Galati, Cunningham, Porsche and Acura Big winners in 2002 Speed World Challenge. CENTENNIAL, Colo. (October 29, 2002) -- SCCA Pro Racing Ltd. honored the top accomplishments in the 2002 SPEED World Challenge GT and Touring Car Championships...
Galati, Cunningham, Porsche and Acura Big winners in 2002 Speed World Challenge.
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (October 29, 2002) -- SCCA Pro Racing Ltd. honored the top accomplishments in the 2002 SPEED World Challenge GT and Touring Car Championships Sunday night at the Stafford Conference Center in Danville, Va. Among the big winners on the evening were SPEED GT Champion Michael Galati, SPEED Touring Car Champion Peter Cunningham and Manufacturers' Champions Porsche and Acura. Audi's Rod Bymaster, Mazda's Steve Sanders and rookies John Young and Marc Kirberg also earned top awards.
Driving the No. 1 Champion Racing Audi S4 Competition, Galati earned his record fifth World Challenge title in just seven years (1996, 1998 and 1999 in Touring Car, 2001 and 2002 in GT) through a season run of consistent finishes. While he won three of the first five races of the season, it was finishing no worse than sixth that helped clinch the title with his third-place run Sunday at VIRginia International Raceway.
Galati led the Championship from start to finish, a feat not accomplished in the GT class since Neil Hannemann in 1995. He had four Woody's Ice poles, three wins, five top-threes, eight top-fives and top-six finishes in all 10 races. Galati earned $59,000 in purse and manufacturer contingency awards, plus an additional $40,000 for the title, bringing his year-end total to $99,000.
"This Championship was won by my guys, my team," said Galati, who now has 10 Championships in only 15 years of racing. "The Champion team is the best in the business. Finishing races is the most important thing when you're going for a Championship, and they give me a car that finishes races."
Galati's 272 points topped Cunningham's 254, giving them a one-two finish for the second-straight season. Cunningham's Acura NSX scored one pole and one win, but a seventh at Mid-Ohio and a ninth at Trois-Rivieres hurt his title run. Despite missing three races, including the first two, Randy Pobst finished third in the title run in his 1st Interstate Inn/3R Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Pobst had a season-high four wins, five poles and finished on the podium in each of his seven races to give him 222 point.
Pobst, along with Johannes van Overbeek and Justin Marks of G&W Motorsports, scored 70 points for Porsche en route to the German automaker's fifth Manufacturers' Championship. Eric Bloss, of Porsche Motorsports North America, was on hand to accept the award.
Audi was second, with 49 points, followed by Acura (44), BMW (26) and Saleen (19).
John Young, of Woodside, Calif., who captured his first-career win earlier in the day in his Contract Metal Products Saleen SR, was recognized as the series' Rookie of the Year. Young finished fourth in the overall point standings, with 207, off the strength of his win, four top-fives and top-10 finishes in each of the 10 races.
Former Champion Jeff McMillin (205 points, BMW M3), van Overbeek (199 points, Porsche), in-car SPEED Channel commentator Derek Bell (174 points, Audi), David Farmer (170 points, Corvette), Marks (148 points, Porsche) and Bob Miller (146 points, Porsche) completed the season-ending top 10 in points.
3R Racing was honored as the SPEED GT Crew of the Year, as voted on by its peers.
Rod Bymaster, of Audi of America, was presented with the annual Jim Cook Award, the highest non-competition honor an individual in the World Challenge series can receive. Bymaster was recognized for his commitment to the World Challenge through his advertising and promotion of top driving talent with the Champion Racing Audi program.
While Cunningham narrowly missed out on the SPEED GT Drivers' Championship, he captured the SPEED Touring Car Drivers' Championship off a consistent run which only saw him finish outside of the top 10 once in his No. 42 RealTime Racing Acura Integra R. It is Cunningham's third World Challenge title (also taking the 1995 Touring Car and 1999 GT titles) and his sixth overall in SCCA Pro Racing competition (with two titles in Escort Endurance series and one in the SCCA RaceTruck Championship).
