2009 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship finale at Laguna Seca – Click above for high-res gallery
One of our favorite forms of racing just wrapped up another season with a typically exciting finale at California's Laguna Seca raceway. Although it doesn't get much press, we love Speed World Challenge because the cars are so much like the ones we drool over in the real world and the drivers are a great mix of gentlemen racers and displaced pros looking to keep their skills sharp if and when they get the call to move up to the show. Some drivers only make it out to one or two races, while others are in it for the championship trophy –but when they do show up, they are driving some impressive machinery.
We just told you about the championship-winning Ford Mustang FR500C, but the list of competitors reads like a fantasy car collection, with drivers campaigning vehicles like the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, Dodge Viper, Lamborghini Gallardo, Chevrolet Corvette, Aston Martin DB9, Lotus Exige S, Acura NSX, Cadillac CTS-V, and even a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren 722 GT. The slightly less exotic Touring Car class features fun cars like the Mazda6, Mazda3 and RX-8, Dodge Neon SRT-4, Acura TSX and Integra Type R, BMW 325 and 328i, Scion tC, Honda Civic Si, Ford Focus, Subaru WRX and Legacy, Lexus IS300, and even a Volkswagen Jetta TDI.
As is the case with most racing these days, the series and event titles are longer than the tracks they race on, but we're willing to type it all out here for those who want to know what happened in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championship Presented by Toyo Tires season finishing Applied Computer Solutions Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Bondurant at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. That's quite a mouthful, but there's even more to the story. Follow the jump to read all about this, the final race to determine the championship. You'll find a full report as well as the complete results for the race and the final points standings for all of the drivers and teams that competed in Speed World Challenge this season. And don't forget to check out the incredible gallery of Speed GT by our very own photomeister, Drew Phillips.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
[Source: SCCA Pro Racing]
James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., captured his second SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship Presented by Toyo Tires win of the season, taking the checkered flag at the Applied Computer Solutions Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Bondurant. Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., and Eric Curran, of Easthampton, Mass., completed the podium at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Finishing fourth, Brandon Davis, of Huntington Beach, Calif., claimed his first World Challenge GT Championship. Sofronas' victory handed the SPEED World Challenge GT Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine to Porsche.
Almost as soon as the start lights flickered off to begin the 2009 World Challenge GT Finale, the yellow flags came out and the pace car was deployed, so that workers could remove Dino Crescentini's No. 4 StopTech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 from the sand in Turn Three. On the ensuing lap five restart, second-starting Sofronas was sandwiched between the No. 10 Applied Computer Solutions/SunMicro Ford Mustang GT of Davis and the No. 3 Applied Computer Solutions Ford Mustang Cobra of Boris Said. Sofornas was not keen on spending any more time between the teammates, and made his move to the inside of Davis in Turn Two to take the lead on lap six. The pass earned Sofronas the AutoWeek Move of the Race Award.
"On the start, I just wanted to get away from the line and establish my position," Sofronas said. "Brandon [Davis] had a good start and I got into Two and just kept it clean not wanting to affect the Championship at all.
"It was pretty clear that Brandon didn't want to get in the way or become a part of any mistakes. It was a calculated move on his part. He just left it open for me and I had to take it there. He knew he had to win a Championship and he showed that he had the maturity to get it done."
Sofronas never looked back, taking his third-career win by 4.297 seconds, averaging 82.342 mph. The Californian set the Débaufré Fastest Lap of the Race in the process, a 1:30.919 (88.615 mph).
"The car was hooked up and once I was in the lead," Sofronas recalled. "I just put my head down and Todd [Ketchum] would give me some splits and then, all of a sudden, I looked in my mirror and no one was there! It kind of got boring. I want to win a race fighting for it; it's a lot more exciting. But, don't get me wrong, the way we did it today, I'll take it all day long.
"I kept saying 'what's going on behind me. Entertain me because there's not much going on up here,' and it sounds like it was a bloodbath back there. I can't wait to see it on TV.
"The GMG guys worked very hard. It's very gratifying to win here. We ran five cars in two different series this weekend. They worked so hard and they were up late and I was with them here early in the morning as well. This is a great way to send them off into the offseason to get ready for next year. We love World Challenge. We've been doing this for a long time and look forward to doing it for years to come."
By winning the 28-lap, 62.664-mile race, Sofronas sealed the World Challenge GT Manufacturers' Championship for Porsche. It is the German marque's eighth Title, which it claimed by 14 points over Ford (67 to 53). Volvo was third, with 48 points, followed by Chevrolet (45) and Viper (18).
