MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 15, 2009) - Following the conclusion of the 2009 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships Presented by Toyo Tires, competitors, staff, family and friends gathered at the Embassy Suites in Seaside, Calif., to hand out the year-end hardware.
Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., earned his fifth World Challenge Title, collecting two pole positions, three podium finishes and two wins (Road America and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) en route to securing the 2009 World Challenge Touring Car Championship with 973 points. Kleinubing now joins teammate Peter Cunningham and Michael Galati in the elite group of drivers to have claimed five World Challenge titles.
Kleinubing's pole position and win in the season finale, propelled Acura past Mazda in the Manufacturers' Championship. Taking three pole positions and four wins over the course of the 2009 season, Acura was recognized with its eighth World Challenge Touring Car Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine (T2 in 1998), the 13th World Challenge Manufacturers' Crown in total for American Honda.
In contrast, Brandon Davis, of Huntington Beach, Calif., took home his very first World Challenge Drivers' Championship in 2009. With one pole position and seven podium finishes, including a win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Davis took the World Challenge GT Championship with 1,012 points. Davis was the model of consistency all year, finishing outside the top five only once the entire season.
Using strength in numbers, Porsche won the 2009 World Challenge GT Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine. Three different drivers (Tony Rivera, James Sofronas and Dino Crescentini) combined for two pole positions and five race wins for Porsche, which collected its eighth series title.
Rookie of the Year honors in World Challenge Touring Car went to Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, who earned his spot in a MAZDA6 this season via his 2008 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship. Foss, who had the honor of driving a MAZDA3 in the car's series debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, claimed three top-five finishes in 2009 and won the pole position for both races at Mosport International Raceway. He ended the year seventh in the point standings.
Foss also earned the Sunoco Hard Charger of the Year Award for advancing a total of 14 positions, from grid to finish, over the course of the 2009 season. Though it was a four-way tie for the award, the tie was broken by which driver had the most positions advanced in a single race, that being Foss, who climbed eight positions in his series debut at Sebring.
The Sunoco Hard Charger of the Year in GT was Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill. No driver came close to Gaples' 2009 season when it came to total positions advanced during the race. The Corvette pilot picked up a total of 46 spots during the 2009 season and ended the year seventh in the point standings.
SCCA Club Racing standout Bill Ziegler, of Jacksonville, Fla., was named Rookie of the Year in World Challenge GT. In his first season of World Challenge competition and his first season piloting a Porsche, Ziegler earned two top-10 finishes and ended the season 10th in the point standings.
A number of special awards are handed out during the World Challenge end-of-the-year banquet, including the Jim Cook Memorial Trophy, which is bestowed upon an entrant or driver who has made a significant improvement to the overall success of World Challenge. This year, the Jim Cook Memorial Trophy went to driver Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., who's been an ambassador for the series since it began in 1990. Pilgrim has always been recognized for his skills on the track, but also his sportsmanship (and comedic stylings) off the track. His fan-friendly nature and work with teen driver education made him a natural selection for the award.
Another award unique to World Challenge is the Zimmermann Cup, named in memory of multiple Championship-winning crew chief Jerome Zimmermann. The award is presented to the World Challenge crew chief that best exemplifies the passion, dedication and success which Zimmerman displayed for World Challenge competition. This year, the honor rightfully went to ACS Express' Chris Willes, who engineered Davis' Championship-winning car.
At the end of each season, the teams of World Challenge vote to determine the Crew of the Year Awards. For 2009, the World Challenge GT paddock voted newcomers Brass Monkey Racing as the GT Crew of the Year for its impressive series debut with driver Tony Rivera, who won the season opener at Sebring and again at Road America, but fell shy of toppling Davis for the crown. The Touring Car Crew of the Year Award was presented to RealTime Racing, who earned three pole positions and four race wins, en route to collecting another Manufacturers' Championship for Acura and a Drivers' Championship for Kleinubing.
So ends the 2009 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships Presented by Toyo Tires. Race fans already going into withdrawal can still catch the final two rounds of the season on SPEED. The Toyo Tires Road Atlanta Grand Prix Presented by Dish Network airs on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. (EST), while the ACS Monterey Sports Car Championships Presented by Bondurant will air on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. (EST).
For more information on World Challenge visit www.world-challenge.com or follow the series on Twitter @SPEEDWC.