Peter Cunnigham earned his 41st career Pirelli World Challenge win on Saturday.
Long’s No. 45 Privacy Star/TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 qualified second alongside Johnny O’Connell’s polesitting No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V, but the pair were split at the standing start by Randy Pobst from the second row, earning Pobst the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race.
Pobst’s K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 led until electrical issues sent him to pit lane on lap four, leaving Long on the point. Once in front, Long led O’Connell through traffic, eventually pulling away for a 5.053-second victory. Long averaged 75.678 mph over the 27-lap, 60.615 mile race.
“There’s three rounds to go and points are very close,” Long said. “World Challenge rewards you for laps led, leading a lap, and qualifying as well, so you really have to put a complete weekend together. You can’t just go out there and banzai the last lap. I think it’s all about consistency.
We were really strong early on at St. Pete and Long Beach, then we sort of had to bide our time and ride it out through some of the bigger tracks like Mosport and Mid-Ohio. It’s going to get tougher at the end of the year at Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta, so we need to capitalize tomorrow, but certainly we need to capitalize on it tomorrow.”
O’Connell earned his fourth podium finish in five races with the runner-up nod.
“I was struggling, fighting the rear of the car from the third lap on,” O’Connell said. “I kept hoping that [Long] would have [issues with] tires, but he didn’t. Then I was hoping he would hit traffic and he didn’t, and then I was hoping I could hang on.
“All things considered, as difficult a race car as it was, second is a good result. It is what it is and we’ll get it better for tomorrow.”
Mike Skeen, who started sixth in the No. 2 CRP/Cragar Wheels Chevrolet Corvette, clawed through the field for a third-place finish.
“We had a big hiccup in qualifying and through it away,” Skeen said. “I think we had a good car then, and should have been at least top three. We got a decent start and got lucky in traffic and got around Andy [Pilgrim]. I feel kind of lucky to be on the podium today, but we’ll take it and the Cragar Corvette to tomorrow and battle again.”
Andy Pilgrim, driving the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, finished fourth, sandwiched nose-to-tail between Skeen and the No. 4 StopTech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 of Dino Crescentini at the checkered flag. Crescentini started 10th and was charging hard at the conclusion of the race, closing the gap to Pilgrim.
Pobst finished the race scored in 15th position.
Long also turned the fastest lap of the race in 1:35.814 (84.351 mph), important because Sunday’s race grid is set by the fastest race laps on Saturday – giving Long the pole for Round 10.
With the win, Long has extended his GT Drivers’ Championship lead to 124 points over Johnny O’Connell, 1002 – 878. O’Connell moved ahead of sixth-finishing James Sofronas, who now has 872 points. Skeen (850) and Pilgrim (697) complete the top five. Porsche now holds a 64-38 lead over Cadillac in the GT Manufacturers’ Championship, with Volvo third with 18 points.
The polesitter in GTS, Cunningham’s No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX was swarmed on the standing start by the Ford Mustangs of Eric Foss and Paul Brown, falling back to third place and settling in for the early stages of the race.
Foss earned the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award and led the first two laps in the No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S, then gave way to Brown in the No. 50 Lucas Oil/K&N Filter/Wellendorf Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Cunningham moved past Foss on lap eight for second, then moved past Brown on lap 18 when Brown slid wide in the exit of Turn Seven. The pass for the lead earned Cunningham the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award.
Once in open air, Cunningham beat Brown to the checkered flag by 4.948 seconds for his first win of the season and 41st of his career in the Pirelli World Challenge.
“It feels great. World Challenge is even more competitive than ever this year,” Cunnigham said. “Last year, GTS had some growth to do as a new class, and since the start of the 2011 season it’s been really competitive – so competitive that our car hasn’t been on the top step. The Acura has been good all year, just not quite as good as the higher horsepower, bigger displacement cars. But the RealTime Racing guys kept working hard, trying to make sure that we had the best weapon to use out there and a track like Sonoma is definitely a good track for the Acura.”
Sonoma resident Greg Liefooghe earned a third-place finish in the No. 16 Red Line Oil Ford Mustang Boss 302S in his Pirelli World Challenge debut. Teammates Ben Crosland (No. 25 RaceWithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S) and Brad Adams (No. 75 RaceWithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S) finished fourth and fifth, just behind Liefooghe.
Foss fell out of contention after brake issues caused him to hit the rear of the No. 05 Momentum Autosport Chevrolet Camaro of Alec Udell on lap eight, sending Udell into the tire barrier and folding the front of Foss’ Mustang. Udell continued for a 10th-place finish, with Foss’ day ending in 11th.
Crosland’s 1:44.489 (77.347 mph) was the fastest GTS lap of the race, earning him the GTS pole for Sunday.
Brown’s runner-up finish extended his GTS Drivers’ Championship lead over Foss, 1129-944. Cunningham moves into third with 912 points, followed by Crosland (883) and Adams (677). Ford holds the GTS Manufacturers’ Championship lead over Acura, 82-45.
Aschenbach led flag-to-flag in the No. 71 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si to earn his fourth win of the season in the Touring Car class. Starting from the pole, the Honda pulled away with second-starting Aaron Povoledo’s No. 88 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30. When the Volvo experienced a mechanical failure and came to stop on the front straight on lap three – bringing out the race’s only full course caution period – Aschenbach sailed to the finish and a final 8.826-second margin of victory.
“We obviously had a very good points day today,” Aschenbach said. “The minute Povoledo fell out, it was pretty much points, take care of the car, and keep it on the track. Fortunately, this track suits the Civic very well. Hats off to the Compass360 guys and Honda HPD for making it happen. It was a great car and a great track for us, and we’re really happy to take the win.”
Tristan Herbert started third and finished second in the No. 33 GermanAutoParts.com/Techtonics Volkswagen GTI. Driving for an underfunded Brimtek Motorsports team, the former SCCA Club Racer hauled the racecar from the team’s home shop in Virginia across the country on an open trailer to compete this weekend and earning an impressive runner-up finish – Herbert’s first podium finish since Miller Motorsports Park in April.
Patrick Seguin earned his second podium finish of the season and first since the opening weekend in the No. 80 Theberge Homes/capsparts.com Honda Civic Si, followed by Robb Holland in the No. 66 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30. Holland earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award after improving nine overall positions during the race.
Ray Mason placed the second Compass360 Racing car in the top five in Touring Car, earning a fifth-place finish in the No. 74 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si.
Aschenbach also earned the pole for Sunday’s race with a fast race lap of 1:48.784 (74.294 mph).
With Aschenbach’s win and Povoledo’s 11th place finish, Aschenbach extended his advantage in the Touring Car Drivers’ Championship, now leading 1175-933 over Povoledo. Holland (811), Herbert (711) and Ron Zitza (682), who finished 10th with mechanical issues, fill out the top five with three races remaining in the season. Honda leads the Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship 70-50 over Volvo, with Volkswagen (42) in third.
The Pirelli World Challenge Round Nine race will air on Versus at 5:30 p.m. EDT on September 18. Sunday’s Round 10 is scheduled to begin at 4:50 p.m. PDT. Follow all live timing and notes at world-challenge.com. Sunday’s race will be streamed live on world-challengetv.com.
For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com.
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