LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 8, 2009) – Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., missed Friday afternoon’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship practice at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but proved he was ready for the competition, taking the pole for Sunday’s Toyo Tires Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Presented by Dish Network on his first flying lap in qualifying. Patrick Lindsey, of Santa Barbara, Calif., was second fastest.
After turning the seventh-fastest practice time Friday morning in the No. 73 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6, Espenlaub scurried off to Watkins Glen International for a Grand-Am GT race, which he led before a mechanical problem dropped his team out of contention. When the 20-minute, 8 a.m. qualifying session started under cloudy skies and cool conditions, Espenlaub knew the track would improve throughout the session.
“I was in Watkins Glen doing the Rolex race yesterday, so I missed second practice,” Espenlaub said. “I was feeding off of my teammates’ information. We had talked to some other guys that had started in the first session on this track this weekend, and they said the track’s a little off in the beginning, so we were gambling that it would get better. I parked and waited until about mid-session.”
Espenlaub used a tow from teammate Eric Foss’ No. 75 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6 and cracked off a blistering 1:34.135 (86.352 mph)—nearly a second faster than the fastest time at that point. As the session progressed, other cars improved, but could not eclipse Espenlaub’s lap. It was his third-career pole and his first since Road America in 2006.
“This feels awesome,” Espenlaub said of becoming the third Tri-Point Motorsports driver to score a pole in 2009. “Tri-Point’s been working really hard. The synergy we have between myself, Jason [Saini] and Eric [Foss] is phenomenal. We’ve got a really good team and everyone is concerned about how we do as a team, instead of as individuals. This pole is a testament to that, because our strategy just played into it.”
Following qualifying, Espenlaub won the coin toss, which would have inverted the top five on the grid for Sunday’s race had he lost. He called heads.
Making his first series start since the 2008 finale, Lindsey will start alongside Espenlaub in his No. 57 Horton Autosport MAZDA6. Lindsey turned a 1:34.250 (86.247 mph) late in the session.
The polesitter in 2008, defending series Champion Peter Cunningham qualified third in his No. 1 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX with a best time of 1:34.436 (86.077 mph). Teammate, and defending race winner, Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec, moved to fourth at the end of the session, with a 1:34.678 (85.857 mph) in his No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX.
Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, was fifth in the No. 75 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6 with a fastest lap of 1:34.745 (85.796 mph).
Seth Thomas (BMW 328i), James Clay (BMW 328i), point leader Jason Saini (MAZDA6), Pierre Kleinubing (Acura TSX) and Nick Esayian (BMW 328i) completed the top 10, which was separated by just 1.024-second.
Sunday’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Round Seven race, the Toyo Tires Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Presented by Dish Network, will make its standing start Sunday at 4:30 p.m. (EDT). For live lap notes, timing and streaming audio, visit www.world-challenge.com. The race will be broadcast Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED.
Follow World Challenge on Twitter @SPEEDWC.
Attached: Image of Charles Espenlaub at Mid-Ohio
Credit: Mark Weber/SCCA Pro Racing
LEXINGTON, Ohio - Starting lineup for Sunday's SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Round Seven race, the Toyo Tires Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Presented by Dish Network at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with position, car number in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, fastest lap time, and speed in miles per hour.
1, (73), Charles Espenlaub, Lutz, Fla., MAZDA6, 1:34.135, 86.352.
2, (57), Patrick Lindsey, Santa Barbara, Calif., MAZDA6, 1:34.250, 86.247.
3, (1), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 1:34.436, 86.077.
4, (44), Kuno Wittmer, Montreal, Quebec, Acura TSX, 1:34.678, 85.857.
5, (75), Eric Foss(R), Fort Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 1:34.745, 85.796.
6, (38), Seth Thomas, Cumming, Ga., BMW 328i, 1:34.805, 85.742.
7, (36), James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., BMW 328i, 1:34.832, 85.717.
8, (74), Jason Saini, Fort Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 1:34.901, 85.655.
9, (42), Pierre Kleinubing, Coconut Creek, Fla., Acura TSX, 1:35.060, 85.512.
10, (34), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., BMW 328i, 1:35.159, 85.423.
11, (88), Chris Puskar(R), Charlotte, N.C., Acura Integra Type R, 1:37.547, 83.332.
12, (05), Kevin Helms(R), Charlotte, N.C., Honda Civic, 1:37.578, 83.305.
13, (49), Branden Peterson, Breckenridge, Colo., Acura TSX, 1:38.660, 82.392.