RealTime Acuras Rock Cleveland Kleinubing wins his 24th, RTR's 57th June 25, 2005 -- Cleveland, Ohio -- The old racing proverb that the only lap you have to lead is the last one was re-validated today on the shores of Lake Erie. In the shadow ...
RealTime Acuras Rock Cleveland
Kleinubing wins his 24th, RTR's 57th
June 25, 2005 -- Cleveland, Ohio -- The old racing proverb that the only lap you have to lead is the last one was re-validated today on the shores of Lake Erie. In the shadow of downtown Cleveland and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Pierre Kleinubing earned RealTime Racing's 57th World Challenge race victory, driving his Acura TSX across the line 5.013 seconds ahead of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED Touring Car field.
The win was Kleinubing's third consecutive of the 2005 season, and his 24th for the RealTime Acura team, breaking the tie with series points leader Peter Cunningham as the winningest driver for the team. Cunningham, who finished third for the fourth straight time, was leading on the last lap when he got escorted off course in a three-car melee in the infamous acute-angle Turn One.
"Simple math says if you divide three into one, you get one third," said Cunningham. "We tried to put three cars into Turn One, and only one-third came out."
Charles Espenlaub's Mazda6 had led all but one lap on the way to the white flag, but was under varying degrees of pressure from Lap Four leader Cunningham and third place Kleinubing throughout. That pressure had intensified in the closing laps and a bobble from the Mazda entering the pit straight was all the invitation necessary for Cunningham to make a bid for the point. Cunningham's Acura TSX was scored as the leader as they drag raced toward Turn One for the final lap, but he was caught on the outside--not the best place to be for such a sharp turn. As the duo approached the turn-in point door handle to door handle, Kleinubing, taking advantage of the two arguing combatants, saw an opportunity.
"I saw a gap on the inside," Kleinubing told the assembled media. "So, I thought I would be a little cautious, get on the brakes a little earlier and I will make it through on the inside. I knew that they were going all the way to the outside. I felt like I barely touched Charles, but then when I looked in the mirror I saw them both fly off into the grass."
Kleinubing and Espenlaub's side-to-side contact at the apex bumped Espenlaub into Cunningham, but then the two cars seemed to lock horns and both went sailing off course for a trip through the grass. In what could have been a repeat to their battle on the last lap at Road Atlanta only weeks before, this time it was Espenlaub who recovered better and made it back on the road and to the line before Cunningham.
"The runways here in Cleveland are incredibly bumpy, making it quite difficult to get the cars to handle," Cunningham said. "Our RealTime crew was the secret to our success this weekend. Even with the 210lbs of REWARDS weight Pierre and I were carrying [required accumulated ballast for previous top-five race finishes], our speed in the corners was fantastic thanks to our superior set-up!"
After four race wins in five events, Acura extended its lead to 12 points over Mazda and 23 over BMW for the Touring Car Manufacturers' Championship.
Cunningham's fifth podium in five events this year was the record 70th of his World Challenge career, but Kleinubing's dramatic rebound in the points after the season-opener now places him only nine points behind Cunningham for the Drivers' Championship.
Nineteen-year old top-rookie contender Brandon Davis again qualified in the top five, and drove his (new sponsor) Monster Energy Drink TSX to his second consecutive sixth place in the race. He remains sixth in the Drivers' Championship, and enjoys a comfortable 62-point lead for highest rookie honors in the series.
Fourth in Drivers' points Eric Curran got the prize for best recovery of the weekend, after getting turned around by another competitor before the very first corner. Curran qualified his RealTime Acura RSX ninth, but had to fight back from last to an eventual seventh place finish. He was back to 12th by Lap Eight, ninth by Lap 19, and one more spot on each of the last two circuits in the 30-lap, all-green-flag affair.
Nick Esayian qualified 17th in his RSX, and by the time the checkered flag fell, had worked his way to 14th place. Only .665 seconds separated the fastest laps recorded by, in order, Kleinubing, Cunningham, Curran and Davis.
The Cleveland race was televised on SPEED TV, Sunday afternoon. Possible re-air dates may be announced later.
Round Six of the 11-race SPEED Touring Car battle is Saturday, July 2 at Lime Rock Park, where the World Challenge cars will share the bill with the American Le Mans Series. RealTime Racing drivers have won seven times at Lime Rock, tying the Connecticut facility with Road Atlanta as the team's most successful venue.
The Lime Rock event will be televised on SPEED on a Next-Day-Delay basis, on Sunday, July 3rd at 400p ET.