SEBRING, Fla. (March 15, 2002) -- Brazilian Pierre Kleinubing won the SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge Touring Car season-opening round at Sebring International Raceway from the pole, but it wasn't easy. Kleinubing trailed Ken Dobson in the...
SEBRING, Fla. (March 15, 2002) -- Brazilian Pierre Kleinubing won the SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge Touring Car season-opening round at Sebring International Raceway from the pole, but it wasn't easy. Kleinubing trailed Ken Dobson in the race's latter stages, but passed for the win on the final lap. Peter Cunningham, of W. Bend, Wis., finished third.
Driving the No. 1 RealTime Racing Acura Integra R, Kleinubing led from the start and worked up a 2.781-second lead by lap three. Two quick full-course cautions to remove disabled cars upset the race flow from laps five through nine. On the second restart, Dobson, in the No. 7 SSF Imported Auto Parts/Westek Electronics BMW 325Ci, and Kevin Schrantz (No. 98 Metro VW Volkswagen Jetta), battled past the defending series and race Champion for first and second.
Kleinubing was through for second two laps later and set sights on Dobson, who looked to score his first win. On lap 15, Kleinubing pulled alongside Dobson for the lead on the front straightaway, but couldn't make it stick. On the 17th, and final, lap, Kleinubing hounded Dobson and made his move in turn three for the lead. Dobson's BMW remained glued to the Acura, looking left and right, but couldn't make any moves. Kleinubing actually slid off course in turn 15 on the final lap, but held on for a 0.604-second win, averaging 77.859 mph in the 62.9-mile event.
"This is great! I didn't think Dobson would pass me on the outside--it kind of made me look bad," said Kleinubing, who earned his 14th-career victory. "That BMW has some power, but I made the pass for the lead and it stuck. I went off the track on the last lap, and thought--oh man, there's no way I'm gonna wreck here."
Dobson, of Carmel Valley, Calif., equaled his career-best with second after starting only seventh.
"It was a great run for us--we built off the success we enjoyed at the end of 2001 and Road Atlanta," said Dobson. "We had the car set up perfect for qualifying. We kept tweaking it, and it just kept getting worse, so we quit working on it. Despite that, we're happy to finish second."
Driving the No. 42 RealTime Racing Acura Integra R, Cunningham worked into second on the first lap after starting third. Throughout the race, the RealTime team owner, who also runs in Speed GT, battled with several drivers, but won out on a spirited race-end battle with Schrantz, in which they drove side-by-side for more than a half a lap, for third.
"The racing is just as exciting as in GT--tooth and nail," said Cunningham. "Kevin Schrantz is a class act--we knew we weren't going to run each other off the track. We traded positions a couple of times and I ended up in front of him at the end.
"It's pretty amazing that there are so many different cars capable of running in the top 10."
Mike Fitzgerald, of Phoenix, Ariz., finished fifth in the maiden voyage of the new Lexus IS 300. Mark Kirberg, Chuck Hemmingson, Taz Harvey, Will Turner and Steve Pfeffer completed the top 10. In all, Acura, BMW, Volkswagen, Lexus, Mazda and Honda were represented in the top 10.
Shauna Marinus, of Folsom, Calif., earned the new B&M Holeshot award, gaining an amazing 24 positions on the opening lap--going from 44th to 20th. She retired from the contest after two laps with a mechanical problem. Bobby Sak, of Kalamazoo, Mich., also was a big mover, finishing 12th after starting 45th.
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