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Sebring: Touring Car qualifying report

Kleinubing Captures First Pole of 2009 World Challenge TC Season SEBRING, Fla. (March 19, 2009) -- Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla. earned his second-consecutive pole at Sebring International Raceway in preparation for Friday's SCCA...

Kleinubing Captures First Pole of 2009 World Challenge TC Season

SEBRING, Fla. (March 19, 2009) -- Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla. earned his second-consecutive pole at Sebring International Raceway in preparation for Friday's SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Round One race. Seth Thomas, of Cumming, Ga., will complete the front row for the Toyo Tires World Challenge Season Opener, part of the 57th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Presented by Fresh From Florida.

On his first flying lap around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn Sebring circuit, Kleinubing entered a lap of 2:22.598 (93.409 mph). So pleased was the team with the time, Kleinubing parked the No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX in pit lane, waiting to see if any challengers would come calling, but no one could eclipse the defending race winner's pole time. It was Kleinubing's record-leading 35th career pole.

"I did the one lap, and based on my experience, I knew I couldn't get any more out of that car today, so I came in and parked it and saved the tires," Kleinubing said. "Hopefully it was a smart decision. We'll see tomorrow."

However, Kleinubing's spot at the front of the grid was not yet secured. He still needed to survive the coin toss, a new element to qualifying for the 2009 World Challenge season. As SCCA Pro Racing President Bob Wildberger flipped the coin into the air, Kleinubing called tails on the advice of Real Time team manager Nathan Bonneau. Tails it was, which kept Kleinubing on pole. Had it been heads, the top five would have inverted.

"[The coin toss] was the worst part about the whole thing. Driving is easy now, I'll tell you that much.

"We'll see what Seth [Thomas] does. He'll probably be pretty good on the start. It would be great if Kuno [Wittmer] and I can hook up like we did last year and hopefully run away from everybody and maybe battle it out for the win at the end."

Each driver in the top five entered their fastest qualifying lap on lap one, including second starting Thomas. Driving the No. 38 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i, Thomas clocked a 2:22.604 (93.405 mph) to equal his career-best World Challenge Touring Car grid position.

Kleinubing's teammate, Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec, will start behind him in third. Wittmer's best lap in the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX was a 2:22.776 (93.293 mph).

The Mazda was led by Charles Espenalaub, of Lutz, Fla., who put his No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 fourth on the grid. Espenlaub clocked a 2:23.147 (93.051 mph). His teammate, Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, completed the top five in the No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 with a time of 2:23.321 (92.938 mph).

Despite missing the promoter test day and the morning practice session on Wednesday, Chip Herr was able to put his Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6 sixth on the grid, just ahead of BimmerWorld/GearWrench teammates Nick Esayian (BMW 328i) and James Clay (BMW 328i), who will start seventh and eighth, respectively.

Defending World Challenge Touring Car Champion Peter Cunningham will start ninth in the new body style Acura TSX, followed by Michael Galati who completes the top 10 in a MAZDA6.

Round One of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship will go green Friday, March 20, at 11:10 a.m. (EDT).

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Pierre Kleinubing , Michael Galati , Peter Cunningham , James Clay , Nick Esayian , Kuno Wittmer , Chip Herr , Seth Thomas , Jason Saini