Wittmer Scores Maiden Win at VIR Becomes 9th driver to win a race for RealTime Acura RealTime Acura TSX driver Kuno Wittmer scored his inaugural win in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car series today at VIRginia International...
Wittmer Scores Maiden Win at VIR
Becomes 9th driver to win a race for RealTime Acura
RealTime Acura TSX driver Kuno Wittmer scored his inaugural win in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car series today at VIRginia International Raceway, dashing to the checkered flag just 0.09 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, BMW 325i driver Seth Thomas. It was the fifth closest finish in series history and the team's record-extending 66th race victory.
"It feels absolutely fantastic to win, especially with the way the race unfolded," enthused the sophomore RealTime pilot from Montreal, Quebec. "It was a roller coaster ride. I was looking ahead of me, looking behind me; I wasn't quite sure what to do or where to position myself. The rain made it a little bit slick in the braking zones, but we had enough of a gap on James [Clay] that I was like 'okay here we go, let's put in a good three laps.' Then, Pierre [Kleinubing] went off and I don't know if he broke or did it himself, but I'll take it."
Pierre Kleinubing, the winner of the season opener at Sebring, had qualified his TSX in sixth but didn't waste any time moving toward the front. He was up to third behind the pole sitting Mazda6 of Chip Herr and compatriot Wittmer by Lap 3, and after the trio ran neck and neck for the next seven laps, the Mazda driver succumbed to the pressure of the Acuras and fell off the road in Turn One.
In all the excitement, Kleinubing capitalized and took over what was now the lead from his teammate, but there was no respite as eventual second place finisher Thomas was hounding the Acura Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles-sponsored pair. Wittmer continually staved off the attacks, protecting Kleinubing, but no one was sure whether he could hold position over the determined BMW rocket.
Did we mention that it was starting to rain? In case this unbelievable battle needed a little spice, the predicted severe weather was bearing down on the undulating 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit. Fortunately for everyone involved, the deluge was averted and the only precipitation to hit the track was enough to make portions of the track a bit greasy.
On the 18th of a scheduled 21 laps, the top three continued their scrap, with less than one second between them. But then the order changed as Kleinubing made a rare faux pas. Approaching the 'Oak Tree' corner preceding the back straight, he dropped a wheel, allowing Wittmer and Thomas to decide this one between themselves.
The remaining three laps will have to be seen to be believed (Watch it on SPEED this Wednesday, April 30 at 100p EDT!), as the two racing professionals fought with all their hearts.
The rest of the five-car RealTime Acura brigade had their own story. Fourth place qualifier Peter Cunningham had a good launch from the standing start but found himself back in seventh by the end of Lap One. After a great race-long battle with the Mazda6 of Charles Espenlaub, he managed to move his TSX up to fifth as some of the cars ahead of him faltered. He couldn't find a way by that Mazda, but with one lap to go the previously mentioned pole Mazda recovered from his off and muscled his way past Cunningham, bumping him down to sixth.
Kleinubing was the next to cross the line, less than two-tenths of a second behind Cunningham, in seventh.
The fourth of the TSXs from RealTime was driven by a guest driver this weekend, Eric Curran. Eric drives a Corvette full time in the SPEED GT Championship but previously competed for the RealTime boys in 2005 and '06, winning a pair of races along the way.
When the regular driver of the No. 46 machine, Dino Crescentini, was unable to make the trip to Virginia because of other commitments, Curran graciously stepped in to help the Acuras take the fight to the competition. After missing out on the first of two practice sessions because of a brake issue, Eric qualified and finished tenth, only wishing he had one more session to get the handling tuned to his liking prior to the race.
Teammate Glenn Bocchino, who drives the team's Acura RSX, deserved better than he got on this day. In testing at VIR, Glenn was stoked, negotiating the challenging circuit right on pace with his teammates. His first strike against him was a transmission problem which developed in the second official practice session, forcing him to miss Qualifying.
The second strike was the gamble to start the race on full tread wet-weather tires. As the Touring cars sat on pregrid, the ominous black clouds were fast approaching, along with an official warning of 'severe thunderstorms and hail'. The decision was made by the team to pull his car, which was already at the tail end of the field because of no Qualifying time, from the grid to make the switch.
If the skies had opened up as it looked like they surely would, Bocchino might have looked like a genius. As the formation lap ensued, the eminent flood chances were lessening, although it seemed like it was only a matter of time for the rain to hit.
As we know now, the storm front (mostly) sneaked past the VIRginia International Raceway, a reality that was welcomed by all but a few farmers and Bocchino. Glenn ran as high as 15th on the completely wrong tires for much of the race, until strike three hit and he was forced to pit for a set of unblistered tires better suited to the conditions. The end result was a disappointing 17th.
After a three-week break, Round Three of the SPEED Touring Car Championship will take place at Miller Motorsports Park near Tooele, Utah on May 16-18.
Although it's still early days in the 2008 fight, Acura holds a strong lead for Manufacturers' honors by 12 points over Mazda. And in the Drivers' Championship, Wittmer leads the Touring Car points for the first time in his career, over his friends Kleinubing and Cunningham, who run second and third.