Long overdue first Pirelli World Challenge podium for Ende concludes dramatic weekend in Sonoma
August 27, 2013 (Los Angeles, Calif.) â€“ After a drive in which he passed eight GT-class cars on the opening lap of the Sonoma Grand Prix, Duncan Ende put the no. 24 STANDD / Merchant Services Audi R8 LMS onto the podium for the first time this season at Sonoma Raceway.
The weekend was not without controversy or drama for Ende. He would be forced to start last after Elton Julian, driving a similar Audi R8 LMS, punted Endeâ€™s car on the out lap of Saturdayâ€™s qualifyingÂ session â€“ before taking the green flag â€“ and sending it into the wall. Damage from the contact would force Ende to park the car before turning a lap, and meant his GMG Racing crew would be at the track well into the evening making repairs to the car.
The start of Sundayâ€™s Sonoma Grand Prix would be one of the most dramatic of the season, with plenty of action and contact â€“ so much action that one World Challenge grid girl passed out from the excitement. From the back of the field, Ende survived the chaotic standing start and the first half lap without any damage while passing several GT-class cars. He was then able to move up to fifth when Julian targeted another GMG Racing Audi R8, the one being driven by his teammate, James Sofronas, forcing him to spin in turn seven. The contact enabled Ende to sweep past both Audis as he marched towards the front.
Running in third place later in the race as he battled Mike Skeen for second, Skeen was shown the black flag for avoidable contact. However, Skeen would ignore the orders to serve a stop-and-go penalty until the end of the race. Close behind, Ende would put pressure on Skeen but opted to not risk a pass, knowing that he would be scored in second place at the end of the race.
â€œThat was one of the stranger podium finishes Iâ€™ve had, but Iâ€™m really happy with how todayâ€™s race went,â€ said Ende. â€œThe first lap was pretty crazy but I was able to make a few moves and took advantage of some of the other cars having contact. Attrition played a role later in the race as well, but Iâ€™m thrilled to be on the podium after having a few near-misses this year. The weekend hadnâ€™t gone particularly well up until the race. Having to skip qualifying because Elton punted me on the out lap just put extra pressure on the crew and with it so hard to pass here, I thought we would be in for a long race. Thankfully everything worked out in our favor this time â€“ although Iâ€™ve still yet to receive my trophy for second place.â€
The Sonoma Grand Prix will be broadcast on NBC Sports on Sunday, September 8 at 3:30 PM ET.
For more about Duncan Ende, visit www.duncanende.com, or follow him on twitter at @duncanende.
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