TOOELE, Utah – Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, Ont. took his first win of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge GTS season with a flag-to-flag drive in Round 13 of the GTS season at Miller Motorsports Park at the Ford Grand Prix presented by VP Racing Fuels.
With the green flag in the air, Wilkins in the No. 38 Kinetic Motorsports/Kia Racing PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kia Optima led into turn one, with teammate Ben Clucas, of Northampton, England driving the No. 36 Kinetic Motorsports/Kia Racing PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kia Optima following closely and slotting into second as the two Kia entries started on the front row with Wilkins on the race pole.
At the same time, Dean Martin, of Westland, Mich. in the No. 50 Rehagen Racing/Picture Cars East Ford Mustang Boss 302 executed a pass for sixth on Andy Lee of Colorado Springs, Colo. in the No. 20 BestIt Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Lee battled back, however, grabbing the position from Martin and pulling a gap.
Championship points leader Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, Pa., in the No. 32 Phoenix American Motorsports Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 qualified 13th but elected to start last on fresh tires. The Road America winner moved up five positions to 11th on the opening lap to win the Optima Batteries Best Start Award.
At the front of the field, it was Jack Baldwin of Marietta, Ga. in the No. 73 GTSport Racing Umphrey’s McGee Porsche Cayman S that closed on the leading pair of Kias by lap three, with a five-car train for the race lead, also including Vesko Kozarov of Salt Lake City, Utah in the No. 23 Nissan/Skullcandy/Stance Nissan 370Z and Michael Cooper of Syosset, N.Y. driving the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z28.
Martin fell back to seventh at this point, and faced pressure from a closing Kurt Rezzetano, of Phoenixville, Pa. in the No. 37 Phoenix American Motorsports Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302, as well as his Phoenix teammate Aquilante, who had worked his way up to eighth.
By lap 9, Kozarov, went wide in turn one, trying a move on Baldwin, allowing the driver of the No. 73 machine to stay in third place. As Baldwin continued to stay with the lead group, Kozarov stayed with him, while Cooper fell back a bit, losing touch with the leaders.
The battle at the front of the field intensified on lap 13 as Baldwin moved on Clucas, challenging the Kia for second position. This allowed Wilkins to extend his lead a bit over second and third.
Three laps later it was Kozarov who challenged Baldwin for third place in turn one. The Nissan driver couldn’t make the move stick, but increased Baldwin’s urgency, as the Porsche attacked Clucas and those two went side-by-side for second, with Clucas keeping the spot.
A lap later Baldwin tried the same move again, this time executing the pass and grabbing second place ahead of the Kia of Clucas.
Lee also tracked down Cooper, as the two Camaro drivers battled, with Lee taking the fifth spot on lap 20.
Back at the front, Kozarov followed Baldwin’s initiative, passing Clucas to take third on lap 21 while Baldwin was chasing down Wilkins for the lead.
With two laps to go, Baldwin had closed to seven tenths off Wilkins. Coming to the white flag, onto the front straight, Baldwin pulled his Porsche alongside the Kia. A few corners later, with the final circuit of Miller Motorsports Park winding down, Baldwin put his No. 73 on the inside of Wilkins, but couldn’t make the pass stick, with Wilkins taking his first win of the season over Baldwin, with Kozarov finishing third.
Aquilante, the points leader coming into the race, finished 10th. He won both the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger for gaining seven positions during the race.
Tony Gaples won the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award for his pass on Mark Klenin, of Lone Tree, Colo., in the No. 62 Schomp Auto/Invisible Glass/Premier Copier Klenin Performance Racing Aston Martin GT4, while the Cadillac Move of the Race Award went to Jack Baldwin for his pass of Clucas.
