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Mid-Ohio: Tri-Point Motorsports race report

Altenburg Back on the Podium with Tri-Point MAZDA6 at Mid-Ohio SPEED TC Race Tri-Point Motorsports ace Jeff Altenburg of Ellicott City, Maryland took a well earned and hard fought third place finish at the Mid-Ohio SPEED World Challenge...

Altenburg Back on the Podium with Tri-Point MAZDA6 at Mid-Ohio SPEED TC Race

Tri-Point Motorsports ace Jeff Altenburg of Ellicott City, Maryland took a well earned and hard fought third place finish at the Mid-Ohio SPEED World Challenge Touring Car presented by Trenton Forging race this past Sunday, and reassumed the lead of the 2007 driver's championship points race in the process. Roberto Santos from Monterrey, Mexico, who is new to the Tri- Point team for 07, took the Piloti Rookie of the Race award with a thirteenth place finish in his #74 Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDA6. Randy Pobst of Gainesville, Georgia, who was leading the driver's points chase coming into the Mid-Ohio weekend, suffered a suspension problem on the twelfth lap of the event after being hit by a competitor, and had to settle for a distant twenty-first finishing position. The Mid-Ohio event marked the seventh round of the ten-race 2007 SPEED Touring Car schedule, and was part of an American Le Mans Series weekend.

Practice and Qualifying

Altenburg started the weekend strongly, as he was second on the timing sheets after the first practice session with a 1:33.864 lap of the technical, winding and elevation-filled 13-turn 2.258 mile natural terrain roadcourse outside Lexington, Ohio. Pobst finished the session in seventh with a lap of 1:34.098 and Santos was seventeenth in the session on a lap of 1:35.127.

Pobst led the Tri-Point trio in session two as his 1:33.841 placed him eighth in the second practice. Altenburg dropped to eleventh with a 1:34.061 and Santos improved his time to a 1:34.728, but remained seventeenth in the session.

After some set-up changes were made on the #72 Mazda Motorsports Development TPM MAZDA6, Altenburg stormed to pole position in the Saturday qualifying session before the early morning Sunday race with a 1:32.846. Although Altenburg's strong session reset the Touring Car lap record at Mid Ohio, Jeff was less than a tenth of a second quicker than second place qualifier Chip Herr in the #17 STaSIS Audi A4. The competitive nature of the front row lap times suggested a tightly contested race for the next day. Pobst qualified ninth in his #73 Tri-Point MAZDA6 with a 1:33.600 and Santos improved both his lap time and his standing in the field as he moved to thirteenth on the qualifying grid with a 1:34.102.

Race Action

As Altenburg had suspected before the early 7:45 am local time start of the scheduled fifty minute Sunday morning race, the all-wheel-drive Audi of Herr got the standing start jump on Jeff's MAZDA6. Altenburg was able to keep the Audi close through much of the early part of the race though, rarely seeing much more than a two-second gap to Herr. As the event wore on, the mandatory rewards weight that Altenburg was carrying due to his strong 2007 season performances began to take its toll, and Herr's Audi was able to slowly open a gap. Altenburg also began to get pressure from the cars behind him, especially the #37 Bimmerworld BMW 325i of Joey Hand, who was making his first appearance of the 2007 season and was carrying no rewards weight.

Altenburg raced Hand hard and close but eventually had to give up his second place to the #37 on lap twenty-two of the twenty-seven-lap event. Jeff held the final spot on the podium however, as he earned a third place finish at the checkered flag.

Santos, who has been undeniably quick this year, but has occasionally run into problems with traffic during the races, put in a trouble free run at Mid-Ohio and finished where he started in thirteenth position. The Monterrey, Mexico driver earned the Piloti Rookie of the Race award, and despite missing the season opening event at Sebring sits an impressive second in a tight battle for the Rookie of the Year points chase - only twelve points behind Stan Wilson and six points ahead of Jason Martinelli.

Pobst was not at his typical on track pace during the Mid-Ohio weekend despite leading the Tri-Point team during the second practice session. However, during the race, Randy immediately began to move forward in the competitive field of cars, mindful of the importance of scoring points toward the championship. Pobst was following the Realtime Racing Acura TSX of Peter Cunningham, the two veterans smartly working traffic, when he was hit hard by the Audi A4 of Adam Pecorarri in an apparent ill advised late attempt at a pass in turn seven. The #19 STaSIS entry of Pecorarri hit Randy's #73 MAZDA6 hard enough to push both cars into the sandtrap although the Audi was able to continue seemingly unscathed. Pobst eventually suffered suspension problems following the altercation and pulled to the side of the track on lap twelve - his race coming to an abrupt end.

Quotes

Jeff Altenburg - Driver #72 Tri-Point MAZDA6

"This weekend's results are another testament to the engineering strength of Tri Point Motorsports. Even after the recent SCCA competition adjustments with weight and weight bias, Craig Nagler and the guys managed to give me a fast and consistent MAZDA6 racecar.

I was pumped after getting the pole, but I knew that keeping tires under me for the race distance was going to be a challenge. After a pretty good start, I ran second behind Chip Herr for most of the race defending much of the time from James Sofronas first, and then Joey Hand. Joey and I had some great racing and he eventually got by me heading to the win, but the fans got a great show!

I'm stoked to add more points to Mazda's Manufacturer Championship lead and couldn't be happier after regaining my position as points leader in the Driver's Championship. I feel bad for Pobst and would rather have climbed back into the lead without the bad deal that he had.

As always, my StopTech brakes were a big part of my performance today along with our Comptech engines, Sachs shock absorbers and it will all look good courtesy of new personal sponsor Chase Cams."

Randy Pobst - Driver #73 Tri-Point MAZDA6

"The Tri-Point crew did their usual great job and so did Altenburg today. He drove a strong race.

My car was much better in the race than the practice sessions, and I was actually having a good contest with Cunningham (Peter Cunningham - Realtime Racing Acura TSX). I was thinking, 'championship', and just trying to mind my Ps and Qs - and then to get hit like that - it's just a shame that things ended up the way they did for me today. It's frustrating to be working on a championship and be unceremoniously taken out by someone else's recklessness."

Roberto Santos - Driver #74 Tri-Point MAZDA6

"I had a great race and a lot of fun. I managed to at least finish in the same position I started in. Thanks to Craig Nagler and the entire Tri-Point team for their help this weekend and I hope to improve my result in the following race. "

Points

Altenburg now leads Pobst in the driver's championship points race 215 to 198, the two Tri-Point drivers with a commanding gap to the current third place points holder Sofronas with 173 points. Santos who is currently second in the Rookie of the Year points chase sits fifteenth overall with 74 points.

Mazda continues to stretch its manufacturer's points chase lead as they sit nineteen points ahead of Acura at 53-34.

Upcoming and Info

The Tri-Point squad will have a month off from SPEED Touring Car competition before they head to Mosport for the eight round of the year the weekend of August 25-26. The Mid-Ohio Touring Car event will be televised tape delayed on SPEED this upcoming weekend on Saturday July 28th.

-credit: www.tripointengineering.com

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Series PWC
Drivers Joey Hand , Randy Pobst , Peter Cunningham , Jeff Altenburg , Stan Wilson , Chip Herr , James Sofronas , Jason Martinelli , Roberto Santos , Adam Peco