World Challenge Ready for Fireworks at Watkins Glen WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (July 1, 2009) -- After taking the month of June off, the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships are preparing to hit the track for Round Five of the 2009 season.
World Challenge Ready for Fireworks at Watkins Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (July 1, 2009) -- After taking the month of June off, the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships are preparing to hit the track for Round Five of the 2009 season. The Toyo Tires Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented byLala Motorsportsis set for Independence Day Weekend, and there is no better place to celebrate than at one of the country's most storied race tracks.
Brandon Davis arrives in upstate New York with the World Challenge GT point lead. He is the only driver in the field to finish each of the first four rounds on the podium, which he made easier for himself by qualifying his No. 10 ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang Cobra in the top five at each event. A win this weekend would not only further cushion Davis' point lead, but it would make amends for the DNF suffered here last year, which put a dent in the team's title hopes.
Defending Champion Randy Pobst is a Watkins Glen maestro. He's won four World Challenge races at Watkins Glen in the past two years, two Touring Car races and two GT races. Will he still be as dominant now that he's switched to the No. 1 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60? Since his initial rough start at Sebring he's yet to qualifying outside the top five or finish outside the top eight. The post-qualifying coin flip could play a major role in Pobst's weekend and the all-wheel drive could be a major advantage on The Glen's big elevation changes.
Pobst's teammate Andy Pilgrim in the No. 8 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 can't be counted out either. Currently third in the point standings, Pilgrim was on pole for this race in 2007 and finished second to Pobst last year.
If Pobst's Porsche was the ticket in 2007 and 2008, then maybe Tony Rivera is the man to beat this weekend. The driver of the No. 97 Tax Masters/Mirage Group Porsche 911 GT3 arrived on the World Challenge scene with a bang, taking the season-opener at Sebring. He's since followed it up with three more solid finishes, including third at Mosport, and now finds himself second in the point standings. The advantages of the small and nimble Porsche at undulating Watkins Glen just might propel Rivera to his second win of the season.
Or, could James Sofronas be the Porsche pilot on the verge of his second win this season? The Long Beach race winner is on pace for his best World Challenge season yet, with nary a finish outside the top 10 in his No. 4 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3. Sofronas finished sixth at The Glen in 2008.
Porsche currently leads the World Challenge Manufacturers' Championship presented by RACER Magazine. Ford is three points behind in second. Volvo is third, while Chevrolet and Viper are tied for fourth.
In a tumultuous 2008 season, Eric Curran scored one of his best finishes at Watkins Glen. Driving the No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette, Curran started eighth and finished fourth. Another strong finish is needed from the Curran this weekend to pull himself out of the rut of Round Three where he was hit with a technical DQ.
Jason Daskalos is eager to build off of his first World Challenge race win, scored in Round Four at Mosport. The driver of the No. 5 Daskalos Developments Viper may have his work cut out for him though, as he's yet to finish in the top 10 at Watkins Glen.
As defending Touring Car race winner Michael Galati is not entered this weekend, it's safe to say the Touring Car field would not like a repeat of last year's race. No one will forget "the big one," that took out all three BimmerWorld/GearWrench cars last year, although the entire team would like to forget. That crash caused the race to end under yellow, which thus prevented polesitter Peter Cunningham from attempting to retake the lead from Galati, who snookered him on a restart shortly before the Turn 11 wreck.
Now Cunningham arrives in Watkins Glen as the most recent race winner. The pilot of the No. 1 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX took his first race win since the 2007 finale at Mazda Raceway. His runner-up finish here last year is as close as the five-time Champion has come to winning a World Challenge race at Watkins Glen, but perhaps his 2009-spec TSX will be up to the challenge of squashing the Mazda winning streak at The Glen.
The last three Touring Car races at Watkins Glen have been won by a MAZDA6, putting point leader Jason Saini in a prime position to increase his lead. Saini has finished on the podium in three of the first four races, including a win at New Jersey Motorsports Park in his No. 74 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6. He will need to put in a better performance at The Glen than last year, when a visit to the gravel at the Bus Stop relegated the 2008 World Challenge Touring Car Rookie of the Year to a 10th-place finish.
Mazda currently trails Acura in the World Challenge Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine 34 to 26. BMW is third with 12 points.
Pierre Kleinubing is currently chasing Saini down in the Drivers' Championship, only 17 points out of first. Though he's yet to finish outside the top five this season, a win this weekend would be key to taking over the point lead. Driving the No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, Kleinubing has been close to winning at Watkins Glen many times, finishing on the podium in four of his five World Challenge appearances here.
Canadian Kuno Wittmer is looking to get his season back on track this weekend. After a mechanical DNF at Sebring, Wittmer got back in the hunt with a fourth-place finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park and a win in the first half the of Mosport doubleheader, though a sixth-place in the second race was not how the driver of the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX wanted to leave his home track. Now fourth in the point standings, Wittmer will need to put in a better performance at The Glen than last year, when he finished ninth, if he hopes to surpass his teammates in the standings.
Seth Thomas and the BimmerWorld/GearWrench crew are hoping for a much better outing at Watkins Glen then last year, when all three cars left the track on a tow truck. Thomas experienced a bit of a slump following his win at the Sebring season opener in his No. 38 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i, but is back in the swing of things after a fourth-place result at Mosport. Meanwhile, teammate Nick Esayian will be building some positive karma for the team, as he welcomes members of the U.S. Special Forces and their families to the track on Independence Day weekend, as part of his ongoing charity work with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Eleven-time SCCA National Champion and former World Challenge GT race winner, John Heinricy has the honor of being the first World Challenge Touring 2 entry. The new class was recently added to the World Challenge program to provide a venue for teams with a more stock race car to compete on the big stage. Heinricy will drive the No. 32 Phoenix Performance Subaru Legacy.
This Saturday, July 4, will not only be about the red, white and blue, but also about the green and the checkered as the teams of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships take on Round Five, the Toyo Tires Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Lala Motorsports. After Thursday's practice and Friday qualifying, the World Challenge GT race is set for 4:45 p.m. (EDT) on July 4, followed by the World Challenge Touring Car race at 6 p.m. Live timing and streaming audio will be available at www.world-challenge.com. Both races will air on SPEED, Wednesday, July 22 at 2 p.m.
-credit: scca pro racing