ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 2, 2006) – After an auspicious start to the Round Two race, Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., made it a perfect sweep of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend, averaging 64.305 mph and winning the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring car portion of the weekend by 0.938-sec. in his No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsports Mazda 6. A pair of Acuras completed the podium as RealTime Racing teammates Peter Cunningham, of Grafton, Wis., and Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., finished second and third, respectively.-30-
Pobst’s victory, which capped off a weekend where he led every session and every race lap, was his second straight at St. Petersburg.
While the front three made a clean break away from the start line on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course, it was the exact opposite starting at the fourth spot on the grid as Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., and Eric Curran, of East Hampton, Mass., came together just after the green flag.
The contact appeared to initiate between Espenlaub’s No. 97 Sparco/Oakley/Tindol Motorsport Mazda 6 and Curran’s No. 43 Acura Certified Pre-owned/RealTime Acura RSX. The two then carried over where Curran contacted Altenburg’s No. 72 Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsports Mazda 6, which then was sandwiched into the inside wall.
From there, Curran’s RSX performed a 180-degree turn, collecting the No. 13 Woodhouse Auto Family/Kicker Dodge SRT-4 driven by Brian Smith. Curran continued to spin across the track, coming into the path of Hugh Stewart, of Massapequa, N.Y. Stewart, in the No. 22 Speedtechnik Dodge SRT-4, managed to avoid Curran, but couldn’t miss the rear of Smith’s SRT-4. Stewart then spun and wound up against the outside wall after moving the cement barrier. Stewart was transported to Bayfront Medical Center for observation and released.
Jim Osborn, of Ooltewah, Tenn., became the fourth car to contact Curran as the Acura came the rest of the way across the track, and the impact was enough to knock Osborn’s No. 24 TC Thompson Children’s Hospital BMW 325Ci out of the race.
After a four-lap caution to clear the five cars from the front straight, the green flag flew to start the fifth lap and Pobst held Cunningham and Kleinubing at bay for the remainder of the 29-lap race.
“I led every session and every lap, by just a little bit,” Pobst said. “That’s all it takes. This was a good race to be in the front row from the appearance of what happened behind us.
“My lap times were closely related to how aggressive I was with the curbs. I wasn’t sure how many of those I could hit and continue without damaging the tires. My braking was pretty good with the StopTech Brakes and I was having fun driving my car with the tail hanging out, but I went too far and I guess I got away with it.
“I’ve been much more aggressive with my setup in these last couple of races and I think I went too far. I really thought I was going to be able to carry what I had this weekend, which was like two-to four-tenths per lap throughout the race. For the first two or three laps, it looked that way. Then Peter just started comin’.”
Cunningham, who now has a record 73 podium finishes in 145 career World Challenge starts, said in the post-race press conference that on the short course, it didn’t take long to catch lapped traffic, which may have impaired his shot at a 30th World Challenge win.
“Without the traffic problems I certainly would have been closer to [Pobst’s] back bumper, but it would have taken some help from that traffic to be able to sneak in there,” Cunningham said. “Pierre was definitely coming, so I cranked up the screw a little bit. I wanted to make sure we preserved our equipment as we went, but we were going as hard as we could.
“I wasn’t sure we could have shown Randy anything, but toward the end he was pretty loose and came back to us. We were able to keep the heat on pretty good, but lapped traffic absolutely ended my day.”
Cunningham also said that the venue was a good one, but one that didn’t necessarily fit the RealTime team’s Acuras.
“It’s great to race at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, our cars excel in fast corners and all the fast corners around this track are pretty-much no-brainers. So we’ll look forward to Mid-Ohio and beyond.”
Kleinubing, who turned the race’s fast lap of 1:24.426 (76.754 mph) on lap nine, also had several mini-battles with lapped cars and afterward said that those, along with a below-average start, were too much for him to make a move on the leaders.
“Didn’t have one of the best starts,” Kleinubing said. “But after I got by Chip Herr, it looked like I was catching these guys. But, as soon as I got close to them, it looked like they cranked up the pace.
“Toward the end, it looked like my car was pretty good and I was able to close up the gap again, but lapped traffic just put me back again. I don’t think we had anything for Randy today. We were just trying to keep up!”
Chip Herr, of Litiz, Pa., finished fourth in the No. 17 QVALE/STaSIS Engineering Audi A4, and Espenlaub, who battled with a damaged car after the start, was fifth.
Will Turner, of Newburyport, Mass., wound up sixth in the Edgerock/H&R Springs/Turner Motorsport BMW 325i, and Jeff Courtney, of Slinger, Wis., was the Piloti Rookie of the Race after finishing seventh in the No. 99 MPI Coin/Karavan/Badger Audi A4.
Rookie Billy Revis, of Clemmons, N.C., won the B&M Sport Shifters Hole Shot Award for jumping up nine spots from 31st to 22nd on the first lap.
Lance Stewart, of Coconut Grove, Fla., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award after moving up 17 positions from his 33rd to finish 16th.
With the win, Pobst took over the top spot in the SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Championship with 67 points. Kleinubing, with back-to-back third-place finishes to start the year, is second, with 58 points. Cunningham is next with 52, followed by Herr (39) and Bill Auberlen (37).
After two rounds, Mazda holds the top spot in the SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine, leading Acura 17-12. BMW is third with 11, followed by Audi (3).
The 2006 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship next takes to the track May 19-21 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
For more information, visit www.world-challenge.com.
To forward this release, use this link: http://www.scca.com/News/News.asp?Ref=547