October 18, 2003

Randy Pobst Secures First SPEED GT - Victory for Audi RS6 Competition

Randy Pobst earned Audi its first Speed GT World Challenge victory for the RS 6 sedan when the Gainesville driver led the penultimate round of the series from start to finish. Pobst's first win for the Audi Sport North America-backed Champion team earns him a 12-point lead in the series. Outgoing GT champion Michael Galati finished third in his similar Audi RS 6 Competition. The race was run under full course yellow for the final five laps.

Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., rocketed to the front at the start of Friday's SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT Championship race at Road Atlanta, and held out for his first win of the season and the first win for the new Audi RS 6. Pobst also captured the Championship point lead with the race win, part of the Petit Le Mans weekend.

Driving the No. 2 Champion Racing entry, Pobst took advantage of a dry line from his second starting position and sped away at the start from polesitter Mike Fitzgerald's No. 22 Coors Light/1st Interstate Inn/3R Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Fitzgerald, of Phoenix , Ariz. , chased Pobst for much of the race, but a late-race caution for an incident involving the Dodge Viper of David Barr ended his charge as the race finished under caution.

Pobst averaged 84.776 mph over the course of the 27-lap, 68.58-mile event. Pobst's teammate Michael Galati, of Olmsted , Ohio , finished third.

While the event was one of celebration for the Champion Audi team, it was bitter disappointment for pre-event point leader Bill Auberlen and his BMW Team PTG group, which has been strong all season. Auberlen was comfortably in the top five, a spot crucial to maintain his point lead, when the gearbox on his M3 broke one lap shy of half way. Pobst's win, and Auberlen's DNF resulted in a reversal of the Drivers' Championship lead going into the last round, next weekend in San Juan , Puerto Rico .

"Our pleasure is BMW's pain, they had a rough day and we had a great day," Pobst said after taking his seventh-career win and first since 2002. "This team has been thrashing all year, really pulling rabbits out of the hat and putting out fires just to keep the cars on the track with the busy schedule. But to finally pull down a win is a wonderful feeling and a tribute to the hard work of the Champion Audi guys."

Fitzgerald, who nabbed the pole in the last minute of qualifying, knew he was in trouble with the all-wheel-drive Audi next to him on the start, but a damp line in his lane made matters worse. Galati made a great jump on the standing start, moving into second, but slid wide in turn one and allowed Fitzgerald to take over second. The Porsche reeled in and hounded the Audi for the next 15 laps, learning where to make his move for the lead.

"I got alongside Randy [Pobst] once in turn one, but I ran out of space," Fitzgerald, who won the Road Atlanta race in June of this year, said. "There were definitely places I was quicker. I had a plan, had it gone green all the way, but the caution ended that. We could have won."

Two-time defending SPEED GT Champion Galati reached the podium for the second time in three races. He also received the Remus Power Move of the Race for his move at the start, going from sixth on the grid into second.

"We've been having a difficult season, with little problems with the car here and there," Galati said. "I keep telling the guys to never give up, that the race doesn't end until the checkered flag, and they've gotten a lot of things straightened out. Now we're in a good position to win the [Manufacturers'] Championship, and Randy has a chance to be the Champion."

Phil McClure, of Floris , Iowa , made his return to competition after sitting out the last round due to a huge accident at Round Seven in Road America , and finished fourth in his Corvette. Michael McCann, of Canton, Ohio, finished a career-best fifth in his Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, but was also placed on probation for early-race contact, which sent Boris Said spinning in his BMW M3. Said recovered to finish 10th.

Justin Marks , who had the best finish of the four BMW Team PTG M3s, earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing the most positions in the race, from 13th to seventh, one spot behind the Corvette of David Farmer.

Following his accident in turn four, Barr, of Duluth , Ga. , was transported to Lanier Park Regional hospital for observation and x-rays after experiencing back pain. He was later released.

With one race remaining, Pobst now leads the SCCA SPEED GT Drivers' Championship by 12 points (221 to 209) over Auberlen. McClure is third (187 points), followed by Fitzgerald (186) and Hans Stuck (171).

Audi also gained on BMW in the Manufacturers' Championship Presented by Racer Magazine. BMW now leads with 50 points, followed by Audi (49), Porsche (36) and Chevrolet (30).

Quotes after the race

Michael Galati (44). Born: Alcaralifusi, Messina, Sicily. Lives: N. Olmsted, Ohio: Speed World Challenge stats: 78 starts, 16 wins, 39 top-3s, 54 top-5s, 66 top-10s.

"I used the Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive traction to the full and blasted from sixth on the grid in to second place by the first turn. But I rode up on to a kerb on the exit and almost slid off which cost me a place. I had some early pressure from McClure and then Auberlen but broke clear and started pulling in Fitzgerald. I would have loved the race to re-start as I felt confident I could get second place. Audi is now just a point off the lead in the Manufacturer's standings and I'm determined to help them achieve success next weekend."

Randy Pobst (46). Born: Dayton, Ohio. Lives: Gainesville, Georgia: Speed World Challenge stats: 23 starts, 7 wins, 18 top-3s, 19 top-5s, 19 top-10s.

"It wasn't a great way to score Audi's first win in the RS 6 with the race finishing under full course yellow but heck, we'll take it. I made a good start and was able to stay ahead throughout the race despite heavy pressure at times from Mike [Fitzgerald]. I'm delighted to have been able to reward Champion Racing and Audi North America. We've made great progress throughout the year with the new RS 6. The final race in Puerto Rico next Sunday is going to be mighty interesting."

2003 Speed GT World Challenge - Driver's Standings (after 9 races)

1 Randy Pobst (Audi RS 6 Competition) 221-points
2 Bill Auberlen (BMW M3) 209
3 Phil McClure (Corvette) 187
4 Mike Fitzgerald (Porsche 911) 186
5 Hans Stuck (BMW M3) 171
6 Boris Said (BMW M3) 160
9 Michael Galati (Audi RS 6 Competition) 135

2003 Speed GT World Challenge - Manufacturers' Standings (after 9 races)

1 BMW, 50
2 Audi, 49
3 Porsche, 36
4 Chevrolet, 30