On Saturday morning, Blackdog Speed Shop’s Lawson Aschenbach was able to get the drop on PMG’s Harry Gottsacker on the start of the race to take the lead. From there, no one could touch the veteran campaigner as Aschenbach took the first-ever win for the Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R in Pirelli World Challenge.
Afterwards, Aschenbach was overjoyed.
“This track (Mid-Ohio) is our track,” Aschenbach said after the race. “We do well here every year. Our Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R was fast since we rolled off the trailer. It feels good to finally get our first win of the year.”
The race was overshadowed by a couple of incidents that resulted in more than half of the 50-minute event being run under caution. While Aschenbach was using his excellent start to take the lead, Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Rodrigo Baptista got a great start. However, Baptista was a little too impatient and dropped his right side wheels into the grass.
While trying to continue his run, Baptista had contact with GTSA pole sitter Fred Roberts. The contact broke a steering part on the No. 89 Maserati, resulting in Roberts having no control over his car. Roberts’ Maserati went straight off-course and pounded the unprotected concrete wall on the outside of the kink.
Roberts’ car came to a halt up against the wall, making extrication very difficult for track crews. The roof had to cut out of the Maserati for Roberts to get out of the car. He was able to walk to the ambulance with some assistance after more than 10 minutes of work by track crews. After a check at the Care Center, Roberts was transferred to a local hospital for a checkup.
Baptista was black-flagged by Pirelli World Challenge officials and brought into the pits for what originally appeared to be a stop-and-hold. However, the penalty quickly became exclusion. Baptista did not return to the race and was credited with a 16th-place finish.
Later on in the race, a huge battle further back in the pack ended in tears. Blackdog Speed Shop’s Tony Gaples made an aggressive three-wide move to the inside of Mantella Autosport’s Martin Barkey and KPR’s Mark Klenin. It appeared that Gaples ended up going way too hot into the Keyhole. As a result, Gaples clouted JCR Motorsports’ Jeff Courtney in the second Maserati. Courtney bounced into Klenin, who ended up taking a trip through the gravel trap.
All three cars were significantly damaged. Courtney’s No. 99 Maserati lost the right side door while Gaples had a suspension issue. Klenin’s car was also damaged.
Afterwards, Courtney was very upset about the situation.
“[Pirelli World Challenge officials] need to start sitting people down,” Courtney stated to CBS Sports Network’s Jeff Lepper. “This is [BS].” Courtney also stated that he thought he was going to be fined for saying it, but did not care.
While the Blackdog Speed Shop team did get the No. 11 Camaro back on track, a penalty from series officials resulted in the team pulling the car in for the day.
While there were only about 20 minutes of green flag running, Aschenbach was able to use superior form on the restarts to pull away. After a great restart with ten minutes to go, Aschenbach cruised to his first win of 2017. In addition, Aschenbach turned in the fastest lap of the race, giving him the pole for race No. 2 on Sunday.
Team Panoz Racing’s Ian James was 2.047 seconds back in second, followed by Gottsacker. GMG Racing’s George Kurtz moved up quickly from the 12th starting spot to finish fourth and claim the GTSA victory. Parker Chase was fifth.
GTS Race No. 2 is scheduled for 9:10 a.m. on Sunday. It will be livestreamed at both World-Challenge.com and Motor Trend OnDemand.
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