LEXINGTON, Ohio (July 20, 2008) – Montreal’s Kuno Wittmer earned his third win of the season in Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. RealTime Racing teammate Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., finished second followed by rookie Jim Daniels, of Germantown, Tenn.
Teammates Wittmer and Cunningham filled the front row of the SPEED Touring Car grid, with Cunningham’s No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX on the pole. When the start lights went out, Wittmer’s No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX pulled alongside Cunningham in Turn One and finished off the job in Turn Two to take the lead.
“I had the momentum through One on the start and the way the track is laid out, it worked out going into Turn Two,” Wittmer said.
“I must not have gotten as good a start as Kuno,” Cunningham said. “He is awesome on the starts. We went side-by-side through Turn One but he had the momentum and the inside line for Two and I had to hand it to him on a platter there because there were apparently a lot of ‘angry’ cars behind us bearing down.”
As the field streamed through The Keyhole behind them, a sliding Charles Espenalub in the No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 collected point leader Pierre Kleinubing in the No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX. When both cars became beached in the Turn Two gravel, the safety car was deployed.
Wittmer and Cunningham defended their position from the Tri-Point Mazdas of Jason Saini and Daniels on the lap-five restart and the top four quickly spaced out as they pulled away from the rest of the pack.
The field would bunch back up when the safety car was deployed once again on lap 12 for the No. 57 Horton Motorsports/Sloan Securities MAZDA6 of Patrick Linsdey, who had lost a motor and parked the car in Thunder Valley.
On the lap 14 restart, the No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 of Saini challenged Cunningham for the runner-up spot, but the RealTime team owner defended well and maintained the position. Saini would soon be defending his own spot from teammate Daniels, who was continuing to reset the fastest lap of the race behind him.
The distances between the top four ebbed and flowed as the race continued its 27-lap, 60.966 mile distance, but there was no stopping Wittmer who crossed the line 0.868-second ahead of Cunningham.
“It feels really, really great,” Wittmer said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better race from start to finish.
“The RealTime guys did a very good job of making the car fast and consistent throughout the race. I had my mirrors full with Peter [Cunningham]. He had the pressure on. I’d gap him a little bit but then he’d catch me a little bit in certain areas. At one point, in Madness, I got caught out on some dirt and [Cunningham] caught me a lot and I lost my gap.”
It was the third win of the season for Wittmer who now has 705 points in the Drivers’ Championship and takes over the lead from previous leader Kleinubing.
“It’s not really the way I wanted to gain the point lead back, by having Pierre DNF. I’d rather be racing him.”
Cunningham also moves up in the standings past Kleinubing and now lies second in the Drivers’ Championship, with 682 points, to Kleinubing’s 648.
“It was just incredible from the full tank of gas at the beginning to the end, with worn out tires, my Acura TSX was just fantastic,” Cunningham said. “It really handled well and I could just put the thing wherever I wanted. I want to thank the RealTime guys for making it so good this weekend.
“I was trying. I had a great race with Kuno. There were a couple of times where I could have touched him a little bit, but we just didn’t have enough to get by.”
With only four laps remaining in the race, third-place Saini ran a little wide through Turn One, handing the final podium spot to his teammate Daniels, of Germantown, Tenn., in the No. 75 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6. It’s the first World Challenge podium finish for the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion, who also recorded the fastest lap of the race, a 1:34.152 (86.337 mph).
“The guys did a phenomenal job building a brand new car after Watkins [Glen],” Daniels said. “I followed around and the lap times were all the same, but we couldn’t really do anything. Essentially, we were playing ‘follow the leader’ and it was going to come down to whoever made a mistake and unfortunately it was Jason [Saini].
“We got into the brake zone and it looked like Jason rotated the car a little too much, maybe a little too aggressive, and he had to chase it up the track a little bit. I just squeezed out of the gas a little bit, got up beside him and out-dragged him up to the Keyhole.
“It couldn’t be any more of an honor to be racing here with these guys in this series after 20 years of trying. Being up here on the podium is a humbling experience.”
Saini, a Cleveland native currently residing in Fort Worth, Texas, kept things composed to finish fourth.
Seth Thomas, of Cumming, Ga., finished sixth in the No. 38 BimmerWorld BMW 325i. Starting 15, Thomas made up eight positions on the opening lap, earning himself the Racing Electronics Holeshot Award. Despite a quick stop in the pits on lap seven Thomas continued to climb through the field for his sixth-place finish, which also earned him the Sunoco Hard Charger award for most positions gained during the race.
Fourth-starting Chip Herr charged back from an early stop-and-go penalty for movement prior to the start and finished seventh in the No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6.
Glenn Bocchino (Acura RSX) and Dino Crescentini (Acura TSX) finished eighth and ninth, respectively, after early pit stops following the incident in the Keyhole. Robb Holland (Dodge SRT-4) completed the top 10.
Acura continues to lead Mazda in the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine, 61 points to 41.
Round Seven of the SCCA SPEED Touring Championship will air on SPEED on July 24 at noon (EDT). Round Eight will take place at Road America August 8 – 10. To learn more visit www.world-challenge.com.