CUNNINGHAM, KLEINUBING LEAD SPEED TOURING CARS BACK TO LIME ROCK However, Maximum REWARDS Weights, Fast Mazdas and the Return of the Champ Leave No Guarantees LAKEVILLE, Conn. (June 30, 2005) -- While Peter Cunningham and Pierre Kleinubing...
CUNNINGHAM, KLEINUBING LEAD SPEED TOURING CARS BACK TO LIME ROCK
However, Maximum REWARDS Weights, Fast Mazdas and the Return of the Champ Leave No Guarantees
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (June 30, 2005) -- While Peter Cunningham and Pierre Kleinubing have accounted for six of RealTime Racing's seven wins at scenic Lime Rock Park since 1993, adding an eighth will be more challenging than ever as the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship readies for Saturday's Round Six race, part of the American Le Mans New England Grand Prix Weekend.
While the duo has accounted for four wins in five 2005 races, and they currently sit one-two in points, the cards are stacked against them. For the first time, the series has moved off of the traditional Memorial Day weekend to Independence weekend--pushing the event later in the season, meaning the successes of the first five races, and their REWARDS, make continued success harder than ever.
Both point leader Cunningham and second place Kleinubing (who goes for a record-tying fourth-straight win) have their A-SPEC RealTime Racing Acura TSXs maxed out in REWARDS (Rewarding of Equalizing Weight Assigned to Reduce Driver Sensitivity) weight entering Round Six (250lbs above base weight), while some of their chief protagonists are running light.
"I think if there is a place to run with 250lbs, we'd choose Lime Rock," Cunningham said. "It's almost all right-hand corners, which is the side of the car that becomes weighted down with the REWARDS lead. It's not as bad as a track that would run anti-clockwise.
"At Cleveland, the 210lbs was most noticeable in a straight line and under acceleration. [Lime Rock] is such a momentum track, so it's not as bad as the weight at Cleveland. The main reason we were so good at Cleveland was that our cars were good over the bumps."
Third-in-points Jeff Altenburg (Mazdaspeed/TriPoint Motorsports Mazda 6) is the only other driver carrying triple-digit weight (165lbs).
The REWARDS system is designed to ensure a fight to the end of the Championship; however, early-season trouble generally means a shuffle at the front of the grid come mid-season before the late season final battles to the finish.
Take the struggles of Randy Pobst. Pobst had his Mazdaspeed/TriPoint Motorsports Mazda 6 poised for victory in the opening round when a fuel pump let him down. He won St. Petersburg from the Air Force Reserve Pole--the one bright spot of his season. At Road Atlanta in April, he was battling for a podium spot when he again experienced a mechanical issue. At Mid-Ohio, he again was on pole, but jumped the start, meaning a stop-and-go penalty that ensured a low finish. At Cleveland, he was on the front row, but had his bumper loosened up by another competitor, necessitating a quick pit stop, which forced another finish.
This all means that Pobst carries no REWARDS weight. Despite having more poles, having led the most laps this season and having two UrbanRacer.com Fast Laps, Pobst carries zero additional weight.
Charles Espenlaub captured his first-career pole in Cleveland last week, and was nine corners from his first victory. Espenlaub enjoyed a modicum of early-season success in his Mazda Protege, but it wasn't until he switched to Tindol Motorsports' new Mazda 6 that he became a legitimate threat to put one of the green and white cars in victory circle. Espenlaub's recent speed and success has come with REWARDS though, and he's up to 80lbs this weekend.
Enter the defending race and two-time series Champion Bill Auberlen, who returns to the series after skipping Rounds Two through Five in his Turner Motorsport/H&R Springs BMW 325i. Auberlen finished second to Cunningham at Sebring and the BMWs have received a positive competition adjustment since then.
Additionally, Nic Jonnson (Tasker Products/Tecmark Autosport BMW 325Ci) returns for the first time since winning the pole and leading early at Road Atlanta. He too will benefit from rules changes, and many believe the BMWs to be tough to beat at Lime Rock.
"We're hoping that we can get top-five finishes this weekend," Cunningham said of his team's realistic goals. "That's assuming that there will be a couple of fast BMWs out there and a couple of fast Mazdas."
Practice for this weekend's SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Round Six race, part of the American Le Mans New England Grand Prix at Lime Rock park, begins Friday at 10:30 a.m., followed by session two at 12:30 p.m. and qualifying at 3:50 p.m. (EDT). Saturday's race is set to make its standing start at 4:10 p.m. and will be broadcast Sunday, July 3 at 4:00 p.m. on SPEED Channel.
To follow living timing and scoring and for all event information, please visit www.world-challenge.com.
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