"Winning the Manufacturers' Championship for Porsche was a big one because of my business being focused on Porsche tuning," Sofronas added. "That was big to help them clinch that for the second year in-a-row."
After a great start from sixth in the No. 1 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, Pobst found himself knocking on the door of the top five throughout the first half of the race.
"It's been a development year with the K-PAX Volvo," Pobst said. "One of the challenges for the team has been how to get the car to get off the line. It's got a small engine with a big turbo. It's got a lot of traction and it's tough to get it going. Guess what? They figured out a system that works and it was nice to have a car that moved when I let out the clutch."
When Said's Mustang was turned around on lap 19 in Turn Two, Pobst finally moved into fifth. The Defending Champion picked up another spot on that lap when Curran got loose through Turn 10, allowing Pobst to slip by and into fourth. Three laps later, Pobst was around Davis for third and had his sights set on the No. 97 Tax Masters/Brass Monkey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 of Tony Rivera, Davis' only Championship threat.
"I was really surprised with the track conditions," Pobst said. "I just didn't feel much grip out there. I was a little surprised at the times we were running, where a 1:32 was a good lap toward the end. I really had some good battles with Eric [Curran] and Tony Rivera. Down toward the end of the race, in the last couple laps, it was me and Tony running second and third. Especially on the last lap, I think the Volvo and the all-wheel-drive was helping me out because my car was not falling off as bad as his and I started getting a nose on him everywhere."
After hounding Rivera for five laps, Pobst made his move on the final tour of the 11-turn, 2.238-mile course. While the move in Turn Four gave Pobst the spot, it sent River spinning into the gravel, where his race would end.
"I just timed it wrong and I turned him around in Turn Four," confessed Pobst. "Man, I just hate that because I'm always the one preaching not to do that to other people! It's funny because that happened to me two years ago. And being back here at Laguna brought it all back for me and I'm still angry about that and then there I go and do it to somebody else. I'm gonna have to sleep on that and try to figure out what it all means. Anyhow, I apologize to Tony Rivera for my mistake in turning him around."
Pobst was later fined 20 points for the incident.
Curran was far enough back in the No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette to avoid the incident and finish third.
"I had a terrible start," recalled Curran. "I got too much wheelspin taking off. I fell back a number of spots. On the restart, I went in the outside lane going into Two and I must have passed six or seven cars on
the outside. Everybody stacked up on the inside and I just went all the way down on the outside and passed a number of cars.
"I started charging toward the front. I ran with Rivera, and then Boris [Said] and then Brandon [Davis]. There was obviously a Championship on the line for Brandon and Rivera, and I didn't want to get involved in any of that, so I kind of stayed behind Rivera. He had a very strong car anyway. I stayed there until Rivera made a dive-bomb move [on Said] into Two. He kind of loosened them both up and then I got into the back of Boris and spun him out by mistake. I'm sure he's not too happy about that.
"After that, I kept charging forward and got up to Brandon. I had a little bit stronger car at the end of the race, but I didn't want to interfere with his Championship. The Whelen guys worked really hard all year and I think we finally got some reliability, which is good. We had a pretty fast racecar today. Overall, it's been a pretty good year."
Bringing his Mustang home in fourth, Davis secured his very first World Challenge GT Drivers' Championship, taking the title by 81 points over Sofronas (1012 to 931). Rivera fell to third, sitting in the gravel, and finished with 910 points, followed by Andy Pilgrim (851) and Curran (811).
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," Davis said. "Right now, it's just a feeling of relief. Coming into this weekend, there was so much talk about where we needed to finish to with the Championship if this or that happened. There is so much that can go wrong. We experienced that last year where a small part can just end your weekend. We knew that we needed to finish eighth coming in to clinch the Championship, but we also knew that we could break something in the drivetrain and give the Championship away on the last race. Right now, it's more of a feeling of relief. But I will take this over anything. It feels amazing!
"Having Boris [Said] there helped a lot. We had some tire issues in practice and I think I was a little off in the setup because my car was unbelievably loose in some corners and I was trying to deal with that.
"It was unfortunate to see that Tony couldn't finish the race after his incident with Randy, but it feels great to come away with the Championship."
Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., completed the top five in the No. 8 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60.
Gunter Schaldach (Porsche 911 GT3) was sixth followed by the No. 47 TruSpeed Motorsports/NADA Porsche 911 GT3 of Rob Morgan, from Costa Mesa, Calif. Morgan was named the Sunoco Hard Charger for advancing seven positions in the race.
