Anthony Lazzaro and Lawson Aschenbach added to their Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS win totals with triumphs in Sunday’s Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma. Additionally, Albert von Thurn und Taxis secured his first GT-A win.
Lazzaro took his second win of 2014, Aschenbach his fourth, in Sunday’s 50-minute race. Round 14 of the 2014 season was part of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend at the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway.
The GT class action featured several high and low points, with the standing start of the 50-minute race proving one of the race’s deciding moments.
Guy Smith in the No. 88 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3, started from the Motul pole position by virtue of his fastest lap in Round 13. But neither he nor teammate Butch Leitzinger in the No. 08 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3, who started fourth, got away cleanly and the order changed.
By the end of the first lap, Lazzaro, in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 was ahead of Ryan Dalziel in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R and Robert Thorne in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3. The three of them ran unchallenged for most of the rest of the race.
The battle behind them for fourth featured a great scrap between GT points leader Johnny O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R and Mike Skeen in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra. Several times between Laps 2 and 19, Skeen made attempts to pass O’Connell but was unable to fully complete a move.
While they battled, it brought others back into contention.
Mike Hedlund in the No. 77 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 had his second successive stellar drive in his first weekend with Scuderia Corsa. After dispatching of both Bentleys, Hedlund made it past both O’Connell and Skeen for fourth place on Lap 18.
A lap later, on Lap 19, Leitzinger made a move to the outside of both O’Connell and Skeen around the right-handed Turn 7 hairpin for fifth. The two-in-one move netted the Bentley driver the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race award.
O’Connell and Skeen had several instances of contact throughout their dice for fourth.
On Lap 21, Skeen’s race ended with a flat left rear tire, and he was forced to pit. That dropped him to an eventual 19th place finish, while O’Connell was able to continue home to the finish in eighth place.
What was still setting up for a good finish – Thorne had to hold off both Hedlund and Leitzinger’s advances for the final podium position – ended abruptly on Lap 23 following a heavy accident for Dean Martin in the No. 50 Picture Cars East/Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S.
Martin’s right rear tire blew as he headed up the hill into Turn 1, which spun him into the wall. That brought out the second and final full course caution of the race, ultimately forcing the race to end under caution. Martin was evaluated and released from the infield medical center.
“Starting with yesterday, we had a puncture. Bad luck. I’ve raced 30-odd years and it can’t be more than five flats, and this year alone I’ve had two,” Lazzaro said. “The car’s been perfect all weekend.
“Any day you’re driving a red Ferrari it’s a great day. Championship-wise, I don’t really care anymore. I don’t even know how we got to third. From here on out, it’s all about race wins, and we got another one today.”
Dalziel finished second to continue his streak of podium finishes. He has four in his first four starts in Pirelli World Challenge this season.
Meanwhile Thorne adds his second podium of 2014, having also finished second at Round 7 at Road America in June.
Hedlund posted a season-best fourth place and Leitzinger was fifth. In sixth, James Sofronas, of Villa Park, Calif., in the No. 14 Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra, continued his run of consecutive top-10 results – he has ended top-10 in all 14 races in GT this season, the only driver to do so.
In seventh overall, von Thurn und Taxis scored an overdue first GT-A win, in the No. 24 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2. He enjoyed a battle with most of the overall GT class competitors throughout the race, and posted a career-best finish in his last scheduled race this season.
Second was his Reiter Engineering teammate Marcelo Hahn, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 and third, providing TRG-AMR its first podium of the weekend on home soil, was Christina Nielsen, of Horsholm, Denmark, in the No. 00 Passtime USA/Magisto Aston Martin GT3.
GTS saw its race, like GT, largely come down to how well the competitors handled the start. Motul polesitter Jack Baldwin in the No. 73 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S, lost the lead off the line as he had to take evasive action to avoid Andrew Palmer in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, who stalled on the line.
Martin’s accident stopped Baldwin from having a chance to catch Aschenbach and sweep the weekend, but it was still a good comeback drive from the veteran. Aschenbach’s winning margin under yellow was 1.471 seconds.
In GTS, Mark Wilkins should hold an 80-point lead on Aschenbach (1333-1253) with Baldwin just under 200 points back, unofficially on 1139. Kia will retain the GTS Manufacturer’s Championship lead.
Michael Mills still leads the GT-A points standings on the strength of a 12th place overall finish, fourth in GT-A, in Round 14.
The Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma races will air Sunday, August 30, at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Meanwhile the Pirelli World Challenge concludes its 2014 season at Miller Motorsports Park, Sept. 12-13, in Tooele, Utah outside Salt Lake City. The GT, GT-A and GTS classes will run Rounds 15 and 16.
RESULTS: Round 14