JOLIET, Ill. (July 25, 2009) – Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, captured the pole position for the Sunday’s SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Grand Prix at Autobahn Presented by Mazda, part of the Harrah’s Autobahn Grand Prix Presented by Mazda weekend. Teammate Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, will start second for Round Six of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship.
Piloting the No. 74 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6, Saini wasted no time getting up to speed on the 18-turn, 3.56-mile Autobahn Country Club course. On his first tour around the track, Saini set the fastest lap of the session, a 2:38.148 (81.038 mph), to claim his second-career pole position.
“That was an awesome run and a testament to the Tri-Point team who’ve been working hard all weekend,” Saini said. “We kept making changes, running data and we made an adjustment for qualifying that was fantastic. The car was perfect. Right away, I put down a good lap on my first lap. We knew it was going to be tough to beat, but it sure was nerve-wracking waiting it out.”
The 2008 World Challenge Touring Car Rookie of the Year shaved more than two seconds off of his practice times from Friday. Saini felt the cooler morning temperatures contributed to his improved lap times.
“The track conditions were really good this morning,” Saini recalled. “With the rain last night, we thought the track would be really green, but the track still had tons of grip and the air was cool. The car really transformed this morning. We has an idea that the times would go down a bit, but my dash actually wasn’t working, so I had no idea what the times were until I came in.”
Saini also had no idea if he would actually start Sunday’s race from pole, with the post-qualifying coin flip still to take place. As series announcer Tom Hnatiw flipped the coin into the air, Saini called tails, and tails it was, which prevented the top five on the grid from being inverted.
“It’s great to be in this position with Mazda being a big supporter of the weekend and to have a personal supporter of mine, Autobarn Mazda and Richard Fisher, on the side of the car,” added Saini. “He has a lot of employees out here this weekend, so it’s good to put the car up front.”
Foss completed a Tri-Point sweep of the front row, in his No. 75 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6. The World Challenge Touring Car Rookie of the Year candidate clocked a 2:38.736 (80.737 mph).
Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec, will start Sunday’s race in third. Driving the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, Wittmer turned a 2:39.091 (80.557 mph) on the his first flying lap of the 25-minute session.
Starting alongside Wittmer is his RealTime team owner Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., in the No. 1 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX. After turning the fastest lap in Friday practice, Cunningham qualified fourth with a 2:39.256 (80.474 mph).
Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., completed the top five. Driving the No. 73 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6, Espenlaub entered a 2:39.300 (80.452 mph).
Pierre Kleinubing (Acura TSX) and Andrew Aquilante (Subaru WRX), will start sixth and seventh, respectively.
The three BimmerWorld cars complete the top 10, with Seth Thomas (BMW 328i) in eighth, James Clay (BMW 328i) in ninth and Nick Esayian (BMW 328i) in 10th.
The SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Grand Prix at Autobahn Presented by Mazda will take place Sunday, July 25, at 10:25 a.m. (CDT). Live timing and notes are available at www.world-challenge.com and Twitter updates can be found at www.twitter.com/SPEEDWC. The race will air on SPEED, Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. (EDT).
Attached: Jason Saini at Autobahn Country Club
Credit: Mark Weber/SCCA