Cunningham concluded the season with one win (Road Atlanta), two Woody's Ice poles, five top-threes, six top-fives and 10 top-10s. Cunningham's only finish outside of the top 10 was at Mid-Ohio, when he finished 13th after starting 47th. The West Bend, Wis. driver led RealTime Racing to its second-ever one-two sweep in the Championship, with Pierre Kleinubing finishing second, only seven points behind. The team's previous one-two finish came in 1998, when Michael Galati won the title, with defending Champion Kleinubing second.
"When the season started, the plan was for me to race Touring and support my teammate Pierre [Kleinubing]," said Cunningham, who earned $44,450 in prize and contingency awards as well as an additional $20,000 for the title for a grand total of $64,450. "After he had a few DNFs, it made sense for both of us to try and score as many points as possible.
"Finishing first and second in the championship is great, particularly given that Acura captured the Manufacturers' Championship. I really have to thank the entire RealTime crew, who made all of this possible."
Kleinubing may have won his third-straight Championship in SPEED Touring Car, but two rare mechanical failures resulted in back-to-back 34th-place finishes at Washington, D.C. and Trois-Rivieres. The Brazilian bounced back from a violent roll in qualifying at VIRginia Interantional Raceway to capture the finale in a badly damaged car. It was his season-high third win to go with three Woody's Ice poles, seven top-three finishes and nine top-10s for 248 points.
Kirberg finished third in his SSF Imported Auto Parts BMW 325i, jumping up from sixth prior to the final race at VIR, where he finished third. Kirberg's 205 points, off of one win (Washington, D.C.), one pole, four top-fives and seven top-10s, earned him the 2002 Rookie of the Year award.
Kleinubing's win and a second place finish by Mazda's Jeff Altenburg was enough to give Acura its fourth Manufacturers' Championship over BMW 59 to 58. Mazda finished a close third, with 55 points, followed by Lexus (22), Honda (12), Audi (nine) and Volkswagen (three). Renee Miller, of Honda Auto Advertising, accepted the Cup on behalf of Acura.
Ken Dobson (194 points, BMW), Chuck Hemmingson (192 points, Mazda), Will Turner (191 points, BMW), Paul Bonaccorsi (184 points, Mazda), Taz Harvey (167 points, Honda Civic), Mike Fitzgerald (159 points, Lexus IS300) and Shauna Marinus (139 points, Mazda) completed the season-ending top 10 in the Drivers' Championship.
Turner Motorsport, which fielded as many as four BMWs throughout the season, was recognized by its peers as the Touring Car Crew of the Year.
Steve Sanders, of Mazdaspeed Motorsports, a division of Mazda, was presented a Special Achievement Award for his work spearheading the Mazda Protege foray into the SPEED Touring Car Championship over the last two seasons. Mazda posts the richest contingency of any program in World Challenge, and placed full-page win ads in popular motorsports publications throughout the season.
Additionally, 74-year-old Fred Meyer was recognized for his 62-race World Challenge career (sixth on the all-time starts list). Meyer retired after the 2002 VIR season finale.
All told, over $900,000 in prize money and contingency was paid out to drivers and teams in the 2002 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships, with contingency contributions made by Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Lexus, Mazda and Saleen.
"This was a great season for the SPEED World Challenge Championships," said Mitch Wright, Vice President and General Manager of SCCA Pro Racing. "These series have grown to be true, professional efforts while still maintaining a grassroots appeal. We would like to thank our teams and our sponsors, particularly SPEED Channel, Toyo Tires, Woody's Ice, Rogaine and B&M Shifters, for making this year such a pleasure to be a part of."
The 2003 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships begin March 14 at Sebring International Raceway.
2002 SPEED World Challenge Honorees
QDrivers' Champion: Michael Galati
Rookie of the Year: John Young
Manufacturers' Champion: Porsche
Crew of the Year: 3R Racing
SPEED Touring Car:
Drivers' Champion: Peter Cunningham
Rookie of the Year: Marc Kirberg
Manufacturers' Champion: Acura
Crew of the Year: Turner Motorsport
Jim Cook Award: Rod Bymaster, Audi of America
Special Achievement Award: Steve Sanders, Mazdaspeed Motorsports
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