The Defining Moments of 2007 TOPEKA, Kan. (Dec. 13, 2007) -- As the days run out on 2007, we asked some SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge drivers to look back on their season and share what they felt was the defining moment of 2007 ...
The Defining Moments of 2007
TOPEKA, Kan. (Dec. 13, 2007) -- As the days run out on 2007, we asked some SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge drivers to look back on their season and share what they felt was the defining moment of 2007 for them.
As you can imagine, when putting together a Championship-winning season, there will be more than one key moment along the way. For 2007 SPEED Touring Car Champion Jeff Altenburg, the tone for the year was set early, in Round One.
"Winning from the pole and leading every lap is as good as it gets," Altenburg said. "I had a great car at the end of the race in case my chasers got too close for comfort, but everything went right. I had a new car chief for 2007 in Ron Carrol and there was no better way to start our working relationship. He went on to prove his worth time and again, giving me a fantastic Mazda 6 race car throughout the season."
That's not to say the Altenburg's season didn't have its low points.
"A race weekend I would like to forget was the Watkins Glen double. First, I had a bad experience in qualifying for race one, which resulted in a ninth-place start and a fifth-place finish. Not bad, but the car was better than that. Second race, qualified second and ran third for the first half of the race, but then got caught up in the incident with Pierre [Kleinubing], which cost me 10 points and very nearly resulted in losing the Championship. That would have been a tough pill to swallow, but it did cause me to regroup and focus on the important aspects, making the rest of the season much better."
At the end of the day however, Altenburg points to his consistent qualifying efforts as what defined his 2007 season.
"The 22 qualifying points and the three poles plus other good start positions were key to winning the championship. This has not been my strong point in the past and I seem to have turned that around. It's easier to stay up front than to get there by passing the top drivers in the field! Craig Nagler and the Tri-Point guys always put a great Mazda 6 together for me, so there is rarely any reason to not start near the front."
Although you'd be quick to point to Watkins Glen as a turning point for Randy Pobst's season, the new SCCA SPEED GT Champion saw Toronto as a high point of 2007.
"At the Toronto Grands Prix, on a treacherous wet-to-dry street course, we smoked 'em," Pobst said. "I love when that happens. Will Moody put the magic in the setup that day, and I felt faster than anywhere else all season. I kept looking in the mirror; 'Where is everybody?'"
His return to Canda for Round Eight at Mosport was not as inspiring.
"I killed the KPAX/3R Porsche on the outside pole, then got clipped and it looked like the title was going down the tubes. In a stroke of great fortune out of the disaster, we were able to finish and get enough points to hold the lead, to my great surprise."
But who would have guessed Pobst would select Road Atlanta as his defining moment?
"The defining moment of the 2007 World Challenge GT season for me was qualifying on pole at Road Atlanta. Will and KPAX pulled the setup rabbit out of the hat again. It was so important after the mistake at Mosport. It turned the momentum right back around. Qualifying points are so important in World Challenge, and they gave us the cushion we needed to drive a championship pace in the last two races."
BimmerWorld driver Seth Thomas also chose Road Atlanta as his defining moment of 2007 for much different reasons.
"The weekend started out awesome," Thomas said. "My car was always one of the fastest in every session at my home track all weekend. I qualified the BimmerWorld BMW E90 in second, only a few hundredths of a second between me and the pole.
"I wake up race day morning to see nothing but clouds with rain falling from the sky. Not exactly what I had in mind for my home track race as the E90, up to that point, hadn't been proven as a great car to drive in the rain. Fortunately for me, our team engineer had a good idea of the direction to go on the setup, but it was a gamble.
"As the lights went out for the standing start, I found myself in the lead, heading into Turn One. Galati was behind me, but he kept about the same gap from the first lap until about lap 15 or so. This is when the yellow came out. The first thought in my head was 'no big deal,' since I was the lead car and could set the pace for the restart. Unfortunately, this didn't work out in my favor as I went from first to fourth by Turn Three. I put my head down and tried to focus on getting back to the lead. This focus only lasted for a couple more turns as the wet weather played a huge role in what was about to happen. Turn 10 was the spot and little bit of front brake lockup was all it took to take a race that was going to be my saving grace for a season of bad luck and turn it into another race with a crazy ending.
"By the time the dust had settled, my car was wrecked along with Peter Cunningham's car. This was not the result I was looking for in front of my family and friends. Plus I know my wife and mom were scared when they saw this unfold in front of them.
"The results of this race were pretty much similar to most of the races during the 2007 season. The car was always fast, but for some reason bad luck always seemed to follow me. The best part of the race though was leading my first laps in World Challenge and proving to the BMW fans that the E90 325 is definitely a contender for the top spots in racing. It's a race that I will remember for a long time."
Making the switch to RealTime Racing in 2007 and finishing third in the Championship, Kuno Wittmer's defining moment came before he even turned a wheel of his Acura RSX.
"If I look back at my season, one of the most memorable times was stepping foot under the RealTime tent at Sebring for the first time," Wittmer said. "When it's a team you have been looking up to since the age of 15, it turns out to be a pretty great feeling. All season the RealTime gang and my teammates have been there for me and the support I received from them, along from my family, sponsors and fan club has been top notch. It's nice to be working with such great teammates not only in the trailer, but on track as well since they are all fierce challengers....LOVE IT!"
"A new mid season haircut along with the Toronto Indy pole position and the fact that I was working hard on a goal all year, really pushed me to my limits every weekend. I was also learning and figuring out my new team. RealTime always made sure they gave me the best that they could. A handful of fourth-place finishes - always ever so close to that podium. Especially that straight excursion off Lakeshore Blvd. in Toronto....that one hurt. But, the team told me to clear my head, forget what just happened and go for the best finish."
Fitting then, that Wittmer would end his 2007 season with a podium, complete with two RealTime teammates at his side.
Only time will tell what defining moments 2008 will have in store for the teams and fans of SCCA SPEED World Challenge.
-credit: scca pro racing