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Laguna Seca: Tri-Point Motorsports race report

Altenburg Scores Strong Second Place Finish With Tri-Point Mazda6 in Season Ending TC Laguna Seca Race Jeff Altenburg of Ellicott City, Maryland hustled his ...

Altenburg Scores Strong Second Place Finish With Tri-Point Mazda6 in Season Ending TC Laguna Seca Race

Jeff Altenburg of Ellicott City, Maryland hustled his #72 Tri-Point Motorsports Mazda6 to a hard fought second place finish in this past weekend's SCCA World-Challenge Touring Car race at the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Altenburg's teammates Dino Crescentini of Malibu, California and Randy Pobst of Gainesville, Georgia came home ninth and thirteenth respectively. The Laguna event marked the last race of the 2006 Touring Car schedule, and the Tri-Point crew were clearly a force to be reckoned with throughout the ten race season as they took the driver's championship battle all the way to the final race of the year.

Setting the Pace

The three electric blue and white Tri-Point Mazda6s set the pace early in the weekend as Altenburg topped the timing sheets in the first practice session with a 1 minute 36.942 second lap of the 2.238 mile natural terrain road course. Pobst was close on Altenburg's heels with a 1:36.988 and Dino Crescentini rounded out the top five for the first practice session with a 1:37.122.

Second practice was also strong as the trio finished in the top ten with Altenburg a close second on the charts to the eventual race winning #43 Realtime Racing Acura RSX of Eric Curran.

Putting it on the Grid

Qualifying for the Laguna Seca event carried special importance for the Tri- Point squad, as Pobst was in a down-to-the-wire fight for the driver's championship crown with Realtime Racing driver Pierre Kleinubing, and track position would be at a premium. Pobst did not disappoint as he placed his #73 Mazda6 second on the grid, less then two-tenths of a second behind pole sitter Curran. Altenburg, in strong support of his teammate, qualified third only a tenth behind Randy. Crescentini, who had problems in qualifying, could muster only the twenty-eighth quickest time of the session, and started near the back of the field.

Realtime driver Kleinubing, who came to Laguna with a slight lead in the championship, needed to finish the race at least third to clinch the championship regardless of where Randy finished, and he qualified fourth, right behind Altenburg - the stage was set for a battle royale. The anticipation for the start of the season-ending Touring Car event was palpable in the paddock, and although strategies were certainly mulled, Pobst realized he needed a race win and an all out drive to keep him in the championship hunt.

Race Action

The twenty-nine car field took their standing start at 12:37 pm PCT and streamed into turn one without incident. Lap one appeared to be clean, and then on lap two Pobst innocuously dropped a left wheel inside the curbing of turn six. The new type of curbing there caused sufficient damage to the wheel to separate the bead, and the tire deflated almost instantly. Randy struggled with his Mazda6 at the Corkscrew which immediately follows turn six and realized he would be forced to pit to change the wheel and tire. With pit stops not being a regular part of the sprint style Touring Car race format, Pobst knew that his chances for a win and for the championship were all but gone.

Nevertheless, showing consummate professionalism, he set out on the track once the crack Tri-Point squad completed their pit work, and with a never- say-die attitude, he worked his way back up to and through the field, and set fastest race lap to claim a decidedly unlucky thirteenth finishing spot. A racer to be sure, despite a hard loss in the Touring Car event, Pobst put things aside, and later that same day went on to win the World Challenge GT class race in a Porsche. It was a bittersweet day for Randy.

Altenburg, who had done all that a teammate could in support of Pobst, now set his sights on a race win as he found himself in second place chasing down the Acura of Curran. It became clear to Jeff after several laps that he would not be able to catch the #43 and he wisely began to conserve the grip and power of his Mazda6. As Realtime driver Peter Cunningham gave challenge in the later stages of the thrilling race, Altenburg made no mistakes and was able to fend off the defending Touring Car champion. Jeff brought his #72 Mazda6 to the checkered flag a well-deserved second, to take his place on the podium. Jeff has clearly shown speed at all of the 2006 events, but his prowess and race savvy are equally clear and have been a major part of his success both in this particular race and throughout this year.

While all this was happening at the front, Crescentini was quietly but very quickly carving his way through the field. Dino had a strong car underneath him, and he not only knew it, he knew what to do with it. Crescentini closed out his up and down 2006 season with a fine drive to ninth in the #74 Tri-Point prepared entry, and he earned the Sunoco Hardcharger award in the process as he made up an amazing seventeen places during the twenty-six lap race. It was just reward for a driver that is faster than many of his results have shown.

Driver Quotes

Jeff Altenburg - #72

"It was a pretty good weekend for me qualifying 3rd and finishing 2nd. I was prepared to help Randy however I could to win the driver championship, but when he had his off there was nothing else to do but try and win the race for Mazda. My car was fantastic. Between our StopTech Brakes, Comptech Engines, Sachs Shocks and the skills of my Tri Point Motorsports Team, my Mazda6 was as good as it's ever been. I had a pretty uneventful race. When Eric Curran started to pull away, I went into a slight tire conservation mode hoping for a yellow, which never came. Later on PD Cunningham caught me and I had to start pushing to hold him off till the end of the race. We started clicking off our fastest race laps which made it interesting, but in the end my Mazda6 had the measure of his car."

Randy Pobst - #73

"I want to thank the Tri-Point team, Craig and Chris for a wonderful and competitive racing season. I also want to thank them for letting me race in the GT race this weekend. As a team we gave 100% throughout the year. My Mazda6 was the best it's ever been this weekend. Really, we had strong cars for the whole season, with our StopTech brakes giving us a definite advantage and with handling that stayed great throughout - even in the longer events without any yellows. It's a shame that we had the problem today with the curbing, and of course it is a hard thing to take - but if this sport was easy, it wouldn't be satisfying. It has been an honor to race with such a great team."

Dino Crescentini - #74

"I'm glad that we had our issues in qualifying and not the race. I clearly had a very strong car today, and I have to admit that I enjoyed working my way through the field. I can't say I enjoyed the whole season, but I think I made some good gains as the year went on. The crew and both Randy and Jeff worked with me to try and get a good set up underneath the car. I also have to thank Craig and the whole Tri-Point team for their work this season."

Summing it Up

Mazda secured second place in the manufacturer's title chase in the penultimate round of the 2006 season at Road Atlanta, and finished out the season trailing Acura by only fourteen points and gapping Audi by twenty- one points.

Kleinubing and Pobst ran away with the championship battle with Kleinubing getting the lion's share at 286 with Pobst close behind to secure second with 267. Altenburg, with his second place finish at Laguna completed the season seventh at 208 points, and Crescentini used his 99 points earned to finish the season thirteenth in the driver's championship points standings.

Up Next / Info

With the 2006 season already complete, 2007 looms near and the Tri-Point squad, after a break, will begin preparing for what promises to be another competitive and challenging season of world class SCCA World Challenge Touring Car competition. Look for the blue and white Tri-Point Mazda6s as they race at a track near you in 07. Log onto www.world-challenge.com for more info on the full 2006 Touring Car season. You can also check out www.tripointengineering.com to see what the Tri-Point crew is up to for 2007.

-credit: tripoint motorsports

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About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Randy Pobst , Pierre Kleinubing , Peter Cunningham , Eric Curran , Jeff Altenburg , Dino Crescentini