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Skeen, Crosland and Aschenbach Conquer Pirelli World Challenge Race 1 From Mosport

Ben Crosland Photo by Mark Weber/SCCAMike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., led start to finish overall on Saturday at Mosport International Raceway to capture the Pirelli World Challenge GT win in the Pirelli Grand Prix of Mosport Victoria Day Speedfest Presented by Optima Batteries. Ben Crosland, from Salt Lake City, Utah, earned his first win in the GTS class, while Lawson Aschenbach extended his Touring Car class win with a victory.

Skeen started on pole in the No. 2 CRP/Cragar Wheels Chevrolet Corvette and raced away from the field for a 2.506-second win, his first of the season and second of his Pirelli World Challenge career. Skeen averaged 86.658 mph in the 30-lap, 73.77-mile race shortened to a time-limited 51:04.586 after being slowed one time for a five-lap full-course caution period.

It was the first race win for Skeen since a debut victory in the Corvette a season ago in August at Mid-Ohio, a streak stretching just 5 races. Skeen led the field away from the standing start and was never seriously challenged through the race.

For a while, it appeared that the race could be a sweep by the CRP Corvettes, with Skeen’s teammate Patrick Lindsey – who started second – running just behind Skeen for most of the race. On lap 20, Lindsey suffered a mechanical failure on the front straight, ending his day 10 laps early.

“This is awesome,” Skeen said. “After having a win in my first race last year at Mid-Ohio, it felt like a long time getting back here, almost a year. We were fast all year, but struggling with the car just a little bit and had some bad luck a lot of times. It feels great to have the Cragar Wheels car back up front. I’m sorry my teammate, Patrick Lindsey, couldn’t be with me. He was right there hounding me the whole time, but we’ll get it fixed, get on to race two and see what happens.

“Obviously, this was an ideal day to start P1, lead the whole way and get the win. We’ll try to do that again tomorrow, but it’s a tough day and it looks like we might have rain. We’ve got to go back through the car, make sure everything is good and we’ll be fighting for it tomorrow.”

Lindsey’s bad luck opened the door for then third-running Johnny O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe. O’Connell gave chase to Skeen, but had to settle for second place at the finish.

The podium finish was the first of the season in the Pirelli World Challenge return for Cadillac Racing. O’Connell matched his best career World Challenge finish in 10 previous starts, following a second place finish at St. Petersburg in 2006. O’Connell also turned the fastest lap of the race in a time of 1:21.215 (108.999 mph) in his pursuit of Skeen.

“I’m very pleased,” O’Connell said. “We haven’t made a mistake all year, but we’ve been slowly improving, getting the car better and this track has always been good to me. I’ve won here seven times in the ALMS. It’s a track that really, yeah, you have to have horsepower, but handling is more important because you have primarily fourth-, fifth- and sixth-gear corners so there’s no accelerations runs. I think we might have had the best-handling car, but we kept getting murdered a little bit up the straightaways. It’s just great for Cadillac and the CTS, because our team has been the first one here every morning and the last one to leave every morning all year long, so to get a result for them is good. It was a great race. I had a good qualifying this morning, I was confident with my car, had a killer launch at the start and Michael (Skeen) was able to open enough of a gap before (Turn) 5 that I couldn’t get a tow.”

Jason Daskalos started eighth in the No. 7 Dalsin Developments Dodge Viper, improving one position to seventh just before the caution period. Steadily improving his pace, Daskalos moved to sixth on lap 18. Another pass on the same lap that Lindsey retired moved Daskalos into fourth, where he was able to move past James Sofronas on lap 21 and into the podium position. It was the third-consecutive podium finish for Daskalos, with a pair of third-place performances now sandwiching a round four win. Daskalos also earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race during his climb to third.

“Sheldon Miller, my crew chief, and Matt, my engineer from Dodge, they’re giving me a great car,” Daskalos said. “It’s so easy to drive. Without them, I wouldn’t be up here, so I want to congratulate them and thank them. I’m enjoying it. This is good.”

GT Championship leader Sofronas finished fourth in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3, improving from his sixth starting position. Sofronas earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award for his performance on the opening lap.

O’Connell’s teammate, Andy Pilgrim, drove his No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe past Patrick Long’s No. 45 Privacy Star Porsche 911 GT3 on lap 22 to move into fifth position. Pilgrim closed the gap to Sofronas but didn’t get close enough to attempt a pass, settling for fifth and tying his best finish of the season.

Sofronas extends his GT Drivers’ Championship lead to 55 points over Long, 551-496. Daskalos moves into third with 476 points, followed by Skeen (451) and O’Connell (433). Porsche, with 38 points, leads Cadillac (13) in the Manufacturers’ Championship, followed by Volvo (3).

The 18-year-old Adams earned his first Pirelli World Challenge win in his eighth career start after two previous podium finishes in the No. 25 Interbank FX/RacewithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S.