Charlie Putman (Dodge Viper), Sonny Whelen (Chevrolet Corvette) and Tony Gaples (Chevrolet Corvette) completed the top 10.
The Applied Computer Solutions Monterey Sports Car Championships Presented by Bondurant will air on SPEED, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. (EST).
Results from Sunday's 28-lap, 62.664-mile SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship Presented by Toyo Tires Round 10 Race, the Applied Computer Solutions Monterey Sports Car Championships Presented by Bondurant at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. (2), James Sofronas, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 28.
2. (6), Randy Pobst, Gainesville, Ga., Volvo S60, 28, -4.297.
3. (8), Eric Curran, Easthampton, Mass., Chevrolet Corvette, 28, -9.864.
4. (1), Brandon Davis, Huntington Beach, Calif., Ford Mustang GT, 28, -11.175.
5. (11), Andy Pilgrim, Boca Raton, Fla., Volvo S60, 28, -14.131.
6. (12), Gunter Schaldach, Aspen, Colo., Porsche 911 GT3, 28, -17.722.
7. (14), Rob Morgan, Costa Mesa, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 28, -23.917.
8. (13), Charles Putman, Mills, Wyo., Dodge Viper, 28, -29.996.
9. (9), Sonny Whelen, Old Saybrook, Conn., Chevrolet Corvette, 28, -31.434.
10. (15), Tony Gaples, Libertyville, Ill., Chevrolet Corvette, 28, -32.514.
11. (10), Jeff Courtney, Slinger, Wis., Dodge Viper, 28, -1:04.707.
12. (18), Charles Morgan, Dallas, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3, 28, -1:07.724.
13. (16), Mike Davis, Huntington Beach, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 28, -1:10.744.
14. (20), Tomy Drissi, Los Angeles, Calif., Dodge Viper, 28, -1:11.121.
15. (5), Boris Said, Carlsbad, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 28, -1:15.165.
16. (7), Kip Olson(R), Sacramento, Calif., Acura NSX, 28, -1:24.249.
17. (4), Tony Rivera, Missouri City, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3, 27, Off Course.
18. (3), Dino Crescentini, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 27, -1 lap.
19. (17), William Ziegler(R), Jacksonville, Fla., Porsche 911 GT3, 16, Mech.
20. (21), Paul Brown, Covina, Calif., Mustang GT, 8, Elect.
21. (19), Chad Raynal(R), San Jose, Calif., Cadillac CTS-V, 5, Crash.
Time of race: 45 minutes, 39.647 seconds.
Average speed: 82.342 mph
Margin of victory: 4.297 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-4, #10 Brandon Davis; laps 5-28, #14 James Sofronas
Cautions: One for three laps.
Débaufré Fastest Lap of the Race: #14 James Sofronas, 1:30.919 (88.615 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #3 Boris Said, 1:29.580 (89.939 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #47 Rob Morgan advanced seven positions in the race.
Move of the Race: #14 James Sofronas pass for the lead.
#1 Randy Pobst fined 20 points and $1000 for driver conduct
#4 Dino Crescentini fined 20 points and $1000 for driver conduct
#31 Sonny Whelen fined 10 points and $500 for driver conduct
SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship Presented by Toyo Tires Final Drivers' Championship Points
Ps., Driver, Car, Pts. (Wins)
1, Brandon Davis, Ford Mustang GT, 1012 (1)
2, James Sofronas, Porsche 911 GT3, 931 (2)
3, Tony Rivera, Porsche 911 GT3, 910 (2)
4, Andy Pilgrim, Volvo S60, 851 (2)
5, Eric Curran, Chevrolet Corvette, 811
6, Randy Pobst, Volvo S60, 776 (1)
7, Sonny Whelen, Chevrolet Corvette, 562
8, Tony Gaples, Chevrolet Corvette, 568
9, Dino Crescentini, Porsche 911 GT3, 558 (1)
10, William Ziegler(R), Porsche 911 GT3, 552
Final Manufacturers' Championship Points
Ps., Manufacturer, Pts. (Wins)
1, Porsche, 67 (5)
2, Ford, 53 (1)
3, Volvo, 48 (3)
4, Chevrolet, 45
5, Viper, 18 (1)
Kleinubing Wins SPEED TC Finale, Fifth Championship in Monterey
MONTEREY, Calif. (Oct. 11, 2009) - Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., led Sunday's Applied Computer Solutions Monterey Sports Car Championships Presented by Bondurant from start-to-finish and captured his fifth SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Presented by Toyo Tires Championship. Teammate Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., completed the podium at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Kleinubing started his No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Acura TSX on the pole, and knew he had to win if he was to have a chance to secure the Drivers' Championship and the Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine for Acura. He did just that, taking the lead on the standing start and leading every lap to secure his second win of 2009, the 29th of his career.
