The SPEED World Challenge took to the streets of Toronto for the first time in series history, and Peter Cunningham in the RealTime Acura TSX, the winningest driver in SCCA Pro Racing history, ended a long drought by claiming his first series win since 2005 at Sebring. Ian Bass finished second, his highest career finish in a SPEED World Challenge race, and, in dramatic fashion, Pierre Kleinubing finished third.
Saturday’s 20-minute qualifying session on the 11-turn, 1.75-mile temporary street course went off at 4:30pm in hot, humid conditions. Given that many drivers had never driven the streets of Toronto course before, quite a few of them were still feeling their way during qualifying. A number of drivers described the course as being ‘greasy’ because of the mix of concrete and asphalt. Canadian Kuno Wittmer, driving the RealTime Acura RSX, was the driver with the most course experience given he had raced in Toronto five previous times, and he used that experience to claim top qualifying spot for Sunday’s race. “It’s a challenging course … there’s fresh asphalt and old concrete, and the painted white and red rumble strips…very slippery. The pavement changes and blind corners are huge factors here” said Wittmer after qualifying. Here’s how the grid looked for Sunday’s 28-lap race:
1. Kuno Wittmer, Acura RSX RealTime 1:20.601 @ 78.386mph
2. Ian Baas Audi A4 STaSIS 1:20.842 @ 78.152mph
3. Chip Herr Audi A4 STaSIS 1:20.846 @ 78.148mph
4. Peter Cunningham Acura TSX RealTime 1:21.134 @ 77.871mph
5. Charles Espenlaub Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed 1:21.166 @77.840mph
6. Randy Pobst Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed 1:21.211 @ 77.797mph
7. Jeff Altenburg Mazda 6 Mazdaspeed 1:21.591 @ 77.435mph
8. Michael Galati Mazda 6 Mazda North America/Tindol 1:21.714 @ 77.318 mph
9. Brandon Davis Acura TSX RealTime 1:21.810 @ 77.227mph
10. Jason Martinelli BMW 325Ci Techmark Autosport Ltd. 1:22.039 @ 77.012mph
The story after qualifying centered on Pierre Kleinubing’s Acura TSX. Kleinubing had originally qualified second, but the splitter on his car was found to be too low, violating series rules and dropping him to the back of the pack as a result.
Sunday’s race was held under a severe thunderstorm warning, with rain falling just before the start of the race. Thankfully the threatening skies held off and drivers had to deal with a mixed damp/dry line. All teams had switched to wet condition tire setups and given the sprint nature of SPEED World Challenge races most teams stuck with this setup.
Off the standing start and into the extremely tight turn one, Wittmer held off challenges from both Herr and Bass to take the early lead. Things stayed that way until lap 3 when Bass went off into the runoff area on turn 3. Then Wittmer did the same at turn 3 on lap 5, and Herr took the lead until lap 10 when he experienced throttle problems down the high-speed straightaway on Lakeshore Blvd. Cunningham took advantage to claim the lead. Meanwhile, Kleinubing dramatically picked off challengers one-by-one and by the mid-point of the race assumed second spot behind Cunningham. Baas, after his lap 3 mishap, regained form and settled into 3rd to challenge both RealTime drivers for the top spot. On lap 24, Kleinubing ran into Cunningham’s rear bumper, almost sending both off into the wall. Amazingly, Cunningham corrected but Bass was able to squeeze by Kleinubing for second. And in the last couple of laps, Cunningham held off furious challenges from Bass to claim the victory.
Here’s how the top 10 finished:
1. Peter Cunningham Acura TSX
2. Ian Baas Audi A4
3. Pierre Kleinubing Acura TSX
4. Randy Pobst Mazda 6
5. Kuno Wittmer Acura RSX
6. Jeff Altenburg Mazda 6
7. Michael Galati Mazda 6
8. James Sofronas BMW 325Ci
9. Nick Esayian Acura TSX
10. Jason Martinelli BMW 325Ci
Driver Points Standings after Toronto:
Randy Pobst 198
Jeff Altenburg 181
Pierre Kleinubing 146
James Sofronas(T) 146
Peter Cunningham 137
Manufacturer Points Standing after Toronto:
Teams now head to Mid-Ohio for Round 7 on July 20-22 and Modified Mag will bring you all of the coverage. The Round 6 race will be broadcast on SPEED, Saturday July 14 at 11am.