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.
Weather conditions for Saturday morning’s Round 5 qualifying got under way with cool and clear conditions gracing the track. And those conditions assisted the drivers as qualifying times dropped in dramatic fashion. As he had in qualifying for Round 4, Randy Pobst claimed top spot, but with a time three seconds faster than that of his top time in Friday’s Round 4 qualifying. “When the air temperature drop, the engines make a lot more power. It’s  degrees cooler than it was yesterday and that makes a big, big difference.” Said Pobst.
Here’s how the top 10 looked for the Round 5 race:
1. Randy Pobst Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed Mtspts Development 2:02.730@ 99.731
2. Jeff Altenburg Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed Mtspts Development 2:04.122 @ 98.612
3. James Sofronas BMW 325Ci Global Motorsports Group 2:04.256 @ 98.506
4. Pierre Kleinubing Acura TSX Cert. Pre-Owned Acura/RealTime 2:04.366 @ 98.419
5. Peter Cunningham Acura TSX Cert. Pre-Owned Acura/RealTime 2:04.371 @ 98.415
6. Charles Espenlaub Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed/Tindol/Oakley/Sparc 2:04.373 @ 98.413
7. Chip Herr Audi A4 STaSIS/Clear Cap 2:04.454 @ 98.349
8. Roberto Santos(R) Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed Mtspts Development 2:04.456@ 98.348
9. Kuno Wittmer Acura RSX Cert. Pre-Owned Acura/RealTime 2:04.472 @ 98.335
10. Seth Thomas BMW 325i Bimmerworld 2:04.478 @ 98.330
Round 5’s race went off the morning of Sunday June 10. Off the standing start Sofronas took the hole shot ahead of both Pobst and Altenburg, with Kleinubing and Espenlaub in 4th and 5th. It stayed that way until drama ensued in turn 10 near the end of lap 12 when Altenburg ran wide off onto the curbing with Pobst sliding by and Kleinubing trying to slide by as well. As Altenburg got all four wheels back onto the track he clipped Kleinubing in turn 11 resulting in the Acura TSX sliding sideways into the tire barrier coming onto the front straight, thus ending Kleinubing’s run for the podium in Round 5. (Editor’s note: Kleinubing’s team RealTime Racing filed a protest after the race. SCCA Pro Racing Championship officials reviewed the incident and Altenburg was fined 10 Drivers’ Championship points and one Manufacturers’ Championship point. Altenburg has expressed intent to appeal the decision. Results will remain provisional until the appeal has been heard.) Then on lap 14 with Sofronas running loose into turn 7, Pobst slid by and never looked back to take the win. And with both weekend wins, Pobst now leads the driver’s championship.
Here’s how the driver’s championship points total looked after Rounds 5*:
Randy Pobst 172
Jeff Altenburg 171
James Sofronas 128
Pierre Kleinubing 117
Charles Espenlaub 110
Here’s how the manufacturer’s points total looked after Round 5*:
Catch both races 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.
*Point totals do not reflect RealTime’s protest and subsequent Altenburg penalty…awaiting confirmation of Altenburg appeal.