“The Top 5 were covered by almost nothing there for first part of the race,” said Wilkins. “We knew that tire wear was going to be an issue. We were driving as hard as we could but we didn’t want to drive the tires off the car. I knew Jack was going to be strong. He has been at the end of the race. We had just enough today. I’m not sure if the result would have been the same with one more lap. So I’m very happy it ended when it did. It’s a tough battle because, if you looking in the mirror, you not concentrated on your lines on the track. Then you make mistakes. I just kept my head down and we got good results for Kia.”
“I gave it all I had,” Baldwin said. “The guys gave me a great car and that is all we had today. At every race, we put it out there and there is nothing left. The Kias just have straightaway speed and they have to be weak for me to do anything with them. I thought I had a shot at him at the end but it would have taken two or three more laps. And Mark would have had to run it up high in a corner to give me an opening. But Mark is really good. I know Vesko (Kozarov) was right there and I knew he was running hot. So was I. He tried to pass down in turn one and I saw it coming. I let the kid try it. Vesko is an excellent driver too. This GTS class has a lot of very good drivers.”
“It was pretty scrappy race, for sure,” Kozarov said. “I didn’t have enough for Mark or Jack though. If there is any chance, I jammed up in there and see if it will work. I made a run on Jack and, if he is in shooting distance, I’m going to try to take him down. To be honest, I didn’t really pass Ben (Clucas). He went wide on his own. I will take another podium though. It’s a busy day for me (with three races).”
Results are provisional until posted final. Next up for GTS drivers is the second and final GTS race of the Miller Motorsports Park weekend, scheduled to take place at 9:45 a.m. Mountain time on Sunday, August 23. With the fastest lap of the Round 13 race, Cooper will start on pole. Watch the race live at world-challengetv.com and motortrendondemand.com. Live timing and scoring is available on worldchallenge.growsites.net.
TOOLE, UT – Results from Saturday’s 25-lap 76.2 mile Pirelli World Challenge Championship GTS Round 13 race, part of the Ford Grand Prix presented by VP Racing Fuels at Miller Motorsports Park, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. GTS, (1), Mark Wilkins, Toronto, Ontario, KIA Optima, 25.
2. GTS, (3), Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 25, -.531.
3. GTS, (4), Vesko Kozarov, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nissan 370Z, 25, -3.985.
4. GTS, (2), Ben Clucas, Northampton England, , Kia Optima, 25, -6.175.
5. GTS, (6), Andy Lee, Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 25, -6.759.
6. GTS, (5), Michael Cooper, Syosset, N.Y., Chevrolet Z28, 25, -13.056.
7. GTS, (7), Dean Martin, Westland, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss302, 25, -24.111.
8. GTS, (8), Kurt Rezzetano, Phoenixville, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 25, -29.797.
9. GTS, (9), Nathan Stacy, Owasso, Okla., Ford Mustang Boss302, 25, -35.367.
10. GTS, (16), Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, Pa., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 25, -40.325.
11. GTS, (10), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 25, -41.946.
12. GTS, (11), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Z28, 25, -57.359.
13. GTS, (12), Mark Klenin, Lone Tree, Colo., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 25, -1:12.964.
14. GTS, (14), Preston Calvert(R), Potomac, Md., Ford Mustang Boss 302, 25, -1:40.658.
15. GTS, (15), John Allen(R), Aurora, Colo., Porsche Cayman, 24, -1 lap.
16. GTS, (13), Buz McCall, Boca Raton, Fla., Porsche Cayman S, 24, -1 lap.
17. GTS, (17), Lou Gigliotti, Dallas, Texas, Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 0, DNS.
18. GTS, (18), Bryan Leonard, Birmingham, Ala., Aston Martin Vantage GT4, 0, DNS.
19. GTS, (19), Jack Roush Jr, Livonia, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss302, 0, DNS.
Time of race: 50 minutes, 20.884 seconds.
Average speed: 90.807 mph
Margin of victory: .531 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-25, #38 Mark Wilkins
Fastest race lap: #10 Michael Cooper, 1:59.257 (92.009 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #38 Mark Wilkins, 1:56.620 (94.090 mph)