ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 3, 2005) – Tri-Point Motorsports driver Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., was well on his way to a victory at the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED Touring Car season-opener at Sebring when a mechanical failure in his No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsports Mazda 6 foiled his chances. At Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race, it was a thick layer of paint and a young gun that nearly kept Pobst from the win.-30--30-
However, after a lengthy, seven-lap, full-course yellow flag lifted, Pobst passed the Audi A4 driven by Chip Herr, of Litiz, Pa., at turn four to take the lead. He never looked back, averaging a caution-slowed 56.510 mph over 26 laps and earning his tenth SPEED World Challenge victory by 1.257 seconds over Herr.
Following post-race technical inspection, Herr’s Audi was found to have a non-compliant intake manifold, and his finish was disqualified.
The disqualification promoted RealTime Racing into the final two spots on the podium behind the efforts of the No. 43 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX driven by Pierre Kleinubing and Sebring winner Peter Cunningham’s similar No. 42 entry.
Starting on the Air Force Reserve Pole Position, Pobst ran into immediate trouble as the tires on his Mazda 6 spun across the ceremonial paint at the start of the course. Herr capitalized on Pobst’s misfortune, flying to the front of the pack from his fourth starting position before turn one.
Herr remained the leader for the first four laps and then throughout the lap five to 11 caution, but wasn’t able to hold off Pobst after the restart on lap 12.
“The [Herr] Audi had a terrific start,” said Pobst, who won the Urbanracer.com Hot Lap Award with a 1:23.777 (77.348 mph). “Mine was worse because today, unfortunately, the pole was not a good place to start. I was there, waiting for the lights and I see about 10 feet of paint ahead of me. I hit that paint, and the tires just spun like they were on ice. And here comes Chip like he’s shot out of a cannon. It made for a great race.”
Herr battled Pobst for the entirety of the race, staying on Pobst’s bumper relentlessly until the last lap, when the pair encountered a lapped car. Pobst said he thought that was the difference in the race.
“Through the middle of the race, I had the advantage, and toward the end of the race, that advantage started going away,” Pobst said. “It looked like Chip had more car at the finish. I was really very concerned about that last lap, but I was fortunate enough to catch a lapped car in a good place. I caught him right between turn one and turn two, where Chip caught him smack in the middle of turn two.
“It was really unfortunate because we were really having a battle.”
Behind the lead battle, Kleinubing was solid for the entire race, distancing himself from his teammate Cunningham for what would become second place.
“It was a solid run, to finish third in Touring Car these days is not so bad,” the Coconut Creek, Fla.-driver said before learning of his promotion to second place. “[Because of our gearing] we don’t quite have the power that’s needed to get out of the corners, but we finished third and we’ll go home, work a little harder and get ready for Atlanta in a couple of weeks.”
Overall, Kleinubing said, the course and venue was fantastic.
“It was great,” Kleinubing said, in reference to being back in the city where he started his SPEED World Challenge career in 1997. “They have an even better course and better facilities, and they just did a tremendous job this time around.”
Matt Richmond, of Mooresville, N.C., finished fourth in his No. 37 BimmerWorld BMW 325i, a career-best. Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., completed the top five in his Mazda 6.
With the win, Pobst jumped up to fifth in the SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Points standings with 37. Cunningham’s third-place finish bumped his season total to 57, good enough to maintain his lead. Tri-Point Motorsports’ Jeff Altenburg is second with 46, trailed by BimmerWorld’s Richmond (41) and James Clay (40).
Acura continues to lead the Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine standings, with 16. Mazda closed to within two, at 14, followed by BMW (10) and Ford (1).
Because of other obligations, RealTime Racing’s Eric Curran, of South Deerfield, Mass., didn’t arrive to St. Petersburg for the first time until 6 a.m. Sunday, but won both the Sunoco Hard Charger Award and the B&M Shifter Holeshot Award after starting last in the 27-car field. He won the Hard Charger Award after finishing eighth, and won the Holeshot Award by moving up to 18th from 27th on the race’s opening lap.
Dino Crescentini, of Malibu, Calif., was transferred to Bayfront Medical Center following a lap-20 incident in his No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Centrix/Tri-Point Mazda 6. Following a precautionary checkup, he was released. Seth Thomas, of Cumming, Ga., was uninjured in his lap-three incident that caused the race’s early caution.
Today’s race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel April 10 at 1 p.m. (EDT).
SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car is back in action as part of the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix at Road Atlanta, in Braselton, Ga., April 15-17.
All information for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is available at www.world-challenge.com.
To forward this story, use this link: http://www.scca.com/News/News.asp?Ref=275