RealTime Acuras Sweep St. Pete (x2); Cunningham, Davis, Esayian Double Up 29 March 2010--St. Petersburg, Florida--The RealTime Racing Acura TSXs claimed the top three spots in their GTS category debut in the SCCA World Challenge season opener...
RealTime Acuras Sweep St. Pete (x2); Cunningham, Davis, Esayian Double Up
29 March 2010--St. Petersburg, Florida--The RealTime Racing Acura TSXs claimed the top three spots in their GTS category debut in the SCCA World Challenge season opener at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg on Saturday afternoon. Then on Sunday morning, they delivered the exact same result in Round 2 of the 12-event 2010 season.
Coming into the weekend, each of the World Challenge teams faced a difficult mission. Two practice sessions and qualifying all on Friday preceding the two races over the course of the next two days--all within the confines of the concrete-lined streets of St. Petersburg, and with two other classes of production-based sports cars at the same time! With few exceptions, everyone made it through in one piece.
Qualifying couldn't have gone any better for the two-car Acura Motorsports team. Peter Cunningham, in the No. 43 TSX scored his 33rd World Challenge career pole position, with Nick Esayian, in the matching No. 34, close behind in second.
How does a two-car team take all three podium positions, you may ask? Here's the story: Hours before the first race was ready to start, Esayian was having lunch with friend and former teammate Brandon Davis in downtown St. Pete, minutes away from the temporary race circuit. Brandon was lamenting that he was here in Florida and had nothing to drive. Then Nick opens his mouth and says, "Why don't you drive our spare TSX? It's just sitting there in the paddock ready to go..."
The next thing you know, the expert RealTime crew was commissioned to the task of prepping the third TSX for actual competition. After the annual tech inspection and a few new decals, the team lined the No. 1 plated (as defending World Challenge GT champion, Brandon earned that honor) Acura to the tail end of the 31-car field. The band was getting back together.
As the start lights were extinguished to begin Round 1, the three classes of cars drag raced down the temporarily inactive airport runway to the tight Turn 1. Miraculously, only two (GT) cars took themselves out in the melee that followed, as the race unfolded almost without further incident.
Cunningham led from the start and took the win without drama, but in his rearview mirror, a battle for second was brewing. Esayian fell to third in the race to the first turn, but pushed the third quickest qualifying Honda lap after lap before sneaking by on Lap 6. Meanwhile, Davis was relearning the tricky 14-turn 1.8-mile labyrinth, cleanly picking his way through the field. As the checkers flew after 32 laps, the GTS running order was Cunningham, Davis and Esayian; RealTime Acura's sixth-ever podium sweep!
The RTR boys were feeling pretty good about the first race's results, but they knew they had only a precious 16 hours before it would be time to do it all over again. And the threat of thunderstorms was ramping up, which wasn't the kind of thing anyone would look forward to in the confines of a street circuit.
"The team was feeling hopeful about our chances for a similar result on Sunday morning, but we knew that anything could happen," observed Cunningham. "I'm happy that the rains didn't come until an hour after the race. Other than that, the two races couldn't have been any more different from one another."
If Saturday's victory was never in doubt for Cunningham, Davis sure was determined to make a point on Sunday. From the same dead last starting spot, the former Rookie of the Year for RTR came rocketing through the field, setting the race's fastest lap in the process. After getting by then second place Esayian on the restart on Lap 11, Davis set his sights on his former boss.
As the laps wound down toward the finish of what turned out to be a timed 50-minute race, Davis had the heat set on high. Fortunately for Cunningham, the fast GT traffic continually muted the attack. Which is not to say that Cunningham got all the breaks, but the ebb and flow of traffic allowed Cunningham a scant 0.544-second gap to secure his 34th World Challenge race win.
Once Esayian was bumped to third, he wisely bided his time in case of an additional full course caution and crossed the stripe in third for the second consecutive day. So for day two, different race--same result, and RealTime's record seventh sweep of a World Challenge rostrum!
On the strength of their duplicate finishes, Cunningham and Esayian sit first and second in the GTS Drivers' points. It's still early days for the 2010 title, but the two Acura drivers have to be pleased with their strong start to the year. And nary a scratch on either car!
With this tough weekend in the books, the World Challenge circus will reconvene in SoCal's Long Beach, North America's oldest and most renowned street circuit, on April 17-18. With a Tri-Point Mazdaspeed3, a Porsche 996, a new Corvette and three supercharged Lotus Exiges added to the GTS-class entry list, the Acuras will surely be put to the test.
-source: realtime racing