SONOMA, Calif. — Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Colo., won Saturday afternoon’s Round 15 GTS race at Sonoma Raceway, at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Kia. Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y. finished second, while Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga. finished third.
After the rolling start was aborted due to the No. 16 SGV Motorsports/Bilt Racing Service Porsche Cayman of John Allen Denver, Colo. stalling on the formation lap, pole sitter Lee took the lead on the lap 2 restart, over Cooper, in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Z28. Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, Ont., in the No. 38 PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kinetic Motorsports / Kia Racing Kia Optima slotted into third, while Ben Clucas, of Northampton, England, in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.Org Kinetic Motorsports / Kia Racing Kia Optima slotted into fourth and Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, Pa., in the No. 32 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Phoenix American Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302 in fifth.
By lap 5, Lee and Cooper had built a gap of close to 20 car lengths over Wilkins, Clucas and Aquilante, with Lee building a four-car gap on Cooper. During the same lap, Baldwin, in the No. 73 GTSport Racing/Umphrey’s McGee Porsche Cayman S passed Aquilante through turns 7a/7b to take over fifth.
On lap 10 a tremendous battle emerged with Clucas, Baldwin and Aquilante vying for position. Baldwin again executed a perfect pass through 7a/7b this time over Clucas to move into fourth. Aquilante then passed Clucas on the next lap through the turn 6 carousel.
Baldwin then set his sights on Wilkins with Aquilante in pursuit as well. By lap 14, Baldwin had closed on the bumper of Wilkins and by lap 15, Baldwin again executed a pass through 7a/7b on Wilkins for third. A lap later Aquilante passed Wilkins through turn 4 to move into fourth.
Through Lap 17, Lee still maintained a .366 lead over Cooper, with Cooper maintaining close to an 11-second lead over Baldwin. As the checkered flew, Lee was never challenged for the flag-to-flag win — his first of the 2015 season, and sixth of his Pirelli World Challenge career. Lee’s last win came in 2013.
“It’s been a crazy couple of years, we used to be on podium every race and you start to take it for granted a little bit,” said Lee. “And somewhere along the lines, changes in the team and changes in other things, we kind of lost it for a bit. It’s amazing to be back, it’s a great feeling.”
With the second place finish, Cooper maintains his lead in the GTS Drivers’ Championship points standings. “Having two podiums in a row for the first time this year is very nice (Round 14 win at Miller Motorsports Park). I don’t know if we had anything for Andy today, and if we did we would have burned it down trying to get by him, and that just wasn’t worth it to me at this point in the year for points. With two races left, your mind set is a little different than if there was only one. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, execute, make changes and just be smart.”
“We were fortunate to finish third, we fought hard, but from our side I think that is as good as we could have done given the circumstances,” said Baldwin. “These guys had some really good race cars, these guys are some of the best of the young drivers coming up right now. I was happy to see Andy get the pole when we qualified and was very happy to see him win a race today. I’ve watched Andy struggle for a couple years, he’s a true racer, he’s never gave up and demonstrated the qualities of a champion and a winning driver, so today is just really great that all that hard work paid off.”
Of note, Preston Calvert, of Potomac, Md., in the No. 35 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 was awarded the Optima Batteries Best Start Award for gaining a position off of the start. The Cadillac Move of the Race was awarded to Kurt Rezzetano, of Phoenixville, Pa., in the No. 37 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Phoenix American Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302 for his pass of Clucas through turn 7. Rezzetano finished fifth on the day. The Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award went to Kris Wilson, of Monument, Colo., in the No. 07 Royal Purple/Orion Energy/LaSalle Solutions/PassTime USA TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT4 for his move on Wilkins on lap 22. Buz McCall, of Boca Raton, Fla, in the No. 72 GTSport Racing Porsche Cayman S won the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award for gaining six positions during the race.
Lee had the fastest lap of the race with a 1:42.398 and will start on pole for Sunday’s Round 16 race. Lee’s fastest lap eclipsed the previous race lap record held by Baldwin (1:42.964, 2014.)
Results are provisional until posted final. Round 16 on Sunday is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Pacific. Watch live streaming of the race at world-challengetv.com or motortrendondemand.com.
SONOMA, CA – Results from Saturday’s 29-lap 69.165 mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship GTS Round 15 race, part of the Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Kia at Sonoma Raceway, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. GTS, (1), Andy Lee, Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 29.
2. GTS, (2), Michael Cooper, Syosset, N.Y., Chevrolet Z28, 29, -.968.
3. GTS, (6), Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 29, -11.748.
4. GTS, (5), Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 29, -13.692.
5. GTS, (7), Kurt Rezzetano, Phoenixville, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 29, -29.451.
6. GTS, (9), Kris Wilson, Monument, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 29, -33.810.
7. GTS, (8), Nathan Stacy, Owasso, Okla., Ford Mustang Boss302, 29, -37.594.
8. GTS, (12), Dean Martin, Westland, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss302, 29, -39.721.
9. GTS, (4), Ben Clucas, Northampton England, , Kia Optima, 29, -39.788.
10. GTS, (10), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 29, -46.944.
11. GTS, (3), Mark Wilkins, Toronto, Ontario, KIA Optima, 29, -51.431.
12. GTS, (14), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Z28, 29, -54.459.
13. GTS, (13), Kevin Marshall, Incline Village, Nev., Lotus Evora GT4, 29, -59.825.
14. GTS, (16), Derek DeBoer, Ashland, Ore., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 29, -1:19.405.
15. GTS, (21), Buz McCall, Boca Raton, Fla., Porsche Cayman S, 29, -1:40.954.
16. GTS, (15), Jason Alexandridis, Novato, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 29, -1:46.517.
17. GTS, (18), Jeff Huber, Menio Park, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 28, -1 lap.
18. GTS, (19), Mark Klenin, Lone Tree, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 28, -1 lap.
19. GTS, (22), Geoff Reeves, Cleveland, Ohio, Chevrolet Camaro Z28, 28, -1 lap.
20. GTS, (24), Preston Calvert(R), Potomac, Md., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 28, -1 lap.
21. GTS, (17), Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, , Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 28, -1 lap.
22. GTS, (23), Paul Holton, Talahassee, Fla., Audi TT-RS, 27, -2 laps.
23. GTS, (25), John Allen(R), Aurora, Colo., Porsche Cayman, 27, -2 laps.
24. GTS, (20), Jeff Harrison, Grapevine, Texas, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, 16, -13 laps.
25. GTS, (11), Nicolas Hammann, Nissan 370Z, 14, -15 laps.
Time of race: 51 minutes, 05.253 seconds.
Average speed: 81.231 mph
Margin of victory: .968 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-29, #20 Andy Lee
Fastest race lap: #20 Andy Lee, 1:42.398 (83.849 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #20 Andy Lee, 1:40.961 (85.042 mph)