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Laguna Seca: Altenburg wins, takes championship

Altenburg goes flag-to-flag to take first-career Speed Touring Car win, Auberlen clinches point championship at Mazda Raceway. MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 6, 2003) -- Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., drove flag-to-flag to pick up his first ...

Altenburg goes flag-to-flag to take first-career Speed Touring Car win, Auberlen clinches point championship at Mazda Raceway.

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 6, 2003) -- Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., drove flag-to-flag to pick up his first career SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge Touring Car win at the Fry's Electronics Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Bill Auberlen, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., clinched the SCCA Speed World Challenge Touring Car Drivers' Championship with his second-place finish, followed by Chuck Hemmingson, of West Des Moines, Iowa, who finished third.

Altenburg, driving the No. 40 TriPoint Motorsports Mazda Protégé ES, represented Mazda well at the track bearing its name, winning by a 2.533-second margin at a record average speed of 76.945 mph for the 26-lap, 58.188-mile race.

"After the restart, Bill [Auberlen] got back up there," Altenburg said describing the restart after a full course yellow to extract Rick Maki's BMW 325Ci from the turn six gravel. "It is a pretty ominous site having that blue and yellow BMW back there. I felt pretty good. I didn't have to drive dropping wheels or that kind of thing. But, I was driving pretty hard and luckily I didn't make any big mistakes."

Auberlen had a 61-point lead in the Speed Touring Car point race heading into today's contest and needed to score eight more points than second-place Pierre Kleinubing, of Brazil, to clinch the Championship. The combination of Auberlen piloting his Turner Motorsport/H&R Springs BMW 325i to a second-place finish and Kleinubing's disappointing 22nd-place finish, due to an intermittent engine misfire, helped Auberlen clinch his first SCCA Speed Touring Car Drivers' Championship.

"You feel like, 'Whew, I can finally relax a little bit,'" Auberlen said of winning the Championship. "I mean, even with 61-point I wasn't relaxing because there was still a mathematical chance he [Kleinubing] would come and get me, although it wasn't a high likelihood. But, stranger things have happened."

Hemmingson, who finished third at Mid-Ohio in August, repeated that performance today giving him two podium finishes in three races. After starting eighth, Hemmingson drove his ARC Racing/TBPG/Red Line Mazda Protégé ES through traffic and finally passed Bob Stretch, of Dallas, Texas, for third approching the last lap of the race.

"This Mazda Protégé just ran great," Hemmingson said. "I've got to thank my crew and everybody at ARC Racing. They did a nice job to get the car better all weekend.

"I found out where he [Stretch] was weak. He was a little slow down out of the corkscrew and took a big wide line down into the lefthander. I just got myself in there and tightened up a little bit. We had to run through there side-by-side and I was in good position after that."

Bob Endicott, of San Pedro, Calif., piloted his King Motorsports/Mugen Power Acura RSX-S to a fourth-place finish, while Stretch's Wheels America BMW 325Ci finished fifth.

Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., won the B&M Holeshot award for advancing eight positions on the first lap of the race. Endicott won the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing 12 positions throughout the race.

With two rounds remaining, Auberlen clinched the Speed Touring Car Drivers' Championship, with 234 points, followed by Kleinubing (150 points), Will Turner (148), Hemmingson (133) and Roger Foo (127).

BMW maintains the lead in the Speed Touring Manufacturers' Championship Presented by Racer Magazine, with 60 points, followed by Acura (42 points), Mazda (35), Lexus (18), Nissan (14) and Audi (7).

The SCCA Speed World Challenge GT and Touring Car Championships next head to Road Atlanta Oct. 15-18 for the Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Ga.

Today's race will initially air at 2:00 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, Sept. 20 on Speed Channel.

<pre> SCCA Speed Touring Car Drivers' Championship Standings (after eight races)

Ps      Driver            Wins  Car                     Pts
1       Bill Auberlen      3    BMW 325i                234
2       Pierre Kleinubing  2    Acura RSX-S             150
3       Will Turner             BMW 325i                148
4       Chuck Hemmingson        Mazda Protégé ES        133
5       Roger Foo               Mazda Protégé ES        127
6       Jeff Altenburg          Mazda Protégé ES        117
7       Ken Dobson              BMW 325Ci               114
8       Peter Cunningham   1    Nissan SE-R             112
9       Tim Pappas(R)           Lexus IS300             109
10      Mike Fitzgerald         Lexus IS300             109

Championship Presented by Racer Magazine

Pos.    Manufacturer    Wins    Points
1       BMW              3      60
2       Acura            3      42
3       Mazda            1      35
4       Lexus                   18
5       Nissan           1      14
6       Audi,                   7

-scca pro racing-

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About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Pierre Kleinubing , Ken Dobson , Tim Pappas , Peter Cunningham , Will Turner , Chuck Hemmingson , Charles Espenlaub , Roger Foo , Jeff Altenburg , Bob Stretch , Bob Endicott , Rick Maki
Teams Turner Motorsport