The remnants of tropical storm Ernesto were felt at Mosport International Raceway on the 8th stop of the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Series.
Light rain started just as qualifying got under way on late Saturday morning and while teams were set up for dry conditions, it had a minimal effect on the outcome of the qualifying grid as rain was not heavy and a dry line around the 2.459-mile circuit took shape. Chip Herr in his all-wheel drive Audi A4 took the number one qualifying spot with a 1:31.143 at a top speed of 97.126 followed by Charles Espenlaub (1:31.253 @ 97.005 mph) and RealTime's Peter Cunningham with a 1:31.266 @ 96.995. The big story of the qualifying round was the seventh place finish of local rookie Andrew Wojteczko in the Auto Analyser Services Lexus IS300 with a 1:31.761 @ 96.472. At one point in the qualifying session, Wojteczko burst into top qualifying spot and track announcers not only consulted one another as to the pronunciation of the Wojteczko's name, but also the entire press room.
The top 10 qualifiers for Sunday's race were:
1. Chip Herr, Audi A4
2. Charles Espenlaub, Mazda 6
3. Peter Cunningham, Acura TSX
4. Randy Pobst, Mazda6
5. Kuno Wittmer, Mercedes-Benz C230
6. Pierre Kleinubing, Acura TSX
7. Andrew Wojteczko, Lexus IS300
8. James Clay, BMW 325i
9. Brandon Davis, Acura TSX
10. Christian Miller, Volkswagen
Sunday morning brought more of the same weather as a light rain fell on the track yet thousands of hardy race fans still showed up to watch their favorite drivers. The buzz before the race was the decision of Espenlaub and the Tindol Motorsports Team to run on dry tires in the hopes that a dry line would form around the track as it had happened in qualifying. They were the only team to take that chance and unfortunately the decision worked against them as rain started to fall more heavily right at the start of the race.
With the rain falling, track officials made the decision to start the race with a rolling start (not the normal standing start) after a delay to retrieve a broken down car on the formation lap and Randy Pobst took full advantage perfectly timing a daring inside line move and grabbed the hole shot passing all of the top 3 qualifiers in turn 1. But shortly after in that same lap a full course yellow ensued as Espenlaub spilled off the course. And so began the schedule‚ for the race - laps with excellent racing action, and then gravel grooming and laps under full caution yellow.
After a lap-13 restart, Davis got the jump on the field from fourth to take the lead and that started a furious battle for the rest of the race with Herr, Kleinubing and Davis all vying for the top spot. But on lap 20 Herr passed Davis to take the lead for good at Moss Corner - a low speed corner right before the Mario Andretti Straightaway. Herr's all-wheel drive advantage was evident as he was able to accelerate quicker than Davis because of the edge in traction. "I really thought we had a huge advantage over the Acuras (in the wet weather)," said Herr. "But today, I'm really impressed how well these guys drove and how well their cars handled, because the only advantage I saw was coming out of Turn Five (Moss Corner), which is a really slow turn, so it's just about traction. Everywhere else it was pretty heads-up with them."
The top 10 finalists for the race were:
1. Chip Herr, Audi A4
2. Brandon Davis, Acura TSX
3. Pierre Kleinubing, Acura TSX
4. Peter Cunningham, Acura TSX
5. Eric Curran, Acura RSX
6. Christian Miller, Volkswagen Jetta
7. Randy Pobst, Mazda 6
8. Robb Holland, Dodge SRT4
9. Jeff Courtney, Audi A4
10. Jeff Altenburg, Mazda 6
With two races remaining, Kleinubing extended his season points lead to 24 over Pobst (238 to 214) while defending Champion Cunningham is third, with 184, followed closely by Herr, with his second consecutive win at 183. Davis completes the top five, with 173.
Teams now head off to Road Atlanta (Sept. 27-30) for the second last race of the season. Tune into SPEED Channel on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 3 pm (EDT) for coverage of the race from Mosport International Raceway.