SEBRING, Fla. (March 15, 2007) – Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., will start from the pole for Round One of the 2007 SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship at Sebring International Raceway. Altenburg will start alongside teammate Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., making it an all-Mazda front row for the season opener, part of the 55th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
Clocking a time of 2:19.951 (95.176 mph) around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn course, Altenburg earned his second-career pole, his first since Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2003. According to Altenburg, the No. 72 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Mazda 6 was perfect out of the box.
“This is the best car for this track that I’ve ever had,” Altenburg said. “This car is absolutely hooked up. Credit Sachs Shocks, credit Craig Nagler, engineer and team owner for Tri-Point, and credit the Mazda 6 for being a great starting point.
“It’s about time, we’ve been running this series for awhile and we’ve always had good equipment and a good team. Admittedly, I’ve had trouble getting myself wicked up for qualifying and it’s kinda my race style that I start out sort of conservative and I can start pushing myself harder toward the end of the race.”
After finishing runner-up in the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ Championship for two years in a row, the importance of a Mazda 1-2 on the grid is not lost on Altenburg.
“This is absolutely huge, we are now leading the Manufacturers’ Points, I am now leading the Drivers’ Championship, at least for a day. The Manufacturers’ Championship is the main thing, but if we can take home the Drivers’ Championship at the same time, then all the better.”
Altenburg did start on pole at Sebring in 2005, but was awarded the pole after qualifying was rained out and grid positions were determined by practice times. In that race, a Turn One incident with Pierre Kleinubing sent Altenburg to the back of the order where he battled through the field to finish third.
The front row of the grid will be all blue, as Tri-Point teammate Pobst will start his No. 72 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Mazda 6 alongside Altenburg for Friday’s race. Pobst turned out a time of 2:20.052 (95.107 mph) shortly after his teammate set the quickest lap.
Acura newcomer Kuno Wittmer is proving his worth at RealTime Acura; his No. 44 Acura Certified Pre-Ownened/RealTime/Acura RSX is the highest placing Acura on the grid with a time of 2:20.849 (94.569 mph).
Seth Thomas qualified a career-best fourth in his No. 38 Bimmerworld BMW 325i. The Georgian turned a lap of 2:21.164 (94.358 mph).
Reining SPEED Touring Car Champion and Coconut Creek, Fla., resident Pierre Klienubing completed the top five in his No. 1 Acura Certified Pre-Owned/RealTime Acura TSX.
James Clay (BMW 325i) will start sixth, followed Dino Crescentini (Audi A4) who was fastest in yesterday’s practice.
James Sofronas (BMW 325Ci) made it three BMWs in the top ten, after placing his car eighth on the grid. Charlie Putman (Mazda 6) and Chip Herr (Audi A4) completed the top ten.
Round One of the SPEED Touring Car Championship will go green Friday, March 16, at 11:05 a.m. (EDT). The race will be broadcast Sunday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED channel. Complete results, including live timing and lap notes are available at www.world-challenge.com.