2007 SPEED GT Race - Disaster At Road Atlanta

Corvette Carnage Abounds In Speed GT's Penultimate Race

Walt Thurn Apr 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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The 12-race '07 SPEED GT season was an up-and-down ride for Corvette. The schedule started out with a bang when newcomer Eric Curran put the field in his mirrors and brought Chevy's sports car a win at Sebring. Curran repeated this feat at the next event in Long Beach and left with a commanding lead in the championship-points race.

The next four races turned Curran's winning streak upside down, as mechanical problems and crashes kept the No. 30 Whelen Motorsports Corvette out of victory circle. But after rebounding with a pair of wins at Mid-Ohio and Mosport, Curran and his Whelen teammates were optimistic they could close out the year with victories in the season's last two races at Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca.

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Lou Gigliotti qualified his No. 24 LG Pro Long Tube Headers Corvette sixth in what would be his last SPEED GT race. Gigliotti was moved to the back of the field, however, when the car failed a post-qualifying inspection for being too low.

The tricky, 12-turn Road Atlanta track is always a favorite for the SPEED GT Corvette drivers. In spite of his "reward weight" for winning the last two races, Curran qualified fourth fastest. The always-competitive Lou Gigliotti, in his No. 28 LG Pro Long Tube Headers C6, was sixth-fastest. But after a post-qualifying inspection found that both Curran's and Gigliotti's Corvettes were too low, the cars were moved to the back of the grid.

The race started under sunny skies, with 26 cars taking the standing-start green flag. The leaders had not even entered Turn One when the yellow flag started waving. Brian Kubinski, driving the No. 12 Diamond Construction/Blackdog Racing Corvette, had stalled at the start. Gigliotti's Corvette and Dane Moxlow's No. 20 GTO hit the back of Kubinski's Corvette, sending out a shower of debris and stranding all three cars on the main straightway.

No one was hurt, but the resulting full-course yellow sent several cars to pit lane for accident-related repairs. The blockage of the front straight required the field to follow the pace car through the pits to avoid the clean-up efforts.

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This photo of Sonny Whelen at the wheel of his No. 31 Corvette illustrates some of the safety features built into the factory-based car.

The race resumed on Lap 9, by which time Curran had moved up to fifth position. Suddenly, a light rain began to fall on the back half of the track. The sprinkle quickly became a downpour encompassing the entire 2.54-mile course. Although the competitors were running slick tires, all but Ron Fellows-driving the No. 16 Cadillac CTS-V-elected to press on without a tire change.

By Lap 11, a series of large puddles had developed in Turns Three, Four, and Five. Each of the top five cars slid sideways through Three but were caught short of disaster and managed to press on. The rest of the field was not as lucky. The Nos. 30 and 31 Whelen Motorsports Corvettes of Curran and Sonny Whelen came together, collecting the No. 3 Viper of Scotty B. White. Several other cars had to take evasive action to avoid the crashed cars, and the full-course yellow came out for the second time.

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This is the business end of Eric Curran's No. 30 Whelen Motorsports Corvette. Though remarkably stock-appearing, the LS2 small-block makes a little over 530 hp in race-restricted form.

As the rain continued to flood the course, and the cleanup continued in Turn Three, officials waved the red flag and brought the field into pit lane. The cars were given five minutes to make whatever changes their crews deemed necessary, including tires, then lined up in their previous order and sent out behind the pace car. The entire field, now on rain tires, took the green flag for a final 10-minute sprint on Lap 17.

Randy Pobst led at the wheel of a Porsche, while Fellows picked up four spots in the Vette-powered Caddy. This moved Fellows into second, trailing by nearly four seconds. Three laps later, the gap was down to 0.361 seconds. On Lap 21, Fellows went to the inside of Pobst in Turn One and took the lead, earning the B&M Oil Coolers Coolest Move of the Race Award. "He was a little bit better coming off the slow corners," Fellows said. "I was better than him in [Turn] Twelve...I took one shot at him and then got him the next time. There was a fair amount of grip to the inside, and we were able to make it stick."

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Gigliotti and Dane Moxlow (not shown) crashed into Brian Kubinski's Vette, putting all three cars out of the race. Afterward, the track was completely blocked by safety crews and wreck detritus.

As Fellows motored away, CTS-V driver Lawson Aschenbach passed Pobst and settled in behind his Cadillac teammate. With Aschenbach in a tight points battle for the SPEED GT Drivers Championship, the team made the call for Fellows to let the younger driver around on the back straight, giving the defending champion his first win of the season by 1.164 seconds. Rob Foster finished Twelfth in the No. 17 LTI Contracting Corvette; his was the only Vette to finish the race.

Perhaps the most significant Corvette-related news of the event had nothing to do with the race itself: Lou Gigliotti announced that he would be leaving SPEED GT to drive a Riley-built C6 in the ALMS GT2 category in '08. As one of the series' most talented and colorful drivers, Gigliotti will be sorely missed.

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