After nearly 10 years the SPEED World Challenge returned to Watkins Glen International for a double dose of frenzied, door-to-door sprint car format motorsports action as part of the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen weekend. And Mazdaspeed driver Randy Pobst had a phenomenal weekend as he claimed both poles and took home wins in both Round 4 and Round 5.
Heading into the weekend, season points leader Jeff Altenburg, fresh off his third place finish at Lime Rock Raceway, looked to maintain his dominance over the field. And Pierre Kleinubing aimed to resume the chase for top spot after a disappointing 18th place finish at Lime Rock because of mechanical gremlins (Kleinubing’s worst finish in Touring Car since the first race of the season at Sebring in 2005). With back-to-back races in less than 24 hours teams and drivers would be tasked with the challenge of keeping their racecars in top mechanical condition and away from trouble out on the track.
Friday’s 20-minute qualifying session for Round 4 went off late afternoon in mid 90s hot and hazy conditions before anticipated heavy thunderstorms rolled in. The story of qualifying was that of Randy Pobst who righted the ship after a disappointing 11th place finish at Lime Rock. Early in qualifying, Pobst ripped off a 2:05.459 and that time stood, giving the No. 73 Mazda6 driver his first pole of the season. “I put together a good lap with a lot of help from [teammate] Jeff Altenburg. He towed me two-thirds the way down the track. I passed him coming out of the toe of the boot and just rammed it home” said Pobst.
The top 10 in the starting grid for Round 4 looked like this:
1. Randy Pobst Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed Mtspts Development 2:05.459 @ 97.561
2. James Sofronas BMW 325Ci Global Motorsports Group 2:05.970 @ 97.166
3. Pierre Kleinubing Acura TSX Cert. Pre-Owned Acura/RealTime 2:06.130 @ 97.042
4. Peter Cunningham Acura TSX Cert. Pre-Owned Acura/RealTime 2:06.344 @ 96.878
5. Kuno Wittmer Acura RSX Cert. Pre-Owned Acura/RealTime 2:06.645 @ 96.648
6. Charles Espenlaub Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed/Tindol/Oakley/Sparco 2:06.712 @ 96.597
7. Seth Thomas BMW 325i Bimmerworld 2:06.728 @ 96.584
8. Michael Galati Mazda 6 Mazda North America/Tindol 2:06.928 @ 96.432
9. Jeff Altenburg Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed Mtspts Development 2:06.984 @ 96.390
10. James Clay BMW 325i Bimmerworld 2:07.060 @ 96.332
The Round 4 race started at 6:30pm on Saturday June 9th under dramatically different weather conditions than the qualifying session on Friday with clear, sunny skies and a temperature in the 70s, some 20 degrees cooler than Friday. The weather though was the only thing that was “dramatic”, as Pobst’s only real challenge came off the standing start as he held off Sofronas going into turn 1 and then never looked back running flag to flag for his first win of the 2007 season. After the race Pobst exclaimed that he felt “like the comeback kid” after admitting to making some mistakes with the setup at Lime Rock. With teammate Jeff Altenburg finishing 5th and Tindol Motorsports drivers Charles Espenlaub and Michael Galati finishing 3 and 4 respectively the driver’s championship and manufacturers’ championship trophies were looking more and more like they would have Mazda etched all over them.
Here’s the top 10 finished for Round 4:
1. Randy Pobst Mazda 6
2. Pierre Kleinubing Acura TSX
3. Charles Espenlaub Mazda 6
4. Michael Galati Mazda 6
5. Jeff Altenburg Mazda 6
6. James Sofronas BMW 325Ci
7. Peter Cunningham Acura TSX
8. Stan Wilson(R) Dodge SRT-4
9. Robb Holland Dodge SRT-4
10. Chip Herr Audi A4
Catch the race on SPEED, Saturday, June 30. And pick up Modified Magazine for more in-depth coverage of the SPEED World Challenge TC Series. TC teams now head off to Toronto as part of the Grand Prix of Toronto weekend on July 6-8.