TOOELE, Utah (May 19, 2007) – Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., collected his second-straight win of the year at Miller Motorsports Park Saturday in dramatic fashion, passing teammate Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., on the final lap of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship Round Two race, part of the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix. Last year’s race winner, Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., finished third.
Starting on pole in the No. 72 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Mazda 6, Altenburg got away from the grid cleanly and led the field into Turn One, followed by his Tri-Point Motorsports teammate Pobst in the No. 73 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Mazda 6 and the No. 38 BimmerWorld BMW 325i of Seth Thomas.
Montreal’s Kuno Wittmer first moved his No. 44 Acura Certified Pre-Owned/RealTime Racing Acura RSX past Thomas, and after several laps of side-by side racing, Kleinubing was by as well in his No. 1 Acura Certified Pre-Owned Acura TSX. The two Acuras then closed on the Mazdas, and, on lap six, Altenburg’s car suddenly shut off, allowing Pobst by, balking Wittmer and allowing Kleinubing into third.
Altenburg’s Mazda came back to life, and he and Kleinubing closed gradually on the leader. With three laps to go, Altenburg looked to the inside of Pobst in Turn One, but fell back into line. Just after taking the white flag, Altenburg capitalized on the draft going up the long front-straightaway and out-braked Pobst into Turn One. The pair ran side-by-side for three corners, allowing Kleinubing to close, before settling into line with Altenburg back in the lead.
Altenburg captured his fourth-career win by 0.295-second, averaging 83.160 mph in the 13-lap, 58.318-mile race.
“To get two poles and two wins, that is not something I take for granted in this crowd,” Altenburg said. “But if you’re going to do that, Tri-Point Motorsports will certainly give you the tools. The Mazda 6 was fantastic. We’ve made some great gains the past couple of races and I think the car is so predictable and easy to drive. I saw Pierre back there and Kuno [Wittmer], but we just had that little bit more of the package. Times change, but right now we’re going to enjoy it.
“Prior to the race we talked about trying to work together and get away from everyone else as much as we could and then near the end, the last three or four laps, just go out there and race as long as we don’t compromise Mazda’s position or our position. I think that’s what we managed to do. I think [Pobst] was fighting hard, I was fighting hard, but we kept it clean. Had I been on the other end of the stick I would have expected the same and given the same. I think it makes for a great show and some of the fiercest racing out there and I was pretty proud of it.”
Pobst earned his second-consecutive runner-up finish, and credited the team’s work and testing at Miller Motorsports Park for his, and Altenburg’s, success.
“It looked like Jeff [Altenburg] had some sort of tire problem right in the middle of the race. I was riding along behind him, trying my best to stay ahead of Kuno and Pierre. All of a sudden, Jeff just dies for a moment and I went into the lead and was just running harder and harder from that moment on.
“It was a great race, a heck of a battle. Pierre almost got me. It was a great show and that’s what the series is all about.”
Kleinubing earned his second third-place finish in as many 2007 races, just 0.974-second behind the winner, and despite setting the race’s fastest lap with a 3:12.168 (84.039 mph), feels that the Acuras just didn’t have enough to unseat the Mazdas this weekend.
“I had nothing for them all day long,” Kleinubing said. “Once they started fighting between themselves, I was able to catch them a little bit. I would rather have been up ahead of them, but that wasn’t the case unfortunately. We’ve got to work harder and find something. What we have right now is not enough.
“It seemed like they were racing hard and clean in Turn One. I was surprised to see them battle side-by-side and I thought ‘oh maybe they’ll let me by here at some point or maybe I’ll at least get along one of them here for a little while,’ but Randy closed the door pretty good and I had to get off the gas.”
Wittmer earned his career-best finish with a fourth, just a second and a half away from his first podium. Thomas held on to finish fifth—the best finish for the E90-bodied BMW in SCCA SPEED Touring Car competition.
James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., finished sixth in his No. 29 Global Motorsports Group BMW 325Ci and was the top Toyo Cup driver, recognizing drivers who do not make their living driving racecars.
Peter Cunningham (Acura TSX), Charles Espenlaub (Mazda 6), James Clay (BMW 325i) and Brandon Davis (Acura TSX) completed the top 10.
Espenlaub earned the Sunoco Hard Charger award for moving from 15th on the grid to finish eighth in his No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol/Oakley/Sparco Mazda 6.
Roberto Santos, of Clearwater, Fla., was the Piloti Rookie of the Race with his 12th place finish in the No. 74 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Mazda 6.
Brad Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., earned the B&M Holeshot Award after advancing seven positions on the first lap in his No. 30 GMG/Greek Brothers Racing BMW 325Ci.
Altenburg now leads Pobst in the SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Drivers’ Championship standings by nine, 83 to 74. Kleinubing is third, with 61, followed by Wittmer (49) and Thomas (44).
Mazda’s 20 points leads the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER, 11 better than Acura (nine), followed by Audi (three) and BMW (two).
Saturday’s race will be broadcast Saturday, May 26 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED.
The series travels to Lime Rock Park next weekend for Round Three of the Championship.
For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com.