Crosland started second in the GTS class and fell to fourth early in the race behind polesitter Paul Brown in the No. 50 Lucas Oil/K&N Filters Ford Mustang Boss 302S, Eric Foss (No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude Hospital/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S), and Alec Udell in the No. 06 Momentum Autosport Chevrolet Camaro. Udell and Crosland moved past Foss on lap five, which became a battle for the lead on lap six when Brown’s motor let go and forced him out of the lead.

Crosland and the 15-year-old Udell ran nose-to-tail for a handful of laps, with Crosland pressuring the even younger driver. Udell ran off course in turn two on lap nine, damaging the front right corner of his Camaro and handing the lead to Crosland.

One lap later, Udell again found some difficulties in turn two and had an even bigger crash in the fast corner, bringing out the caution flag.

After the caution, Foss chased Crosland for several laps before feeling the tires starting to fade and watching Crosland squeeze out a 0.873-second victory.

“We had a poor start,” Crosland allowed. “We were about fourth at the start and then Paul Brown broke down. Then I was on Udell’s tail for a while and then I pressured him into a mistake and he went off and so I was first for a while on kind of a Sunday drive. Then, Foss came up on me and put a lot of pressure on. It was a great battle towards the end. It was a heck of a race with him, but overall, we kept the tires underneath us and got the win. I’m so happy.”

“It all came together this weekend. We’ve had problems in the past and everything came together with no problems. RP Motorsport put together a great car.”

Foss finished second to the rookie, with two more Mustangs following in a four position sweep. Rookies Chris DeSalvo and Brad Adams each matched their best finishes of the season with their third and fourth-place finishes, respectively. DeSalvo’s podium came in the No. 19 Rehagen Racing/Hawk/BBS Ford Mustang GT, while Adams finished fourth in the No. 75 VooDoo Music/RacewithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S.

Peter Cunningham, making his series-best 200th career start, finished fifth against the muscle cars in his No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. The finish was the 136th career top-five finish for the six-time Drivers’ Champion.

Brown’s eventual 11th place finish allows Foss to take over the GTS Drivers’ Championship lead by 43 points, 560 to 517. Cunnigham sits third with 487 points, followed by Crosland (463) and Adams (386). Ford leads the Manufacturers’ Championship over Acura, 48-24.

Aschenbach earned his 3.614-second victory after some early race drama. Starting second in the No. 71 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si, Aschenbach made a mistake in turn 10 and fell all the way to fifth with polesitter Aaron Povoledo leading in the No. 88 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30.

Aschenbach moved around Tristan Herbert’s No. 33 Brimtek Motorsports Volkswagen GTI on the third lap of the Touring Car race and past teammate Brett Sandberg in the No. 70 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si on lap five. Aschenbach then chased the No. 81 Durabond Honda Civic Si of Anthony Rapone for the next 14 laps.

Finally within striking distance of the lead battle between Rapone and Povoledo on lap 19, Aschenbach moved past Rapone and, on the same lap, slid past Povoledo for the lead on the inside of the track’s final corner.

Aschenbach led the last nine laps of the race to earn his second win of the season and fourth in his Pirelli World Challenge career.

“First and foremost, I have to say hats off to Compass360 and Honda Racing/HPD,” Aschenbach said. “We had an awesome car. We knew we were fast here, we knew this would be a good track for us, but there was a big question about whether we had the power to keep up with the other cars. I fell back initially a little bit. I got a little loose in the final corner, it was totally my fault, and I lost a couple spots, but then fortunately I was able to kind of slowly pick people off. It wasn’t really so much I was passing them, except probably Aaron at the end, but everybody else was making a few mistakes and I was able to capitalize on it. At the end, I put a bit of a low-percentage move on Povoledo and I’ve got to thank him for racing clean.”

Rapone, the 2010 Canadian Touring Car champion from nearby Thornhill, finished second on his home track in his World Challenge debut.

Povoledo finished third for his second-consecutive podium finish in the Touring Car class after a win in Round Four at Miller Motorsports Park.

Gary Kwok, another Canadian Touring Car participant making his first appearance in Pirelli World Challenge, finished fourth in the No. 82 Durabond Honda Civic Si. Kwok also earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for improving eight positions overall during the race.

Sandberg held on for a fifth-place finish, his best of the season.

Aschenbach extends his Championship lead with the win to 115 points over Povoledo, 604 to 489. Ron Zitza, who recovered from a qualifying crash to scrape together a seventh place finish, is third with 438 points, followed by Herbert (388) and Robb Holland (387). Honda leads Volkswagen, 40 to 31, in the Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship, followed by Volvo (31).

Round Six of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships will take place on Sunday at Mosport International Raceway.

Both rounds of the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Mosport presented by Optima Batteries will air on Versus on Saturday, June 18 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com

Follow World Challenge on Twitter @WCRacing.

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