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Watkins Glen: Series Touring Car race report

Galati Wins Glen SPEED TC; Race Slowed by Yellows WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 8, 2008) -- In a race that was effectively over when a lap nine incident brought out a race-ending caution, Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, used a restart to take...

Galati Wins Glen SPEED TC; Race Slowed by Yellows

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 8, 2008) -- In a race that was effectively over when a lap nine incident brought out a race-ending caution, Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, used a restart to take his first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car win of the season. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., completed the podium for the Round Six race at Watkins Glen International, part of the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen weekend.

Starting third on the grid in the No. 95 Mazda North America/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6, Galati fell back briefly at the start before launching a charge on the RealTime Acuras of Cunningham and Kleinubing.

"I don't think I had a good start, but I was able to go on the outside and get a couple spots back," Galati said. "On the back straightaway, Seth [Thomas] was ahead of me and I got by him, then I closed up to Pierre and Peter. My car was working really good. I was really happy with the handling. I was able to draft up to Pierre and get him in the Bus Stop and then I caught up to Peter right when the full-course caution came out."

The first full-course caution came on lap five, when the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX of point leader Kuno Wittmer was stuck in the gravel at the Boot after contact with Jim Daniels' MAZDA6.

When green flag racing resumed on lap seven, Galati pulled alongside leader Cunningham into Turn One to take over the lead, but the course would return to full-course yellow before the Galati could even complete the lap.

"I was right behind him on the restart and I went on the inside and was able to pass him, then that was it. I put my head down and just drove, but unfortunately with all the yellows it was a really short race. That's not what you like to see."

The second yellow was issued for the No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 of Jason Saini, who like Wittmer, needed help escaping from the gravel at The Boot following contact with James Clay's BMW. No sooner did green flag racing resume on lap nine, then a scary incident in Turn 11 brought the yellow flags back out for good.

As James Clay lead a pack of cars battling for sixth out of Turn 11, his No. 36 BimmerWorld BMW 325i clipped the outside tire wall, turning the car sideways. Daniels' No. 75 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 was only inches off of Clay's bumper at the time and nosed into the sideways BMW, sending Clay into a spin and Daniels into the sand barrels at the entrance to pit lane. In the worst turn of luck for the BimmerWorld team, Clay's spinning car collected teammates Seth Thomas, in the No. 38 BMW 325i, and Nick Esayian, in the No. 34 BMW 325i, who also hit Daniels' car before he came to a stop.

When the dust cleared, the track was nearly blocked at Turn 11, with debris littering the area. Removal of the four cars, repairing the tire wall, replacing the sand barrels and clearing the debris would take up more time than there was remaining in the race, and with the pace car leading the field through the pit lane each lap to avoid the mess, the 55.4-mile, 54 minute and 4.619-second race would end under caution. All the drivers involved walked away from the incident uninjured.

"I think we had a good race car today," concluded Galati. "That was early on though, we didn't get to run the whole race, so it's hard to say what the car was going to do, but I was pretty happy with the car today. I've got to thank the guys at Tindol. At Lime Rock, we wrecked two cars, and to be able to come here, qualify in the top five and get a win for them feels great."

The win was Galati's first since Road Atlanta in 2007. Since then, Galati had been unable to crack the top ten in SCCA SPEED Touring Car competition, and was happy to be on the top step of the podium again, despite the lack of green flag racing.

"Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it seems like everything is going wrong. I've been in this business long enough to know that sometimes you've just got to cash in, because it's not always going to be there. The guys did a good job rebuilding this car. The car was really fantastic."

Polesitter Cunningham lamented the lack of green flag racing, which prevented his No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX from challenging for the lead.

"I got a good start," Cunningham said. "I got in there the first lap and held up Pierre a couple times, but we made it through and started to get into a rhythm. Then the series of yellows started to come out. On the first restart, I got totally snookered by Galati and he just drove by me going into Turn One. From there, we only had on-off bursts of green flag racing, so I didn't really have a chance to do anything about it.

"In all the 24 hour races I've done here, I've done a lot of yellow flag laps around this place, but in a sprint formula, when bad stuff happens like that, it doesn't help for our equation. We felt like we had the cars for the long run. So many races we've had this year in Touring Car and in the past have been all-green affairs and you just don't expect this kind of thing or set up your car for these little bursts. It's bad when that happens, but fortunately everyone was okay, better than they're cars, anyhow. But it wasn't anybody's fault, we'll just try to get them next time."

Third-place finisher Kleinubing also felt his No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX would have shined if the race had stayed green longer.

"I thought I had one of the best cars over the long run," Kleinubing said. "We'll never find out now."

Kleinubing isn't too upset however, as the third-place finish puts him into the Drivers' Championship lead by 26 points (611 to 585) over Wittmer. Cunningham is in third with 572.

"I told Peter I was going to push him up the hill and try to get away, but Galati was faster than me on the straight. We couldn't pull away and he got in the draft and made a desperate move in the Bus Stop, so I let him go. I tried another move in Turn 11 and got alongside him, but he blocked me pretty good. At that point I just thought about my points position and figured I'd rather take the points than a broken car home."

Chip Herr, of Lititz, Pa., just missed the podium in the No. 97 Mazdapseed/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6. Herr recorded the fastest lap of the race around the 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course, a 2:07.560 (95.954 mph).

Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., luckily missed the Turn 11 melee which unfolded behind him. He brought the No. 73 Mazdapseed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 home in fifth.

Dino Crescentini finished sixth in the No. 46 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX, followed by Byron Smith in the No. 52 Competition Associates/Smith West BMW 330i, who earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award advancing seven positions in the race.

Charlie Putman (MAZDA6), Wittmer (Acura TSX) and Saini (MAZDA6) completed the top 10.

Although he did not finish the race, Payton Wilson, of Chantilly, Va., earned the Racing Electronics Holeshot Award for advancing five positions on the first lap in the No. 63 King Rat Motorsports Dodge SRT-4.

Galati's win inched Mazda closer to Acura in the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers' Championship presented by RACER Magazine. Acura now leads Mazda by 10 points.

Round Six of the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship will air on SPEED, Wednesday, June 18, at noon (EDT).

The series next heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, July 17 -- 20. More information is available at www.world-challenge.com.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Pierre Kleinubing , Charles Espenlaub , James Clay , Nick Esayian , Kuno Wittmer , Chip Herr , Dino Crescentini , Charlie Putman , Payton Wilson , Jim Daniels , Jason Saini , Byron Smith