SEBRING, Fla., March 17, 2006 - For the third consecutive year, Cadillac CTS-V driver Andy Pilgrim finished as runner-up in the opening round of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT series at Sebring International Raceway. Starting fifth on the grid for the 20-lap race, Pilgrim benefited from a solid race strategy and savvy driving as misfortune befell his rivals on the famed Florida airport circuit. He crossed the finish line 11.571 seconds behind Viper driver Mike McCann, launching Team Cadillac's defense of the World Challenge GT drivers and manufacturers championships in style.
"Sebring's been a very good place for me," said Pilgrim, a resident of Boca Raton, Fla. "I've won a lot of races here and stood on a lot of podiums. Sebring is our home track, and we're always going to be at our best here. We often wish this was the last race of the season, not the first race of the season!"
The race took an unexpected turn even before the start when polesitter Leighton Reese withdrew with an apparent drivetrain problem after the parade lap. At the start of the race, Pilgrim moved up to third and his teammate Max Angelelli settled into fifth. On the second lap, Tommy Archer's Viper powered around Pilgrim, putting the black CTS-Vs in fourth and fifth. Almost simultaneously, Corvette driver Lou Gigliotti passed Mike McCann's Viper for the lead.
On the ninth lap, Pilgrim and Angelelli passed Archer's faltering Viper. Suddenly Angelelli radioed his pit crew to report a handling problem. A flat right-rear tire was the culprit; the Team Cadillac crew replaced the tire and got Angelelli back on track in 23rd place, one lap down from the leaders.
On lap 16, Gigliotti's car began smoking and the race leader came to a stop, elevating Pilgrim to second, a position he held to the finish.
"It was a bizarre chain of events," Pilgrim observed. "You never expect to see the polewinner break on the parade lap. Then Archer was slowing on the straightaway and coming back to me. Next Lou had trouble. We should have been fifth, but ended up second!
"The track was getting slippery and the car was sliding because it's very heavy with the ballast we're carrying," Pilgrim reported. "The entire race was run without a yellow flag, so there was no time to cool the tires."
Angelelli gained ground after his unscheduled pit stop, advancing to 16th as the checkered flag fell.
"It was unfortunate that we had a problem," said Angelelli. "I'm very happy for Andy, he deserves to be on the podium."
"Max may have run over some debris on the track that damaged his tire," reported Team Cadillac program manager Dave Spitzer. "The Toyo tires are tough, and the deflated tire didn't come apart even though Max had to drive it a long way back to the pits. The Team Cadillac crew practices tire changes, and that paid off when they made a brilliant pit stop and got him back out quickly.
"Andy did a great job of conserving his tires early and then he ran hard at the end," Spitzer noted. "He didn't have anything for McCann, but it was a great way to start the season with a Cadillac driver on the podium at Sebring again. We know that you make your own luck by working hard. Every time this team gets a good result, it motivates us to work even harder to make some more luck for the next race."
Today's SPEED GT race Sebring International Raceway will be televised tape-delayed on Sunday, March 19, at 4 p.m. ET on SPEED Channel. The next event for Team Cadillac will be on the St. Petersburg, Fla., street course on Saturday, April 1.
Track: Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Fla., 3.7-mile road course
Winner: Mike McCann, Dodge Viper
Margin of Victory: 11.571 seconds
Average Speed: 100.406 mph
Pole: Leighton Reese, Corvette, 2:08.764/103.445 mph
SCCA SPEED GT RESULTS
1. Mike McCann, Dodge Viper, 20 laps
2. Andy Pilgrim, Cadillac CTS-V, 20
3. Bob Woodhouse, Dodge Viper, 20
4. James Sofronas, Porsche 911 GT3, 20
5. Lawson Aschenbach, Porsche 911 GT3, 20
16. Max Angelelli, Cadillac CTS-V, 19
SPEED GT CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after 1 of 10 events)
Driver/Car/Points (victories in parentheses)
1. Mike McCann/Dodge Viper, 35 (1)
2. Andy Pilgrim/Cadillac CTS-V, 28
3. Bob Woodhouse, Dodge Viper, 25
4. James Sofronas, Porsche 911 GT3, 23
5. Lawson Aschenbach, Porsche 911 GT3, 21
Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses)
1. Dodge, 9 (1)
2. Cadillac, 7
3. Porsche, 3
4. Chevrolet, 2
Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, April 1, 2006, St. Petersburg, Fla., 1.8-mile temporary circuit
TV: SPEED, tape delay, Sunday, April 2, 4 p.m. EST