The 2012 Pirelli World Challenge Championships opened with a Saturday night street fight at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg presented by Pirelli and when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, Lawson Aschenbach, Justin Bell and Michael Cooper found themselves celebrating atop their respective class podiums.
In a 50-minute timed race slowed by four full-course caution periods, it was clear from the start that anybody who wanted to win would have to take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small. That's exactly what Aschenbach, of Darnestown, Md., did.
Aschenbach started third in the No. 1 Privacy Star/Entrust Porsche 911 GT3 and was briefly shuffled back a few positions. However, he remained well within sight of the leaders throughout the race and when leader Alex Figge got caught up in slower traffic, Aschenbach pounced.
With Figge and Cadillac teammates Johnny O'Connell and Andy Pilgrim bottled up behind the slower car, Aschenbach - who was running fourth - chose an alternate route around the lapped car, which ended up also vaulting him into the lead on Lap 17. In fact, Aschenbach's move earned him the Kia Turning Point of the Race Award.
From that point on, Aschenbach, the 2011 World Challenge Touring Car champion and 2006 GT champion, would not be challenged as he went on to win under caution. It was Aschenbach's sixth career World Challenge victory and his third on the streets of St. Petersburg. The victory could be a good omen for Aschenbach, as his previous two St. Pete victories came last year in Touring Car and in his 2006 GT championship season.
"St. Pete is a very tough track," Aschenbach said. "It's very small, there's a lot of cars out there, there's a lot of attrition going on, so the main thing is keeping your head down, keeping the car clean and getting every single opportunity you have and taking advantage of it. I was fortunate enough that some guys slowed down and I was able to get around them through certain situations. It's tough, though. This track surprises everybody sometimes. More importantly, I just can't thank everybody at TruSpeed Motorcars enough. This Privacy Star/Entrust Porsche GT3 was just flawless all weekend. We knew we had a good shot here, but like I said, you've just