Skeen & Baldwin Master California Road
SONOMA, Calif. – 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 at Sonoma Raceway.
Skeen and Baldwin led flag-to-flag in their classes, with Skeen securing his third win of the season (first since round eight at Road America) and Baldwin his second (round four, 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 between Peter Cunningham with the No. 42 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TLX-GT stalling off the line and being 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 seven, 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, of State College, Pa., 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.
Leitzinger made it into podium contention on lap seven when he passed Anthony Lazzaro, of Atlanta, Ga., in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 entering turn four. Later that lap, Lazzaro lost control exiting the Carousel (turn six) 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.
“I just had a blast out there. It was so much fun, the Bentley was so good,” Leitzinger said. “We’re still working on starts but once we got rolling the car was mega. I had a lot of fun racing everyone. Everyone races hard but clean. It’s been a really good learning curve for this program.”
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.