SEBRING, Fla. (March 18, 2009) – Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., topped the practice sheets for Round One of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship at Sebring International Raceway. Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec, and Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., were second and third quickest, respectively, in preperation for the Toyo Tires World Challenge Season Opener, part of the 57th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Presented by Fresh From Florida.
Driving the No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, Kleinubing set his quickest lap, a 2:23.820 (92.615 mph), on his first flying lap around the 17-turn, 3.7-mile road course. The defending race winner picked up nearly two seconds from his morning session time, when the track was still damp from an early morning rain shower.
“It was a little wet in the morning,” Kleinubing said. “I was able to go out this afternoon and do a simulated qualifying run. It worked out that I caught up with Charles [Espenlaub] at the right time and caught a little bit of a draft, which helped me a little bit.
“Hopefully somebody can give me a draft tomorrow for qualifying!”
Though he’s has raced the Acura TSX in World Challenge Touring Car since 2004, Kleinubing now finds himself readjusting to his ride after rule changes for the 2009 season added more weight to the car.
“The car feels pretty good,” Kleinubing said. “It’s a little harder to drive than last year. It’s a little heavier and if you make a mistake, you can tell right away. It’s tough to get away with anything because the car just bogs down. You have to be a little more precise.”
Kleinubing was originally expected to drive the new body style Acura TSX this weekend, but the RealTime squad was unable to complete the car in time for Sebring.
“I’ve done a little testing in the new car,” Kleinubing reported. “I can’t wait to get my hands on the new car and begin working on it full time. But this [old car] is ‘my’ car. This is what I’m familiar with, especially here at Sebring. Last year we came here like five times and did hundreds of laps of testing, so we know the setup with this car.”
Kleinubing’s RealTime teammate Wittmer was second fastest on the day in the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX. The Canadian improved throughout the 20-minute session, turning his quickest lap of 2:24.124 (92.420 mph) on his final tour of the Sebring circuit.
Driving the No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6, Espenlaub’s fastest lap of the afternoon practice session clocked in at a 2:24.529 (92.101 mph).
Defending World Challenge Touring Car Champion Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., ended the day fourth on the practice sheets. The RealTime team owner entered a 2:24.673 (92.069 mph) in the No. 1 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, the only 2009 TSX in the RealTime stable at Sebring this week.
Though fastest in the morning session, Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, did not improve at quite the same pace as his competitors, finishing fifth on the day. Piloting the No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6, Saini clocked a 2:24.715 (92.043 mph).
Seth Thomas was the fastest of the BMW 328is in sixth. He was followed by Chip Herr and Michael Galati, whose MAZDA6 rides with Tindol Motorsports materialized only days ago. As a result, the pair missed the morning session as they awaited the arrival of the team transporter.
Andrew Aquilante (Subaru Impreza WRX) and James Clay (BMW 328i) completed the top 10. All drivers in the field were able to improve on their morning times thanks to the improved track conditions.
Qualifying for Round One of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship, part of the Toyo Tires SCCA World Challenge Season Opener at Sebring, is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. (EDT) on Thursday, March 19. Live timing, lap notes and photo galleries are available at www.world-challenge.com.
SEBRING, Fla. - Combined practice results for Friday’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship Toyo Tires Season Opener at Sebring International Raceway, with position, car number in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, fastest lap time, and speed in miles per hour.
1, (42), Pierre Kleinubing, Coconut Creek, Fla., Acura TSX, 2:23.820, 92.615.
2, (44), Kuno Wittmer, Montreal, Quebec, Acura TSX, 2:24.124, 92.420.
3, (73), Charles Espenlaub, Lutz, Fla., MAZDA6, 2:24.529, 92.161.
4, (1), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 2:24.673, 92.069.
5, (74), Jason Saini, Ft. Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 2:24.715, 92.043.
6, (38), Seth Thomas, Cumming, Ga., BMW 328i, 2:24.943, 91.898.
7, (97), Chip Herr, Lititz, Pa., Mazda6, 2:25.189, 91.742.
8, (95), Michael Galati, Olmsted, Ohio, Mazda6, 2:25.481, 91.558.
9, (35), Andrew Aquilante, Phoenixville, Pa., Subaru WRX, 2:25.492, 91.551.
10, (36), James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., BMW 328i, 2:25.641, 91.457.
11, (75), Eric Foss(R), Fort Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 2:25.819, 91.346.
12, (34), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., BMW 328i, 2:26.459, 90.947.
13, (43), Toby Grahovec, Chicago, Ill., Acura TSX, 2:27.722, 90.169.
14, (24), Jim Osborn, Ooltewah, Tenn., Volkswagen Jetta TDI, no time.