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/24/2004 - The Preferred Line - Road racing news and commentary
SPEED World Challenge Wednesday (March 24, 2004) By Jim Bourn
"He (Will Turner) is looking more and more like Tom Milner every day." - Bill Auberlen joking about his Turner Motorsports boss Will Turner.

What was I thinking department

Before going any further I have to offer my apologies to Bob WoodHOUSE and his crew and of course the Woodhouse Auto Family as somehow I was unable to get his name correct in my coverage of the Sebring WCGT race. I was able to consistently botch his name so I guess that proves that I cannot neither read nor type.

Bob Woodhouse had a strong run last weekend and it is a shame not to at least get his name correct. From what I heard around the paddock the Woodhouse name is well known in the mid-west as the Woodhouse Auto Family is one of the largest, of not the largest Dodge Viper dealers on the planet.

Great run Bob and sorry for the mistake.

Fun, games and hot issues from Sebring

A couple of issues clouded a couple of great races last week at Sebring and of course we would of course be remiss in not at least talking about them,

One issue was of course the potent Cadillac CTS-V as Max Angelelli and Andy Pilgrim almost surgically disassembled the SPEED WCGT field with their immaculately prepared Mobil 1/Motorola/Bose Cadillac CTS-V's. Another was the WCTC race that was all too short.

On the short side it was obvious to almost the most casual observer that the Cadillac's were the class of the field. It is not my intention at this time to go over all of the gory details as most everything has been said. At least one thousand times.

There were, however, some interesting things that CTS-gate has demonstrated about the World Challenge Series, SCCA Pro Racing and the Cadillac team.

As far the actual CTS-gate goes with all apologies to the World Challenge competitors and officials the whole Cadillac deal does make things very interesting for someone like me who enjoys the controversy and the associated discourse. I doubt that the competitors feel the same way, but I am just being honest here.

As far as the SCCA Pro Racing administration of the introduction of the Cadillac into World Challenge racing goes there are certain pluses and negatives.

From the glass half-empty side of the issue it is hard to understand why, given that similarity of the cars, the Corvette, Cadillac CTS-V and Pontiac GTO weren't mandated to use the same exact power train in all of the cars. It sure would have made life easier for the series. And be sure to include the transmission into the mix as I believe that the transmission allowed in the CTS will surface to be an even larger advantage than the engine configuration as the season goes along.

Also the timing of Cadillac being named the official car of the series really doesn't help SCCA Pro Racing's credibility as to being "fair and balanced" as to the new CTS.

Now from the positive side I have to hasten to add that I do not believe that the people running the World Challenge Series are, or intend, to sell out to one manufacturer or another as I believe that Mitch Wright and Aaron Coalwell and the entire group that maintain the series do so with the utmost integrity.

I have to believe that SCCA Pro Racing will indeed step up and do what they feel is in the best interest and in the best spirit of the World Challenge Series.

Another positive about the administration is that SCCA Pro hasn't hidden from the controversy and in what other racing series, or any sport for that matter do the powers that be allow such open and frank discussion of the issues on their own bulletin board. World Challenge fans are blessed that fans, officials and competitors openly discuss the hot issues on the World Challenge bulletin board and are actually allowed to do so as long as the conversation remains civil.

That said I cannot help but feel that the writing might have already been on the wall as far as status quo for the Cadillac goes. Why?

When Andy Pilgrim's clutch overheated and stalled his Cadillac leaving him on the grid his resulting charge through the field pretty much gave a solid indicator of what the CTS-V was capable of doing.

A couple of GT drivers were left wondering out loud why Team Cadillac actually allowed Andy to do that as any talk of sandbagging, or at least some of it, was dismissed. Pilgrim ran consistent 210's in traffic as he passed at least two cars a lap which is a pretty decent indicator that the cars could have done 2:09's for qualifying.

Certainly Max Angelelli went just fast enough to win, which is never a bad strategy, so why didn't Cadillac bite the bullet and hold Pilgrim back?

A logical answer there is that either Cadillac felt that SCCA would never do anything to equalize their performance potential or the Cadillac team felt that changes were imminent so why bother in either case. Either way, when the #8 was left stalled on the pit straight or Andy Pilgrim gave it his all to catch back up it turned out to be a good thing for the series.

Another interesting sidelight from CTS-gate is that it seems, at least for the moment, to have deflected a lot of the unfair advantage talk away from Champion and the off season "improvements" allowed for their Audi RS-6.

After all both Randy Pobst and Michael Galati got through turn one first, now there is a shocker, and had not Pobst's Audi suffered belt failure Randy certainly would have been well within the lead group which could have potentially meant that we had a Caddy 1-2 Audi 3-4 scenario.

Again in fairness it sure looked like Phil McClure was going to get past Galati as Michael himself admitted that he was smoking up all four tires going into the turns trying to keep McClure's Aggregate Industries/3R Racing Corvette at bay. But Phil started having fuel pickup problems and that was that.

As far as the competitiveness of WCGT, if the Cadillac's can be brought back into alignment with the rest of the group the field is amazingly competitive.

