RTR Acura = 1-2 x 2 at M-O Acura Clinches Ninth World Challenge Title August 9, 2010--Lexington, Ohio - Rounds 8 and 9 of the 2010 World Challenge Championship took place at the scenic and demanding Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, under beautiful...
RTR Acura = 1-2 x 2 at M-O
Acura Clinches Ninth World Challenge Title
August 9, 2010--Lexington, Ohio - Rounds 8 and 9 of the 2010 World Challenge Championship took place at the scenic and demanding Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, under beautiful blue skies. RealTime Acura drivers Peter Cunningham and Nick Esayian started out the weekend on the right foot by qualifying in the top two spots in the GTS category with their matching Acura TSXs. They went on to finish in the same order in both Saturday's and Sunday's races, clinching Acura's ninth World Challenge Manufacturers' title in the process, but it wasn't quite as easy as that.
Cunningham launched from the right hand lane of the standing start without incident, maintaining the first position. Meanwhile, in the left lane, Esayian was balked when one of the faster GT cars couldn't find a forward gear, stacking up all those runners behind. Fortunately, everyone safely navigated around the errant racer and carried on, albeit in a reshuffled order.
Esayian's No. 34 lost out in the drama to the third quickest GTS qualifier, Ernie Jakubowski, in a Porsche Cayman. The Acura gave chase for six tours of the twisty 2.258-mile circuit before finding a clean way by on Lap 7. The No. 43 of Cunningham kept its lead, surviving two full course cautions to take his third race win in a row.
The RealTime bunch were pleased with their results from Saturday, but they were faced with a new challenge. The post-race inspection of Esayian's mount found his motor not up to RealTime standards, so a precautionary engine change was necessitated. World Challenge rules require competitors to race with the same powerplant as they qualify with, so his second place starting position was disallowed and he was forced to start from last.
As the start lights were extinguished, this time it was the right lane's turn to have its issues. Cunningham made it through safely, but had to settle for second behind Jakubowski as the GTS leaders exited the first corner.
"I probably could have snatched the lead back a couple of times on the opening lap, but I decided to bide my time," Cunningham reported. "From there, the Porsche found its groove and made life more difficult and I couldn't find a way through."
Cunningham remained confident that it was only a matter of time before he'd figure things out, but when he looked in his mirrors after a handful of laps, he saw his teammate, now up to third, edging ever closer.
Finally, after ramping up the pressure on the Porsche lap after lap, Cunningham passed for the lead in Turn 9 on Lap 13 of the 29-lap sprint. For his textbook move, Cunningham earned the 'Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race' award.
From there, Cunningham was able to motor away, as the Porsche had another Acura to contend with. Esayian kept the heat set on high and it paid dividends on Lap 23 when Jakubowski was forced wide by a recovering GT car after the race's second full course yellow went back to green.
"The RealTime guys did a great job with the engine swap overnight so the only problem was my grid position," Esayian said. "I had a great start and was able to get by about five cars on the first lap alone on my way towards the front!"
Cunningham's pair of wins from Mid-Ohio bring his tally to six for the season in nine starts. Esayian's pair of second place finishes bring his podium total to seven as the pair continue to dominate this new-for-2010 category.
On the strength of seven poles and 15 top-three finishes, Acura clinches its unprecedented ninth World Challenge Manufacturers' Championship. Three rounds are yet to be run, but the math won't allow another brand to surpass Acura's impressive total.
As a special treat on the day prior to on-track activities, the RealTime drivers were invited to Honda's Research & Development facility, near the town of Raymond, about an hour from the central Ohio track. The annual 'Race Day' event was also attended by three of the IZOD Indy Car drivers and included an impressive tour of the one million-plus square foot complex where the next generation of many of the Hondas and Acuras are designed and tested.
The afternoon concluded with a two-hour autograph session where many of the Honda and Acura associates interacted with the racing drivers. The picture perfect weather forecast for the weekend was much of the talk as the drivers learned more about just what it takes to create such intricate and advanced products.
Another doubleheader is in store for the World Challenge competitors on September 10-12 at VIRginia International Raceway.