SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Neal Sapp, of Elicott City, Md., did everything he needed to do to keep his Championship hopes alive, taking his first-career Speedvision World Challenge win at the San Diego Grand Prix, and leading the most laps.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Neal Sapp, of Elicott City, Md., did everything he needed to do to keep his Championship hopes alive, taking his first-career Speedvision World Challenge win at the San Diego Grand Prix, and leading the most laps. However, Brazilian Pierre Kleinubing's third-place finish clinched his second-career title. Hugh Plumb, of Chadds Ford, Pa., finished second. Sapp, who started third in the WebSite.ws/TC Kline Racing BMW 328Ci, made a bold move at the start, splitting front-row starters Kleinubing and Plumb as they approached turn one. Sapp led the initial seven laps before an electronic glitch shut off his engine coming out of turn four, allowing the two RealTime Racing teammates to come past. Sapp re-started his car, and gave chase. After disposing of Kleinubing on lap 12, Sapp made his move on Plumb one lap later to take the lead for good. Sapp went on to a 1.409-second margin of victory in the 44.55-mile contest, averaging 63.766 mph. "We're definitely thrilled to close the season off with our first win," said Sapp, who clinched the Rookie of the Year award at Las Vegas last week. "Pierre [Kleinubing] has done a great job all year. I knew we'd have a tough time winning the Championship, and he did what he needed to do. "At the start, Hugh [Plumb] and Pierre left me enough room to get in between them. It's a street circuit and there's not much room out there, so we all touched a little, but made it through. When the car shut off, I thought that was it. I flicked the switch a couple times and it came back on. It's from a glitch in the system. Whenever I get in the rev limiter real hard, it shuts off. I thought I threw the win away." Plumb capped off a three-race run of podium finishes with a second place in the No. 43 BuySellorHold.com/RealTime Racing Acura Integra R. "At the start, I played it a little conservative," said Plumb. "When Neal [Sapp] had his problem, I got into the back of him because he slowed suddenly. After that, I saw him coming up pretty fast and I knew that my lead wasn't going to last long. I'm happy with second, happy for my teammate Pierre, and happy for Neal getting his first win." Kleinubing needed a finish of 12th or better to clinch his second Championship, the first coming in his 1997 rookie season. After starting from the pole in the No. 42 BuySellorHold.com/RealTime Racing Acura Integra R, Kleinubing fell back to third at the start and ran a consistent race to finish there. "Neal [Sapp] was coming over on me at the start and I though he was gonna put me into the wall," said Kleinubing, 25. "I actually braked on the straightaway and found my place to pull into line. After that, I just played it smart. At one point I got up to second. We had a car capable of winning today, and certainly one capable of 12th. I really have to thank the RealTime Racing crew and [team owner] Peter Cunningham for helping to win this Championship." Alfred duPont, of Kennett Square, Pa., finished a close fourth, followed by Kevin Schrantz, of Boulder, Colo. Roger Foo, of Hayward, Calif., finished sixth after starting 16th, earning the Borla Performance Award for the drive of the day. Kleinubing finished 11 points ahead of Sapp, 252 to 241, in the final standings, followed by Schrantz (202), Plumb (192) and Don Salama (181). Acura wrapped up its third-consecutive Manufacturers' Championship, topping BMW 80 to 74.