Mike Skeen (GT), Michael Mills (GT-A) and Jack Baldwin (GTS) took wins in Saturday’s Round 13 of the Pirelli World Challenge season, the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma, part of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend.
Skeen and Baldwin led flag-to-flag in their classes, with Skeen securing his third win of the season (first since Round 8 at Road America) and Baldwin his second (Round 4, Barber).
Meanwhile Mills won his fourth straight GT-A race, and fifth this year, in a recovery drive after a poor start and late race drama that took the class leader out of play.
The 50-minute race was barely able to get going with contact off of the standing start before start/finish. Peter Cunningham in the No. 42 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TLX-GT stalled off the line and was contacted by Santiago Creel who had qualified seventh in GTS in the No. 06 Hotbook/Pal Zileri/Mexico/Under Armour/Loma Linda Aston Martin GT4.
That contact, plus another incident between GTS class contenders Dean Martin in the No. 50 Picture Cars East/Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S and Nic Jonsson in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.org Kia Optima, put the race under a full-course caution that lasted for nearly 18 minutes.Once the race resumed on Lap 7, Skeen in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra was able to lead away from the rest of the GT field for the rest of the 26-lap race. He took the win by 4.110 seconds at an average speed of 73.730 mph.
“We had all the laps out front, but tons of traffic, and a very dirty track,” Skeen said. “It was very tight. Cooperation with traffic is crucial. I couldn’t let up as we had Ryan (Dalziel) and Butch (Leitzinger) behind pushing me. We closed up pretty good today and look for more tomorrow.”
Skeen was consistently ahead of the field the rest of the day but the battle behind him was for second. Dalziel held onto P2 in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R with Leitzinger in the No. 08 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3 and Andrew Palmer in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, giving chase.
Dalziel got up to second courtesy of a stellar start, as he made it from sixth to second by the end of the first lap at the time the full course caution flew. That netted him the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award.
Leitzinger made it into podium contention on Lap 7 when he passed Anthony Lazzaro in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 entering Turn 4 in what was awarded the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race. Later that lap, Lazzaro lost control exiting the Carousel (Turn 6) and limped back to the pit lane.
While Leitzinger was consistently able to hassle Dalziel, he was never able to complete the pass for second. Still, he was able to bring home the first podium finish for Dyson Racing Team Bentley in Pirelli World Challenge competition.
Palmer finished fourth with points leader Johnny O’Connell making the most of a day where the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R was down on outright pace in fifth. O’Connell started 10th, but gained the most positions in GT during the race.
O’Connell leads Skeen by 11 points (1308 to 1297) as Skeen secured 11 of a possible 12 bonus points plus the 140 for winning.
Overall, Skeen closed 71 points on O’Connell in Round 13. The only point Skeen didn’t capture was fastest lap, which was achieved by Guy Smith in the No. 88 Bentley/Breitling/Mobil 1 Bentley Continental GT3.Smith recovered from an opening lap spin to slice through the GTS field to an eventual ninth place finish overall and in GT.
Also of note, Mike Hedlund finished a season-best sixth in the No. 77 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, courtesy of a last lap pass on James Sofronas in the No. 14 Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra.In GT-A, Mills in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3 R, had a rough start to fall from second to eighth in the GT-A field. But thanks to patience, a solid car underneath him and a bit of luck, he was able to make it back for the win.
Mills took the class lead on Lap 21, when prior GT-A leader Albert von Thurn und Taxis in the No. 24 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2, retired with a mechanical issue and pulled off course at Turn 3.
Mills won from Jeff Courtney in the No. 99 Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra and Marcelo Hahn in the No. 0 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2.
GTS saw Baldwin in the No. 73 RESET-MD Porsche Cayman S finish the deal after a weekend where he’d led the timesheets all weekend.
After surviving a close battle with Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro off the starting line, Baldwin was able to lead away cleanly the remainder of the race. He led flag-to-flag, set the fastest race lap, and held off Aschenbach by 1.956 seconds.
Aschenbach finished second for his third podium finish in a row and fourth in the last five races.
Sunday’s Round 14 goes green from a standing start at 4:40 p.m. PT, with live streaming beginning on world-challengetv.com at 4:10 p.m. PT/7:10 p.m. ET.