MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 15, 2005) – Peter Cunningham, of W. Bend, Wis., moved even closer to his fourth-career SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Drivers’ Championship Saturday, earning his first Air Force Reserve Pole Position of the season for the SCCA SPEED Touring Car season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Cunningham’s chief rival in the Championship, Randy Pobst, will start second.-30-
Driving the No. 42 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, Cunningham turned a record-setting lap of 1:37.008 (83.053 mph) to capture his record 29th-career pole position, but his first of 2005. The pole gave Cunningham two bonus Championship points and a 13-point lead over Pobst, meaning the Acura drive need only finish sixth or better to clinch the title.
“We’ve been working hard all year to have the best cars possible, but I think I can attribute our car’s speed this weekend to a little somethin’ somethin’ we found last weekend here in testing,” Cunningham, who has led every session this weekend, said. “Historically, Laguna Seca is a very sandy track. This weekend, try as [the track workers] might to keep the track clean, there were some people putting more sand on the track with their cars than they could if they had a shovel and a wheel barrow. Because of what we found here in testing a few weeks ago, we seemed to stumble onto something that helped our cars on the slippery stuff.”
On the first flying lap, Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., took the provisional pole in his No. 73 Mazdaspeed/TriPoint Racing Mazda 6 with a time of 1:37.015 (83.047 mph). However, Cunningham’s second lap was just 0.007-second faster, meaning Pobst could collect only one bonus point for his second-place qualifying effort.
“In general terms, the first lap can be the quickest,” Cunningham added. “But you still get a second lap on the [series spec Toyo] tires before they degrade just that little bit. There were changing conditions. The Formula Mazdas went out this morning and were way off the pace, and then the Spec Miatas started their session off the pace, so I wasn’t ready to just throw it around and take too many risks on that first lap.”
The front row not only represents the battle for the Drivers’ Championship, but the Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine, which Acura presently leads Mazda by two points. If the lead Acura finishes right behind the lead Mazda, or better, the crown is clinched by Acura.
“We’ll try to win the race if we can, but we’re not going to be stupid,” Cunningham said of the Championship scenario. “We don’t like to let Mazdas win, especially at Mazda Raceway. I’m sure the Mazda guys will be doing the same.”
Bob Stretch, of Dallas, was third in the No. 98 Wheel’s America/P5 Wheels BMW 325Ci with a fastest time of 1:37.484 (82.647 mph), The Winning Team Racing Apparel Rookie of the Year Brandon Davis, of Denver, Colo., was fourth in his No. 44 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX with a lap of 1:37.628 (82.526 mph). Fellow rookie John Angelone, of Bridgewater, N.J., will start a career-best fifth in his No. 19 Pit Bull Energy Drink/Stand 21/STaSIS Engineering Audi A4 Turbo with a 1:37.664 (82.512 mph).
Pierre Kleinubing, who is currently third in points with his A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura, still holding an outside chance at his fourth title, will start sixth.
Cunningham’s pole time broke Kleinubing’s 2004 track record of 1:38.261 (81.993 mph).
Sunday’s Round 11 finale from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will make its standing start at 10:55 a.m. (PDT). The race will air on a same-day tape delayed basis at 3 p.m. locally, 6 p.m. Eastern.
For more information, including a link to live timing and scoring, please visit www.world-challenge.com.
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