both drivers scored their first wins of the season in the race that is part of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend.
Pilgrim took the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R to his 12th career series victory, after leading all 27 laps of the race at an average speed of 79.561 mph, around the 2.3-mile Sonoma Raceway circuit.
“It probably looked easy,” said Pilgrim. “After our troubles in practice the Team Cadillac guys did a great job to put a good car under me for the race. We had a great day, it was good win.”
Duncan Ende, of Los Angeles, scored his overdue first podium of the season in the No. 24 STANDD.org/Merchant Services Audi R8 LMS, after a sterling drive from 13th and last place on the GT class grid to finish second.
“I guess we finally ‘hit’, rather than missed, for the first time,” said Ende. “It’s been a tough weekend this weekend. We had an aborted session on Friday, and my (qualifying) session got aborted on Saturday. There was obviously a bit of attrition ahead of me that helped, but it’s good to get up here.”
Finishing third was Ende’s GMG Racing teammate and new unofficial class points leader James Sofronas, of Villa Park, CA in the No. 14 The Thermal Club/Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 LMS. Sofronas takes over the position as Johnny O’Connell finished outside the top 10 for the second consecutive race.
Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, NC in the No. 2 CRP Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette, finished in the second position on the road, but series officials stopped scoring the driver after Lap 18. The CRP Racing team ignored officials’ repeated requests to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact with Sofronas on Lap 1.
The No. 2 car was shown the black flag three different times. Skeen was classified 11th after the change in position was confirmed.
Polesitter O’Connell, of Flowery Branch, GA in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, had a challenging first lap. He stalled off the start but was able to restart his CTS.V to begin the battle of getting back to the GT field. But heading through Turn 5, O’Connell, Peter Cunningham, in the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, and GTS class points leader Jack Baldwin in the No. 73 Motul/StopTech/Foametix Porsche Cayman S came together.
O’Connell wasn’t the only car with issues. Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, GA in the No. 6 Alex’s Lemonade Stand K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, spun on the first lap as well in Turn 2 after contact with O’Connell’s teammate Pilgrim. Pilgrim felt remorse for the contact given the level of mutual respect between the two.
“At the start Randy and I went up the hill to Turn Two side-by-side,” Pilgrim said. “At the brake zone I thought we were going to go through the turn together and then he came down a little and we touched and he went around. I love Randy but it sucks that I got into him. It was a racing deal, I tried to miss him. I thought he would have given me a little more room.”
Pilgrim led Pobst’s teammate Alex Figge, of Denver, CO in the No. 9 Alex’s Lemonade Stand K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 for the opening seven laps but Figge’s race ended shortly thereafter. The defending Sonoma race winner retired on Lap 8 with an electrical issue, and was thus unable to win his third straight race this year.
That promoted Skeen to second, ahead of the hard-charging Ende. Ende was never able to close enough on Skeen, who was called in several times to serve the drive-through penalty. Skeen, though, said there was a communication issue in terms of relaying the message.
For the remainder of the race, Sofronas ran close enough to Ende as they battled for third on the road but was unable to pass his teammate. Ende explained after the race that there were no team orders enforced.
Pobst rebounded to fourth place after his first lap spin. Finishing fifth in his first start of the 2013 season was Elton Julian, of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, in the No. 80 DragonSpeed, LLC Audi R8 LMS Ultra, one of the two new full GT3-specification cars running at Sonoma this weekend.
Of note, Kevin Buckler, of Sonoma, CA rebounded from a broken clutch before the race to finish sixth in the No. 66 Jawbone/Adobe Road Winery Aston Martin GT3 in that full GT3-spec car’s first Pirelli World Challenge start. Jason Daskalos, of Albuquerque, NM, finished seventh in the No. 47 Vintage 423 Restaurant Dodge Viper Comp Coupe in his first start of the season. Bill Ziegler, of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, finished a season-best eighth in the No. 95 Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 LMS.