SONOMA, Calif. (July 21, 2001)- Neal Sapp, of Ellicott City, Md., led for only a couple of feet, but they were the most important couple of feet of Sears Point Raceway pavement, taking the SCCA Pro Racing Speedvision World Challenge Touring Car ...
SONOMA, Calif. (July 21, 2001)- Neal Sapp, of Ellicott City, Md., led for only a couple of feet, but they were the most important couple of feet of Sears Point Raceway pavement, taking the SCCA Pro Racing Speedvision World Challenge Touring Car portion of the X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma in the closest finish in World Challenge history-a scant 0.059-second over Steve Pfeffer.
Sapp moved from eighth to fourth at the start in his No. 55 duPont Motorsport/ERT BMW 325is, slotting in behind second starting Pfeffer, of Scottsdale, Ariz., polesitter Ken Dobson and Terry McCarthy. Pfeffer's No. 26 John Hancock/JJ's Snacks BMW 328is led the first seven laps before succumbing to Dobson's attacks.
Sapp moved past McCarthy, and was up behind Pfeffer by the 22-lap, 55.44-mile event's midpoint. The two ran nose-to-tail as Dobson pulled out a four-second advantage in the No. 7 Westek Electronics/SSF Import Parts BMW 328Ci. With two laps remaining, Dobson began to slow and was passed by the duo going into the esses, trying to hang on with a deflating tire.
Pfeffer took the white flag with a lead of less than a car length, but held the point for the majority of the 2.52-mile lap. As the two cars entered the turn 11 hairpin, Sapp looked to the inside, which Pfeffer defended. Sapp then swung wide to get a better run on to the front straight. The two exited side-by-side in a BMW drag race to the checkered flag, with Sapp edging Pfeffer on the outside to win the event.
"We ran side-by-side down the stretch and I wasn't sure who won," said Sapp, who averaged 73.653 mph. "I kept asking my crew on the radio 'who won, who won?' They just kept telling me that the margin was 0.059-second, but not who was first or second.
"That's still enough to win, right?"
Pfeffer, who had a heavy impact with the wall at the most recent round at Lime Rock Park in May after a tap from Sapp, was happy with the second place finish after rebuilding the car.
"I'm always worried when that [Sapp's] black car is behind me," Pfeffer laughed. "In turns 11 through three, Neal had the car. Turns four through 10 were mine, though. That kept us together. I'm glad just to be a part of the closest finish in Speedvision World Challenge history. I just wish it went the other way."
Point leader Pierre Kleinubing started and finished third, but battled throughout the race, first with McCarthy, and then with teammate Hugh Plumb. He expanded his huge point lead in the No. 1 RealTime Racing Acura Integra R from 38 to 46 points.
"With all of the weight we're carrying for doing well, our car is only fast for one lap in qualifying and about half of the race," said Kleinubing. "It makes the car slower in a straight line and the tires wear faster. It's good to move ahead a little more with the podium finish. The point championship-that's what it's all about."
Defending race winner Plumb, of Chadds Ford, Pa., finished fourth, followed by Taz Harvey, of Danville, Calif., who was promoted after McCarthy's car was found to have non-compliant fuel during post-race technical inspection.
Dobson, who looked to be on his way to his first-ever World Challenge victory, limped home to 14th, received the Borla Performance Award for his run.
"I saw some debris, and I moved to avoid it," said a dejected Dobson. "But we punctured the left front tire and lost it with just two laps to go."
The race was slowed by one caution for two laps after Scott Lucas, of Los Angeles, Calif., hit the wall exiting turn 11 on lap three. Lucas was treated and released from Queen of the Valley Hospital with no injuries.
The previous closest margin of victory was 0.105-second, Michael Galati over Terry Borcheller in the 2000 Las Vegas Speedvision GT race. Today's race was among the three closest in Sears Point history.