Acura, Cunningham Hold Slim Leads RealTime's Fight for both Titles Goes down to the Wire RealTime Racing's Peter Cunningham, and the Acura brand, still hold Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championship points leads going into the finale of the SCCA...
Acura, Cunningham Hold Slim Leads
RealTime's Fight for both Titles Goes down to the Wire
RealTime Racing's Peter Cunningham, and the Acura brand, still hold Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championship points leads going into the finale of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car season, but neither points chart gives the team a chance to relax.
Cunningham came to Canada for today's penultimate round of the 2005 Touring Car calendar holding a five-point lead in the scramble for highest driving honors. Thanks to his second place finish here at Mosport Park, he returned to the USA with a 12-point lead.
Acura began the weekend with a four-point edge over Mazda for the coveted Manufacturers' title, but because of a Mazda6 win by only 1.55 seconds, now sees its lead reduced to two points going into the Oct. 14-16 finale at Laguna Seca Raceway.
"There are many points scenarios to consider," Team Manager Nathan Bonneau said, "but thinking about them will not help us win at Laguna. Instead, we will focus on preparation and will arrive in California knowing we have done everything possible to perform at our best."
The team was looking forward to the trip north of the border, confident that the layout of 2.459-mile, high-speed Mosport circuit would be an ideal place for the RealTime Acuras to shine.
"In qualifying, we all went out together and stayed together, in a huge, four-car draft. It turned out that Brandon Davis got the best run and earned the first pole position by a rookie driver in many seasons," Cunningham said.
Eric Curran qualified third, followed by Pierre Kleinubing and Cunningham. Teammate Nick Esayian slotted in 14th on the starting grid and, unbeknown to him, he was destined to have the best race in his two-year career with the RealTime Acura campaign.
When the red lights were extinguished signaling the start the race, Curran's RSX leapt from the second row to take the lead in the first corner. Unfortunately, three laps later, he was the first on the scene in the same corner to find an oil slick from another competitor's blown engine. A brush with the concrete wall ended his day and the possibility of his second consecutive victory.
This gave the lead to Davis for the first time in his young career. He maintained the point in his TSX for four laps before sliding wide in the famous Moss Corner, allowing eventual winner Charles Espenlaub's Mazda to slip through. The 19-year-old then kept the pressure on the new leader until Lap 17 when he thought he had his chance to pounce back.
"It looked like Charles made a mistake in Turn One and I saw an opportunity to regain the lead, so I really shoved it in there," the newly crowned 2005 Rookie-of-the-Year reported. "But as it turned out it wasn't a mistake; a BMW had just left a crankcase full of motor oil there and I was done."
Davis glanced off the outside retaining wall and got stuck in the pea gravel, causing the race's only full-course caution. After a quick pit stop, he was able to return to competition and finished 14th.
Meanwhile, three-time Speed Touring Car Champion Kleinubing was having his own epic battle unfold. An unscheduled engine change after qualifying forced him to surrender the starting spot he had earned to line his TSX up in 20th. He moved up to 12th after the first lap, seventh after Lap Four, and was up to the fourth spot by Lap 15 prior to the yellow flag situation.
After the restart, Cunningham and Kleinubing hounded Espenlaub relentlessly for the remaining eight laps, but were unable to make the pass, finishing second and third, respectively.
On the podium, Kleinubing dedicated his impressive drive through the field to his mother, who is ill back home in Brazil.
After struggling in qualifying with an alignment issue, Esayian made the most of his day. "We were really proud of Nick's job this weekend," Bonneau noted. "He worked his way up to eighth place at the end, with lap times that were right up there with the rest of the team. This is his best finish, and we expect to see more of him in the top-10."
"So now, with two championships on the line at Laguna Seca, it'll be five RealTime Acuras against five Mazdas," Bonneau added. "We can't count on the competition to falter, so we'll have to be at our best if we want to win both titles."
The Mosport race will be televised Saturday at Noon ET on SPEED TV.