Bonaccorsi prevails at Road America; scores first win for Mazda ProtegÃ©. July 7, 2002. Elkhart Lake, WI. Any excitement experienced by Paul Bonaccorsi over his podium finish at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last week was overshadowed this ...
Bonaccorsi prevails at Road America; scores first win for Mazda Protegé.
July 7, 2002. Elkhart Lake, WI. Any excitement experienced by Paul Bonaccorsi over his podium finish at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last week was overshadowed this weekend as he piloted his #40 Tri-Point Motorsports Mazdaspeed Protegé into victory lane today at Road America, scoring inaugural victories in SPEED World Challenge Touring Car competition for himself, Tri-Point Motorsports and the Mazda Protégé.
"This has been a very exciting two weeks," an excited Bonaccorsi exclaimed afterwards, "I couldn't be happier right now for Tri-Point, Mazda or myself. We've all put a lot of work into the car and the payoff is sweet."
The Tri-Point Motorsports crew, fresh off of that first podium in Ohio, entered the Road America weekend hungry and looking or more. Leading the charge initially was Rookie-of-the-Year contender Scott Bradley. After working on the balance of his Protegé during the promoter's test day, Bradley used the first official practice on Friday to work on a qualifying setup, quickly climbing to the top of the charts before winding up second fastest for the session, with teammates Bonaccorsi and Shauna Marinus close behind in the top five on the time sheets.
The second session on Friday would reveal areas that needed improvement as Bonaccorsi had an engine expire, while Bradley suffered handling woes similar to the ones he experienced in the race at Mid-Ohio. The Tri-Point Motorsports crew jumped into action, replacing Bonaccorsi's engine and diagnosing the source of Bradley's troubles as the team prepared for Saturday's qualifying session.
In what can only be described as the strangest qualifying session on record, Bonaccorsi would wind up third on the grid, with Marinus and Bradley eighth and tenth respectively, when the field was set after only one timed lap after a car had rolled over in a gravel trap and officials elected to end the fifteen minute session early. "I think we were all disappointed that the session ended early,' Bradley said, "as we all knew that each one of our Protegés were fast enough to be on pole. Fortunately we would all be within striking distance for the start of the race."
Bonaccorsi took advantage of his third place spot on the grid, motoring into the second spot on the first lap to challenge the pole sitter, Pierre Kleinubing, around the four-mile circuit. "That was probably the best start I have ever had," Bonaccorsi explained. "Track position is so important and by jumping into second I was able to keep the pressure on Kleinubing, and work my way past by lap three."
While Bonaccorsi headed the field, Marinus and Bradley were trying to battle their way forward as well. "This race had some of the toughest battles I've ever had," Marinus commented afterwards, "usually over the course of a race you'll get a little break here and there, but I was fighting people the whole time, first with Ken Dobson and later with Will Turner."
While the other two Tri-Point Motorsports Mazdas were heading up the charts Bradley's motor started going south. Moving up several positions at the start, by lap two Bradley realized that something was wrong when several cars pulled away going down the front straight. "I was getting a run on some cars out of the corners and they would pull away down the straight," Bradley explained. "I made an incredible pass on Dobson in Canada Corner but he was able to drive past down the front straight. I was nursing the car towards the pits on lap ten when it finally let go."
As the laps were winding down, Bonaccorsi started to experience some difficulties of his own, as pressure from Kleinubing had paid a toll on his brakes. "Those final laps were interesting as I was starting to lose my brakes," Bonaccorsi said, adding, "I was pumping my brakes on the straights to make sure the pedal had pressure in the braking zones as Kleinubing takes the car so deep into the corners."
The brakes held though, and despite a last lap charge from Kleinubing, Bonaccorsi would take the checkered flag by less than a second. Marinus, still battling all the way to flag would finish fifth for the second consecutive event. "I'm happy to have finished in fifth today," Marinus said, "and I'm thrilled for Paul and everybody at Tri-Point and Mazda."
With his second consecutive podium finish Bonaccorsi moves up into third in the championship behind Kleinubing and Peter Cunningham, while Marinus holds onto twelfth and Bradley falls from tenth to fifteenth.
Round Six of the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship will be held July 19-21 on a temporary street circuit around RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. For more information about the series please visit www.world-challenge.com. To learn more about Tri-Point Motorsports please visit www.tripointengineering.com.