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Apr 01, 2014 - 04:40 PM
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DragonSpeed Racing News -- 31 Mar 14
Posted by: newsla on Apr 01, 2014 - 04:36 PM
Sports Cars
DragonSpeed Racing News -- 31 Mar 14


The debut of DragonSpeed’s two-car Pirelli World Challenge effort at St Petersburg saw rookies Mike Hedlund and Henrik Hedman score a pair of strong results in their Ferrari 458 Italia machines while showing an impressive turn of speed pointing to the future. Overcoming the letdown of Saturday’s round being canceled due to torrential rain and tornado warnings, the 50-strong field delivered an action-packed race on Sunday won by ex-Formula 1 driver Tomas Enge after a battle to the finish, marking the long-awaited arrival of FIA GT3 competition in America.

 

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After Hedlund served notice on series regulars with third quickest practice time on Friday, traffic woes in qualifying left him 11th on the grid. Practice gearbox gremlins having been sorted, Hedman lined up in 14th, just 0.2s behind his teammate. Hedlund lost a couple of places on his first-ever standing start before climbing to 10th when a full-course caution interrupted his progress on lap 12. He outbraked veteran Tim Bergmeister’s Porsche on the penultimate lap to finish ninth. Along the way, Mike underlined his practice form with a best race lap of 1m15.113s – fastest Ferrari and fourth overall. A slow getaway dropped Hedman to 25th at the green, but he was soon on a charge which took him back up to 17th by the yellow. Contact while storming through the GT-A (amateur) field at the restart saw him plummet to 34th, but the Florida-based Swede staged another comeback to claim 16th overall, 8th in class, and a best time just 0.7s off the fastest lap in GT-A. At the checker, both showed evidence of the rough-and-tumble of street racing, with minor scarring to the nose of Hedlund’s car and the back of Hedman’s machine.

Mike Hedlund: “The DragonSpeed crew gave me a car that was fast enough to win and I think I showed my speed is there, so the next job is to bring my qualifying up to the same level. Switching from sharing a car in enduros to soloing in a sprint race made for a very educational weekend, but our race engineer Rick Mayer and my driving coach Ryan Dalziel both helped me make good progress.”

Henrik Hedman: “Apart from my disappointing start and restart, I’m leaving St Pete confident about competing at this level, which was a bit of an unknown for me coming into the event. It’s too bad we didn’t get to run on Saturday after the storm passed, as I’ve had success in the wet and enjoy the extra challenge of those conditions.”

Elton Julian: “Pirelli World Challenge is now clearly the premier GT series in North America, so I’m pleased that we’ve quickly shown we can run with the best in terms of speed and preparation. Our great crew led by Steve Gysin took the inevitable hiccups of dealing with new equipment and a new series in their stride to deliver a pair of fast and reliable cars for Henrik and Mike to take into battle. I can’t thank them enough and I’m also grateful for all the technical support we had from Michelotto this weekend.”

Highlights of the race will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network at 5.30 pm on Sunday 6 April.

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