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Mosport: Series Touring Car race report

Galati Runs Away With Mosport SPEED TC; Acura, Saini Clinch Honors CANADA (Aug. 24, 2008) -- Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, took his second SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car win of 2008, topping the field in the Mosport...

Galati Runs Away With Mosport SPEED TC; Acura, Saini Clinch Honors

CANADA (Aug. 24, 2008) -- Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, took his second SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car win of 2008, topping the field in the Mosport SPEED Touring Car Presented by Toyo Tires at the Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport. After some last-corner Mosport International Raceway fireworks, Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, clinched the Rookie of the Year honors by finishing second, and Milwaukee's Peter Cunningham completed the podium, clinching the Manufacturers' Championship for Acura.

Galati started his No. 95 Mazda North America/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6 second to teammate Chip Herr, but was third by the time he got to Turn One behind Herr and the No. 36 BimmerWorld BMW 325i of fourth-starting James Clay, who earned the Racing Electronics Holeshot Award for picking up two spots on the first lap. The trio led a seven-car lead pack that was separated by less than two seconds for the first half of the race. Clay took several looks at Herr's No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6, but could never quite get ahead.

Clay's bid to win two SCCA SPEED Touring Car races in-a-row ended on lap 10, when the car broke a half shaft exiting Turn Five. Clay's departure made it a Tindol Motorsports one-two, and it was not long before Galati was on Herr's bumper, making a pass for the lead into Turn Eight the next lap.

From there, Galati consistently clicked off laps a half second faster than the competition, speeding away to a 6.773-second victory, averaging a record 96.410 mph. It was Galati's second SCCA SPEED Touring Car win of the season after taking the Watkins Glen race in June and the 23rd win of his World Challenge career.

"I knew Tindol Motorsports gave me a great car, so my main concern was the start and the opening lap," Galati said. "For some reason, I don't get away too well in the front-wheel drive. Once I got that sorted out, one of the BMWs got by me, then Seth [Thomas] and I went side-by-side through and he gave me enough room through Turn Two. Once I started pulling away, I caught up to James. I could catch him, but at the same time Seth Thomas was right there. He got very close to me at the end of the straightaway a couple of times. Then I had a good race with James. I was just waiting for the right time, but I think he broke on the back straight. I caught Chip [Herr] and he was pretty nice to me and let me by. After that I put my head down and never looked back. My radio wasn't working, so I didn't even know the splits.

"This track is outstanding. It's the best track. There's no chicanes, it's all out. When I come up here it just suits my style of driving and I love racing here."

While the closing laps were somewhat uneventful for the winner, a determined Seth Thomas, who had already turned the race's fastest lap at 1:31.000 (96.279 mph) in his No. 38 BimmerWorld BMW 325i, was all over Herr for second place during the second half of the 28-lap, 68.852-mile race. Thomas made one last-ditch effort and, on the final lap, dove for the apex at Turn 10, sliding into Herr's Mazda and knocking it off course. Thomas got the worst of it, spinning backwards and into the front straight wall, ending his day 40 yards from the finish line.

"I feel bad for my teammate [Herr]," Galati said. "It would have been a Tindol first-second. The Tindol guys have worked really hard and to be up here with RealTime, who are an icon in the sport. Anyone in this series measures themselves against them. I'm so happy we could put Tindol up here."

Saini's No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 led the next group through the final corner chaos to grab the runner-up position, his best finish since winning at Miller Motorsports Park in May.

"Peter [Cunningham] and I had a great race," Saini said. "We had another one like that at Mid-Ohio, side-by-side sort of thing. It's a dream come true to race against Peter, I have a lot of respect for him and it feels good to come out on top of this one.

"In the last corner, I was having flashbacks to Watkins Glen there for a second with BMWs spinning in front of me. I had to keep my foot in it. I looked in my mirrors to see if Peter went down a gear to try and pass me. It's just disappointing for Mazda. I think it was a bit of an optimistic move and in the end it cost Mazda the Championship, but Mazda will be back next year and run for the Championship again."

All was not personally lost for Saini, though, as the 2007 SCCA Pro Racing MX-5 Cup Champion clinched the Rookie of the Year honor.

"I still pinch myself every time I get to the track and see the car with my name on it," Saini said of his year. "It feels great to be here and I can't thank Mazda enough for this opportunity. We all know how hard it is to move up the ladder these days in racing and I can't say enough about Mazda's program."

Cunningham started ninth in his No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX, but steadily improved and was in the right place at the right time to finish third, clinching Acura's record seventh SCCA SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER. Had he finished fifth, where he ran entering the race's final corner, Mazda would have pushed the Championship battle to Road Atlanta in October.

Cunningham also took the Drivers' Championship point lead with one race remaining. He leads teammate Kuno Wittmer, who finished fourth in his No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX, by four points.

"I'm sure Jason [Saini] and I both felt we were fighting for the fourth position, but if that had been the actual finish, then Acura wouldn't have clinched the Manufacturers' Championship," Cunningham, who earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing nine positions in the race, said. "But because of what the final lap antics were, all of a sudden Jason and I are on the podium and Acura clinches its unprecedented seventh Manufacturers' Championship. As a little side benefit, I'm in the points lead. As it was unfolding, I wasn't sure where Seth and Chip would be going, but it worked out and we crossed the stripe."

Herr recovered to finish fifth, no doubt disappointing after his quick start.

Pierre Kleinubing (Acura TSX), Dino Crescentini (Acura TSX), Charlie Putman (MAZDA6), Nick Esayian (BMW 325i) and Charles Espenlaub (MAZDA6) completed the top 10.

Kleinubing, who entered the race tied for second in points, saw his title hopes take another hit as he was forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty for movement prior to the standing start from fifth place. Without the benefit of a full-course caution, he was mired 15 seconds behind the race leader throughout the event.

Winless in 2008, four-time Champion Cunningham finds himself atop the standings, with 854 heading into the finale. Wittmer, a three-time winner, is just four points behind his team owner and seeking his first Championship. Kleinubing sits third, with 838, followed by Herr (763) and Saini (727).

With only 10 points available for a Manufacturer at each event, Acura's 13-point advantage (74 to 61) over Mazda is insurmountable. It is American Honda's 12th Manufacturers' Championship in World Challenge competition since the series inception in 1990.

Of note, every car in the race turned a fast lap within 0.813-second of Thomas' fast lap.

Sunday's race will be broadcast Wednesday, Aug. 27 at noon (EDT). The series next heads to Road Atlanta for the SPEED Touring Car Finale Presented by Toyo Tires, Oct. 3.

For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Pierre Kleinubing , Michael Galati , Peter Cunningham , Charles Espenlaub , James Clay , Nick Esayian , Kuno Wittmer , Chip Herr , Dino Crescentini , Seth Thomas , Jason Saini