Galati, McClure and Tommy Archer (3RRacing c3controls Dodge Viper) were all amazingly competitive with each other and Leighton Reese was catching the group before his Banner Engineering Corvette started having fuel pick up problems. Add to that Pobst and Lou Gigliotti and John Young who started at the back of the pack you have quite a competitive group at the front.

And you also have guys like the McCann's (McCann Plastics), Peter Tonelli (Westboro Dodge) and Bob Woodhouse (Woodhouse Auto Family) who seem to have easy top ten Dodge Vipers. Also don't expect Stu Hayner's showing at Sebring in his GMAC Commercial Finance/Trenton Forging Pontiac GTO to be a representative finish as they were just happy to be there. That won't last as the season progresses.

We haven't even seen the Volvo's as yet so the field can be amazingly competitive when the CTS is brought back into alignment with the rest of the field.

The race that almost never was

CTS-gate aside the real travesty was in the SPEED WCTC race. How it took 26 minutes to extract Michael Flynn's Subaru Impreza from the tire wall is, being kind, regrettable. Watching the process, or more accurately debacle, on the TV monitor was almost funny had it not been so very depressing.

What needs to be said is that a lot of effort goes into a race. The teams are expected to be and act professionally and put well turned out cars on the track. SCCA is expected to present a professional racing environment and make the event operate as smoothly as possible. Is it too much to ask that the race track provide the same professional approach?

Before the corner workers get all up in arms I don't feel that this is their issue but the people manning the tow trucks and various equipment sure left a lot to be desired.

Certainly the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the steering was broken in the Irish Mike's Subaru but the people involved in the process looked like they had never actually removed a car from the track before.

In plain and simple terms the blame for the WCTC race being a half a race falls squarely on Sebring International Raceway as the crews they sent out on the track to retrieve Flynn's Subaru were either inept or ill prepared or possibly both.

This assessment might seem harsh but the car removal process is an important one. Both for the health of the cars but also in terms of timely and appropriate action. The people and companies charged with this task should be held to the same levels of preparation and professionalism that is expected of the officials and teams and yes even the "amateur" corner workers.

To expect or demand anything less is an insult to those who pour their hearts and souls into racing.

Some various quotes from Sebring

During his podium interview after the WCTC race RealTime Racing's Pierre Kleinubing thanked Jeff Altenburg for backing off and not taking out Pierre's Acura TSX on the last lap.

To which Jeff replied with a wry smile, "You're on the podium, maybe I won't be so nice next time."

You probably will Jeff as you don't tend to smack into a lot of people in your Tri-Point Mazda Protégé.

Lou Gigliotti had an eventful race as he started at the back of the grid in his LG Long Tube Header Chevy Corvette. Lou stalled on start and admitted that after the fuel load went down and he had been trying to make up ground the Corvette got very tail happy for the last half of the race.

"How do you mess with a front row setup," Gigliotti asked aloud.

"Because you want to go faster," Lou said, answering his own question. Such is the nature of motor sports.

Gigliotti had gone to a softer rear spring for the race and lamented after the race, "I should have gone softer all around or stayed with what I had for qualifying."

Speaking of stalling on the grid, Leighton Reese, who had never done a standing start in his entire racing career really tached up his Banner Engineering Corvette before the start as he indicated that, "I didn't get the best of starts but I was going to come off the line with the wheels spinning like a dragster if I had to but I definitely was not going to stall it."

I will have a lot more notes and quotes from Sebring later this week as I get back into a routine and get all of my messy notes deciphered.

Miscellaneous Twisty Bytes

Watching the WCGT field roar past Andy Pilgrim's stalled Cadillac was one of the scariest things I have ever seen. I was positioned in the pits right in line with Pilgrim's car and watching those cars rocket past was an awe inspiring sight.

Of course it is testimony to the drivers in the series that there was zero contact. Either with Pilgrim's car or with anyone else and believe me when I tell you at ground level it didn't look like anyone slowed much at all as the #8 CTS seemed to be buffeted by the wind as the cars flashed past.

Think about this. The back of the grid would be some 1/8th of a mile behind the front of the grid. How fast do you thing those big v-8 powered GT cars can accelerate in that amount of real estate?

I cannot imagine what Andy was thinking sitting helplessly in the car while all of this happening. Actually being the pro he is he was probably busy trying to get the car restarted.

So there I was, trying to pick my way through the crowded stretch of concrete, race cars everywhere in very tight traffic. What do I see fill my mirror but Mr. RealTime Racing Pierre Kleinubing. He thought he was going to pass me for position?

Guess again Pierre you might me Mr. Acura but not today. Not against me.

Kleinubing moved over to get a look as there was an opening but I positioned my car in the middle of the pavement. Hey, preferred line, right? Well Kleinubing didn't get by! So there!

Yeah, ok he wasn't in his potent RealTime Acura TSX and we were actually driving at about 10 mph in the paddock, but darn it he didn't get past and that is all that counts. Right?
 
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