LAKEVILLE, Conn. — official series release —
Lawson Aschenbach won round nine of the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class season in Friday’s Grand Prix of Lime Rock Park presented by Bentley.
Brett Sandberg finished second, while Scott Heckert was third in the 50-minute race.
From the rolling start, Aschenbach took the lead with a power move on the outside of Big Bend (turn 1) over polesitter Sandberg. In the early going, Aschenbach was able to pull out a lead, while Sandberg held off Parker Chase for second place. All the while, Heckert ran in a narrow fourth ahead of Scott Dollahite.
On lap nine, Heckert was able to get around Chase for third with a move through Big Bend as Chase fell back to fourth and had to contend with Dollahite, who moved in for the pass from fifth.
On lap 13, Sandberg had cut Aschenbach’s gap from three seconds to two, while Heckert led Chase and Dollahite in an exciting battle for the final podium spot, with Dollahite getting around Chase for fourth. Three laps later, Sandberg was continuing his pace and the lead margin was down to seven tenths of a second.
The caution flag flew on lap 18 and the safety car was deployed for various debris around the 1.5-mile Lime Rock Park track.
Once the track was cleaned up, the green flag came back out with Aschenbach pulling a gap through turn one as Heckert tried a move on Sandberg. However, the former NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver could not execute the pass for second place and had to fall back.
With 20 minutes to go, Aschenbach’s restart lead was eliminated, as Sandberg had once again caught the Camaro Z28 with the race’s focus on the battle for the lead. Following them, Heckert ran third, Dollahite in fourth and Chase in fifth. In the later stages of the race, Mantella’s No. 8 machine spun as a number of cars battled for position, promoting Jack Roush Jr. to sixth and Nate Stacy to seventh.
Stacy would then lead a train of cars fighting for seventh, with Jade Buford challenging for the position after dropping back with an issue earlier in the race. The battle would culminate in some light contact coming out of Big Bend, which would cause Buford to lose some real estate and one position on track.
Up front, Aschenbach was able to keep Sandberg at bay for the run to the checkered flag to take the victory, with Sandberg finishing second by .269 seconds.
Heckert finished third with Dollahite and Roush Jr. completing the top five.
With the fastest time in the Friday race, Sandberg will start on pole for Saturday’s Round 10, with Aschenbach on the outside of the front row.
“I had to work for that one (win), said Aschenbach. “We definitely weren’t the fastest car here today. That goes to the XBow. My goal today was similar to race two at Mosport (CTMP). We seem to be very good in about the first five to 10 laps of a race. Then it is about managing the race and tires. I knew when I got the lead that I could gap him earlier in the race. But I also knew he would be coming up at the end of the race. I was really focusing on the places I was better than him. That was the downhill in West Bend (Turn 7) and breaking into turn one. But elsewhere he was much faster. This is a great rebound after race two in Canada. All of the guys at Blackdog worked overtime to get the Camaro ready for today. I want to thank Chevrolet too. It’s a great weekend for an American company with an American car and an American driver winning on Memorial Day. I think that’s the way it should be.”
“It was good race but I just couldn’t make the move to get to the lead,” said Sandberg. “I thought I had him at one point but I hit one of the curbs so hard that I thought I broke something on the car. We can’t come close to what Lawson does over the curbs. With the smaller and lighter car, we have to be careful on the bigger curbing. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t make a run on him. I couldn’t get even a little bit of a draft to make a pass. It was a little frustrating. I was getting temperature readings too and the car was overheating. I kept trying to get some clean air. But it was hard. We had the pace but it was so hard to make the pass. I think if I had gotten by Lawson that I could have pulled away. But it didn’t happen today.”
“It’s hot out there and that makes it hard in these closed cockpit cars,” said Heckert. “I had really good speed right off the bat. I had to fight off the Ginetta (Chase) and tried to stay with the top two because I knew they would pull away. They did get away and I just pushed really hard to attempt to get to them. So that kind of wore out the rear tires. I had to fall back a bit late in the race but, overall, we had a good pace. I’m getting better with each race in this car. I’m learning more on what I need from the car too. The biggest hurdle right now is getting used to the car. At the start, I was happy to stay in fourth. I figured the top four would pull away. I didn’t want to get involved in a first lap scuffle.”
CREDIT: Pirelli World Challenge