Kleinubing beat Cunningham to the stripe by 0.610-second, averaging 72.615 mph.
"The start was the best scenario that could have played out for us," Kleinubing said. "Peter [Cunningham] is the master of numbers and I'm sure he was doing his math every lap out there, but I just kept my head down and didn't pay any attention to him. I made a little mistake on lap two going into Turn 11 and I think that made me more alert for the rest of the race. I knew what I had to do. I had to win and everything else had to fall in place. It did and I'm surprised to [win the Championship], trust me."
Kleinubing came into the race 54 points behind Jason Saini and Acura was one point behind Mazda. With the pole and Saini's eighth-place qualifying effort, Kleinubing picked up 15 points on the leader. Saini needed to get into the top five in order to win the title, but finished eighth in his No. 74 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6.
"I didn't know the Championship scenarios, but everyone else on the team did," Kleinubing said. "I just wanted to do my part. When we took the checkered flag, I waited a little bit until Turn Four, then I asked 'did we win the Championship?' You never know. Maybe everyone pulled over and let [Saini] by! I wasn't thinking about anything other than winning the race.
"Coming into the weekend, I knew my chances were pretty slim. I was surprised at Jason [Saini's] pace this weekend. They missed something and we had a great handling car.
"This feels awesome. I'm not letting Peter [Cunningham] run away with all the records. I'm keeping it a tight battle with him. Now I've got one more pole and one more win, so I opened up a gap on poles and closed on him in wins. We're saving money too, all we have to do is swap doors and hoods [for Kleinubing to take No. 1 and Cunningham to return to No. 42] and we'll be ready to go next year!"
As the team owner of RealTime Racing, Cunningham's primary goal was to secure the Manufacturers' Championship for Acura, entering the weekend one point behind Mazda. Kleinubing's pole tied the Championship, meaning whichever brand finished ahead would take the title.
"We knew what had to happen," Cunningham said. "We honestly didn't think, coming into the weekend, that [RealTime] had a shot at the Drivers' Championship, but we knew that we had a shot at the Manufacturers' Championship and that was our primary objective today. We knew that we had to stay clean at the start and stay focused to the end.
Clay started second in the No. 36 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i, but struggled off the line, falling to fourth.
"My start was absolutely horrible," Clay said. "I couldn't get the line lock to come off of the car. I was sitting there, jiggling it, and went about 20 feet with the front wheels locked up before I finally got going. Luckily, I tucked in and managed to have a good race after that."
From there, he waged a fierce battle with the No. 75 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6 of Chip Herr. On lap eight, the two made contact, going into the Andretti Hairpin, allowing Nick Esayian to move past both into third place in the No. 34 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i. A four-lap caution from laps eight through 12 bunched the group back up, and on lap 15, Clay was around Herr, taking third from his teammate Esayian two laps later.
"I knew I had brakes on Chip [Herr] and I had a faster car," Clay said. "I was having difficulty getting around him. He picked a mid-line coming into Turn One and broke earlier than I've ever wanted to brake there. I couldn't do anything, but I almost turned it around there."
Clay was able to catch the leading Acura duo, setting the Débaufré Fastest Race Lap of 1:38.112 (82.118 mph) in the process. While he was able to catch Cunningham, he was not able to make a pass.
"I had a great car and I could turn fast laps," Clay added. "Catching up to Peter [Cunningham] is one thing, but getting around him is another. I don't know that it was one more lap and I would have had him, I strongly doubt that was the case, but I wouldn't have minded a couple more laps to give it a try."
"James [Clay] turned his headlights on, because I think there was a lapped car he was warning and he left them on after that and it was very annoying," Cunningham laughed. "I was going as fast as I could. I wasn't sure if I could hold him off and I wasn't sure how many laps were left, so I knew I just had to keep going and eventually the starter would show the white flag. We were very close coming into Turn 11 on the last lap, but James didn't dive-bomb me or pull any Hail Marys, so I was safe."
Esayian finished fourth to earn his fourth top-five finish of the season. Making a cameo appearance, and his first start since the season-opener at Sebring, Herr was Mazda's top car throughout the race, and finished fifth.
Charles Espenlaub (MAZDA6), Seth Thomas (BMW 328i) and Saini (MAZDA6) finished sixth through eighth.
