World Challenge Home Stretch Heads North CANADA (Aug. 21, 2008) -- With the end of the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge season closing in fast, the series heads north of the border to one of the most unpredictable circuits on the ...
World Challenge Home Stretch Heads North
CANADA (Aug. 21, 2008) -- With the end of the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge season closing in fast, the series heads north of the border to one of the most unpredictable circuits on the schedule for the Mosport SPEED World Challenge Presented by Toyo Tires, part of the Mobil 1 Presents the Mosport Grand Prix weekend.
Believe it or not, this weekend is the penultimate round of the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championships. Following Mosport, teams have the month of September off before heading to Road Atlanta for the finale. With the top three in the Drivers' Championship separated by only five points, this weekend will be crucial to each contender's title chances. Luckily for RealTime Racing, all three of those contenders park under its canopy.
This is an important weekend for Canadian Kuno Wittmer. Not only is it the sole SPEED World Challenge race north of the border, but the point leader has some damage control to do after a 10th-place finish at Road America. While Wittmer's No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX was crossing the line in 10th, his teammate Peter Cunningham was finishing fifth in the No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, enabling him to pull within three points of Wittmer. Equally as troublesome to Wittmer's title chances was a runner-up finish for Pierre Kleinubing in the No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX. Kleinubing is now five points back in third.
Fans are in for a treat this weekend; Wittmer and Kleinubing had an excellent scrap at Mosport last year and close Championship standings should only intensify the rivalry.
RealTime's monopoly at the top of the Drivers' Championship is doing wonders for Acura in the SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine. With an 18-point lead over Mazda, they'll be hard to catch with only two Rounds left.
Overshadowing the finishes of the Championship leaders at Road America, was the amazing run by James Clay as he finally captured his first World Challenge victory in the No. 36 BimmerWorld BMW 325i. Clay missed this race last year with a shoulder injury, but teammate Seth Thomas brought the No. 38 BimmerWorld BMW 325i home in fifth. The team may now have an extra spring in their step at Mosport, which they'll need to battle the front-wheel drive Acuras and Mazdas should it rain this weekend.
Chip Herr won at Mosport in 2006 and finished second last year to then-teammate Adam Pecorari by a record 0.219-second. Those breakout performances, however, were behind the wheel of an all-wheel drive Audi A4, not the No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6 he drives now. Of course, there's no doubt Herr can win in the Mazda (Lime Rock Park), but any wet-weather advantage he may have had at Mosport is now gone. A win this weekend is just what Herr needs to break up the RealTime party at the front of the Drivers' Championship.
Jason Saini continues to impress in his rookie season. The No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 driver, who recently finished third at Road America, leads not only the Rookie of the Year Standings, but is also the highest placed Tri-Point Motorsports driver in the Championship, currently fifth. Teammate Charles Espenlaub has an opportunity to gain spots in the Drivers' Championship this weekend in the No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6. Though he might be better known for the beer he shared with fans following a crash at Mosport last year, Espenlaub's sole race win was at this track in 2005. Set that same year, he still holds the SPEED Touring Car race lap record here.
The SCCA SPEED GT Drivers' Championship isn't quite as close as what's unfolding in Touring Car, but there's also four more rounds to go. With the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix immediately following this weekend's round, everyone will need to take special care to keep their cars in one piece -- something easier said than done at Mosport.
With three wins to his name now, who knows what the Championship would look like if Tommy Archer hadn't missed Round Two at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He currently sits fifth, 147 points back from leader Randy Pobst, but a win in World Challenge nets 110 points. Rain or sun, another strong finish is likely for Archer and the No. 13 Foametix/Woodhouse Performance Dodge Viper. In six starts at the quick Canadian course, Archer has yet to finish outside the top-10.
Pobst is trying to forget his last SPEED GT race at Mosport. Starting second, Pobst stalled on the start and was subsequently clipped by the Cadillac of Ron Fellows, sending both cars into pit lane. Had the start gone off flawlessly, there's no doubt Pobst would have been challenging for the win, as the wet-to-dry race was exactly the kind of conditions the defending Champion thrives in. Regardless of what mother nature has in store for Saturday afternoon, expect to see the No. 1 K-PAX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 out front.
Conversely, Eric Curran is hoping his race goes exactly like last year, when the No. 30 Whelen Engineering was unstoppable and Curran scored his fourth win of the season. Fresh off his first podium of the season at Road America, the tide seems to be turning in Curran's favor.
Canada is the perfect place for Andy Pilgrim to cool off after his fiery exit from Road America in the No. 8 Remington Shaving Cadillac CTS-V. Despite not finishing the race, Pilgrim remains second in the Driver's Championship, 68 points behind Pilgrim. It certainly helped that Brandon Davis also exited the race early in the No. 10 ACS/Express Ford Mustang Cobra. He is now 35 points behind Pilgrim.
Even more surprising than a Cadillac engine letting go is "Dodge Viper" listed as the car for Brandon Davis. The Mustang took a good hit at Road America, and although the team thinks they have the car righted again, they've brought the Viper along to be sure Davis will score as many points as possible this weekend. This could have quite an effect on the SPEED GT Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER, as Dodge has now moved into second behind Porsche (36 to 33) on the strength of Archer's three wins. Cadillac is third (30), then Chevrolet (28) and Cadillac (11).
Michael Galati finished on the podium at Mosport last year in the No. 23 K-PAX Porsche 911 GT3, though his miraculous win in a Volvo the year before is more memorable. Caught up in the oil from Pilgrim's blown engine, Galati finished 15th at Road America and needs a strong finish this weekend to hold off Archer, who's only a point behind.
James Sofronas continues to have a strong season in the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3. He hit a season-high fourth at Road America two weeks ago, which is the highest he's ever finished at Mosport as well.
A week off between Road America and Mosport has given SPEED World Challenge teams time to prepare for anything the daunting course and mother nature have to offer, but SPEED GT teams won't have that luxury before they head to Detroit. Their strategies this weekend will have as much to do with the Motor City as Mosport. The same could be said for the SPEED Touring Car teams as well, who must ensure they arrive at the final round still in the points chase.
The Mosport SPEED GT Presented by Toyo Tires will go green at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Aug. 23. The Mosport SPEED Touring Car Presented by Toyo Tires is scheduled for 10:45 on Sunday. Both races will air on SPEED, Wednesday, Aug. 27, at noon and 1 p.m. (EDT). Live timing and notes are available throughout the weekend at www.world-challenge.com.
-credit: scca pro racing