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Watkins Glen: Series Touring Car practice one report

Espenlaub Fastest in Thursday SPEED TC Practice at Watkins Glen WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (July 2, 2009) -- Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., was fastest in Thursday afternoon's opening SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car practice...

Espenlaub Fastest in Thursday SPEED TC Practice at Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (July 2, 2009) -- Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., was fastest in Thursday afternoon's opening SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car practice session for Saturday's Toyo Tires Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Lala Motorsports, part of the Camping World Grand Prix Weekend at Watkins Glen International. Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., and Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., completed the top three.

Driving the No. 73 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6, Espenlaub ran more laps than any other Touring Car driver in the 75-minute session combined with SPEED World Challenge GT, turning a fastest time of 2:08.392 (95.333 mph) on his 21st lap around the 3.4-mile circuit. The session started out damp from an earlier rain shower, but developed a dry line approximately halfway through the allotted time.

"The TriPoint MAZDA6 is working really well," Espenlaub said. "We worked on some stuff in the off time between races and the car's working well. We came in during the session and made a small change, which made a big difference on the track. I did have the advantage of running the Grand-Am races here a couple of weeks ago, so it didn't take me very long to get acclimated to the track.

"Initially we went out on full wets, but we went to dries pretty quickly. This place dries really fast when the sun comes out. Even toward the end, it was still damp in a couple of places though. If you got off line, it would hurt you. Also, I've learned that once you get some rubber on the concrete around here, you get more grip, so the track was getting faster as the session wore on and it will be faster tomorrow."

It was the first time in several years that both the World Challenge GT and Touring Cars took to the track at the same time, a move decided on hours before the session with near unanimous support from the drivers to give them more track time. The lone dissenter in a straw vote of the drivers came from Espenlaub, who was concerned initially about the combination.

"My only concern was that, in the past, we've had guys in GT that had never run with the slower class on course," he said. "Obviously, with the way the session went, it's not a problem at all. More track time is always better. You can remove my no vote!"

Driving the No. 34 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i, Esayian jumped to second as the checkered flag flew, just 0.2-second off Espenlaub's lap with a 2:08.592 (95.184 mph). Esayian brought out the only session stoppage, when he ran out of Sunoco gasoline at the session's halfway point.

Defending Watkins Glen polesitter Cunningham was third fastest in his No. 1 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, turning a 2:08.640 (95.149 mph). He was followed by teammates Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, (2:09.036, 94.857 mph) and Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., (2:09.080, 94.825 mph), both in Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSXs.

Point leader Jason Saini (MAZDA6), Eric Foss (MAZDA6), Toby Grahovec (Acura TSX), Andrew Aquilante (Subaru WRX) and James Clay (BMW 328i) completed the top 10.

The second, and final, practice for Saturday evening's Toyo Tires Watkins Glen Grand Prix, Presented by Lala Motorsports SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Round Five race is scheduled for Friday morning at 9:05 a.m. (EDT). Qualifying is scheduled for later in the day, at 4 p.m. (EDT). For session notes and live timing and scoring, please visit www.world-challenge.com.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Pierre Kleinubing , Peter Cunningham , Charles Espenlaub , James Clay , Nick Esayian , Toby Grahovec , Kuno Wittmer , Jason Saini , Andrew Aquilante , Eric Foss