CANADA (Sept. 4, 2005) – Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., withstood every RealTime Racing charge in his No. 97 Sparco/Oakley/Tindol Motorsports Mazda 6 Sunday morning at Mosport International Raceway and averaged 87.621 mph over the 28-lap race to earn his first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car victory. -30-
Peter Cunningham, of West Bend, Wis., finished 1.550 seconds behind Espenlaub in the No. 42 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, and Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., finished third in the No. 43 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX.
Staying with rookie Air Force Reserve Polesitter Brandon Davis, of Denver, Colo., as others fell back through the early portion of the race, Espenlaub, who started second, took advantage of a Davis mistake at Turn 5 on the eighth lap to jump into the lead.
The misstep by Davis was the first of two unfortunate events for the rookie, who was looking for his first win. After going wide at Turn 5 and allowing Espenlaub’s No. 97 Sparco/Oakley/Tindol Motorsports to pass, Davis’ No. 44 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX encountered oil (left after the engine on the No. 16 Phil’s Auto Body/NYBMWCCA.org BMW 325i driven by Phil Parlato expired) going into the first turn on Lap 17, sending Davis into the tire wall, which brought on a five-lap, full-course caution and wiped out a nearly 16-second lead for Espenlaub.
After the field bunched up for the restart, Espenlaub was flawless, never allowing Davis’ teammates Cunningham and Kleinubing to overtake him.
“It feels absolutely incredible. I remember sitting over here [in second] last year and just feeling ecstatic about it but this year was much better,” said Espenlaub, who won the UrbanRacer.com Hot Lap of the Race Award with a 1:29.684 (98.706 mph) on Lap 9 – the first lap after he took the lead. “I definitely enjoy this center spot. I hope to sit here more often.”
Espenlaub also said that while he was comfortable running against Cunningham and Kleinubing, going against the rookie Davis left him a bit apprehensive to start. However, those feelings disappeared as the pair turned laps.
“Brandon did a great job at the start,” Espenlaub said. “I’ve run with these two guys [Kleinubing and Cunningham] quite a bit and trust them not to do too many crazy things, usually. I was a little concerned with [Davis] and his experience at the start, but we went mirror to mirror and he did the right thing. He did a great job.”
Cunningham started fifth on the grid and moved up gradually through the top of the field as an incident with the inside wall at Turn 1 knocked then leader and teammate Eric Curran, of South Deerfield, Mass., out of the race on Lap 4, and Freddy Baker, of Bedford, Ohio (No. 18 Fred Baker Audi/STaSIS Engineering Audi A4 Turbo) served a stop-and-go penalty for a premature jump at the start.
Even though the restart evaporated Espenlaub’s lead, Cunningham said that it wouldn’t have been his Acura who would have gone after the Mazda.
“After the yellow, we talked about it on the radio to let Pierre go by and have him try to get Charles [Espenlaub],” Cunningham said. “But as far as I was concerned, he never was close enough to me to allow it, and by the time he could have gotten by, I figured that Charles was already gone.
“Fortunately, with strength in numbers today, we managed to do some good for Acura and still maintain the manufacturers’ points lead going into the finale at Laguna.”
Third place was an excellent finish for Kleinubing, who was slotted to start fourth on the grid but swapped engines in his Acura. The move forced him to instead start 20th, but as soon as the race began, Kleinubing steadily climbed through the field to finish on the podium.
“I’m pleased with third place. I mean, I started 20th and I’m on the podium!” said Kleinubing, who dedicated the race to his mother, who is ill in their home country of Brazil. “It was one of those days where the car was super good. I really enjoy driving here at Mosport. The car wasn’t the fastest thing in the straight line, but it was for sure pretty fast in the corners. I think I could have passed Peter [Cunningham], but I would have had to rough him up a little bit. When you’re running the boss, you don’t tend to do that!”
James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., competed valiantly with Cunningham through the middle portion of the race before settling into fourth in his No. 36 BimmerWorld BMW 325i, and Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., who also served a stop-and-go for an early start, wound up fifth in his No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsport Mazda 6.
Seth Thomas, of Cumming, Ga., won the B&M Holeshot Award for advancing six positions in his No. 38 BimmerWorld BMW 325i from his 13th-starting position.
Leo Capaldi, of Lenox Twp., Mich., took home the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing 13 positions to finish ninth after starting 22nd in the No. 68 GKN Sinter Materials/Ford Reg. Performance Ford Focus.
By finishing second, Cunningham maintained his lead in the Touring Car Drivers’ Championship over Pobst, 236-224. Kleinubing is third with 223 points, and is trailed by Curran (199) and Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md. (189), who finished 15th but only completed 23 laps after his Mazda’s transmission failed.
Acura leads Mazda in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championships Presented by RACER Magazine, 72-70. BMW is third with 46 points.
The SCCA SPEED Touring Car Mosport race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel on Saturday, Sept. 10, at noon (EDT).
The season’s finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is set for Oct. 14-16.
For more information about this round or Round 11, visit www.world-challenge.com.
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