Making his first-career World Challenge start, Graham Downey, of Morgan Hill, Calif., finished ninth in the No. 7 Redstone/Blacktrax Honda Civic Si, advancing four positions and earning the Sunoco Hard Charger award.
Patrick Lindsey, of Santa Barbara, Calif., completed the top 10 and took the AutoWeek Move of the Race for his pass of Espenlaub and Thomas for sixth on lap 21 in his No. 57 StreetUnit.com/Snapitt.com MAZDA6.
Kleinubing tied Cunningham and Michael Galati in securing his fifth World Challenge Championship, although all of Kleinubing's have come in the Touring Car class while Cunningham and Galati have won in multiple categories. Kleinubing finished with 973 points to Saini's 960. Defending Champion Cunningham finished third, with 921, followed by Thomas (878) and Espenlaub (847).
Acura earned its eighth Manufacturers' Championship, the 13th for American Honda in total. It finished with 72 points to Mazda's 65. BMW finished third, with 42.
"Going into the race we knew it was a possibility and we just had to perform," Cunningham added. "Acura has been in the series since 1997 in Touring Car and this is their eighth Championship, which is unprecedented. We're proud that we get to run those cars because of their speed, handling and reliability."
Sunday's race will be broadcast Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific on SPEED.
Results from Sunday's 26-lap, 58.188-mile SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Presented by Toyo Tires season finale, the Applied Computer Solutions Monterey Sports Car Championships Presented by Bondurant at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps complete, distance behind winner and reason out (if any).
1. (1), Pierre Kleinubing, Coconut Creek, Fla., Acura TSX, 26.
2. (3), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 26, -0.610.
3. (2), James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., BMW 328i, 26, -0.939.
4. (7), Nick Esayian, Encinitas, Calif., BMW 328i, 26, -11.344.
5. (5), Chip Herr, Lititz, Pa., MAZDA6, 26, -14.299.
6. (9), Charles Espenlaub, Lutz, Fla., MAZDA6, 26, -20.587.
7. (10), Seth Thomas, Cumming, Ga., BMW 328i, 26, -20.704.
8. (8), Jason Saini, Fort Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 26, -21.711.
9. (13), Graham Downey, Morgan Hill, Calif., Honda Civic SI, 26, -22.210.
10. (6), Patrick Lindsey, Santa Barbara, Calif., MAZDA6, 26, -22.282.
11. (12), Eric Curran, Easthampton, Mass., Acura TSX, 26, -23.382.
12. (11), Eric Foss(R), Fort Worth, Texas, MAZDA3, 26, -24.989.
13. (18), Andrie Hartanto, Concord, Calif., Acura TSX, 26, -38.811.
14. (14), Sage Marie(R), Huntington Beach, Calif., Acura TSX, 26, -45.783.
15. (15), Scott Webb(TC2), Hermosa Beach, Calif., Scion tC, 26, -1:07.775.
16. (16), Tommy Chen(TC2), Pasadena, Calif., Mazda RX-8, 22, -4 laps.
17. (17), Andrew Gillis(R), San Jose, Calif., Ford Focus L, 13, Axle.
18. (4), Kuno Wittmer, Montreal, Quebec, Acura TSX, 6, Mechanical.
Time of race: 48 minutes, 04.750 seconds.
Average speed: 72.615 mph
Margin of victory: 0.610-Second
Lap leaders: Laps 1-26, #42 Pierre Kleinubing
Cautions: One for four laps
Debaufre Fastest Race Lap: #36 James Clay, 1:38.112 (82.118 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #42 Pierre Kleinubing, 1:37.042 (83.023 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #7 Graham Downey advances four positions in the race.
Move of the Race: #57 Patrick Lindsey's pass for sixth on lap 21.
2009 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship Presented by Toyo Tires
Final Drivers' Championship Point Standings
Pos., Driver, Car, Points (Wins)
1, Pierre Kleinubing, Acura TSX, 973 (2)
2, Jason Saini, MAZDA6, 960 (3)
3, Peter Cunningham, Acura TSX, 921 (1)
4, Seth Thomas, BMW 328i, 878 (3)
5, Charles Espenlaub, MAZDA6, 847
6, Kuno Wittmer, Acura TSX, 799 (1)
7, Eric Foss(R), MAZDA3, 769
8, James Clay, BMW 328i, 767
9, Nick Esayian, BMW 328i, 758
10, Patrick Lindsey, MAZDA6, 328
Final Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine Point Standings
Pos., Manufacturer, Pts (Wins)
1, Acura, 72 (4)
2, Mazda, 65 (3)
3, BMW, 42 (3)