Steady rain, low hanging clouds, cool temperatures, and 33 cars on a 1.5-mile road course made Friday's Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Street Tuner race at Lime Rock Park more of an exercise in self-preservation than a car race. After numerous spins and four full course cautions for 20 laps, i-Moto’s Pierre Kleinubing and Jayson Clunie emerged victorious in the final event of the 2012 season.
The win allowed Kleinubing, who entered the race 11 points behind Derek Whitis and Tom Long, to take the ST class drivers’ championship. A tenth-place finish by Whitis and Long in the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 ended their title hopes. They finished three points behind Kleinubing.
“It was a tough battle all day,” said Kleinubing. “But if you want to win a championship, no better than Andy Lally and Billy Johnson behind you. We got a little lucky with the train. Without the rain we probably would have been a fifth or sixth-place finisher. But the rain definitely helped.”
When the rain started to subside near the end of the race, Lally started to gain ground on Kleinubing. But a late-race bobble by Lally enabled Kleinubing to hang on for the win.
“When it started drying out, my car started falling off and his car started to get better. I was going faster and faster every lap, but (Lally) was going even faster.”
“I am glad to be a part of his championship,” said Clunie. “Yesterday, Pierre told me not to stress out about (the race). He said it was just another race. But this morning when we were sitting in the pre-grid waiting to go on the track, it didn’t feel like just another race.”
Andy Lally and Mat Pombo ended up second in the Kinetic Racing Kia, followed by Billy Johnson and Trevor Hopwood in the Compass 360 Racing Honda Civic Si. Lally would have won the championship had he won the race. Instead, he finished third in the championship.
“I was just tying to find a good groove as the track was starting to dry out a little bit,” explained Lally. “I was hanging it out trying to get to (Kleinubing). But I didn’t want to wreck him and end the championship that way. Maybe I will regret it in the morning – for not wrecking him.”
The Multimatic Ford Focus shared by Gunnar Jeannette and James Gue came home fourth, and fifth went to a second Compass 360 Racing entry driven by David Thilenius and Gareth Nixon.
Story by: Pat Jennings - Grand-Am Correspondent