RealTime’s trip to the beach started with a rainy practice session, but Cunningham and Esayian made their own sunshine by putting the No. 42 RealTime/Acura/HPD Acura TSX and No. 34 RealTime/Acura/HPD Acura TSX one-two on the time sheets.
A dry 1.968-mile course greeted the team early Sunday morning for qualifying. Cunningham took full advantage of the conditions and laid down the fastest GTS lap, a 1:29.269 (79.364 mph), and earned his World Challenge record-extending 46th career pole position. Esayian qualified his TSX in eighth.
Both the GT and GTS classes were featured in the World Challenge race at Long Beach. The 17 GTS entries were gridded behind 18 GT cars. When the lights went out on the standing start, polesitter Cunningham found himself stuck behind a stalled GT car, enabling the No. 68 Porsche Caymen S of Jack Baldwin to take the lead. Cunningham fell to third briefly, but was back in second before turn three.
It wasn’t long before Cunningham noticed an issue with his Acura’s brake pressure.
“Street courses are notoriously hard on brakes,” Cunningham said. “But, when the brake pedal went to the floor on lap two, I knew we had a serious problem and I was in for a long race.”
Cunningham did everything he could to hold his ground and admirably kept his car on track for all 50 minutes of the race, but as time ticked away without a full-course yellow, the World Challenge veteran fell to seventh.
“After the race we were able to get a better look at the problem and determine it was a brake line fitting failure. I lost all the fluid in the front brakes, which on a front-wheel drive car, is a huge hurdle to overcome.
“It’s disappointing for sure, especially after our strong performance in practice and qualifying,” Cunningham said. “But we still scored enough points to hang on to second in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ points.”
Esayian’s experience at Long Beach was the opposite of his teammates’. Lining up eighth on the GTS grid, the Californian climbed his way through the field to finish fourth, narrowly missing a podium finish. Looking back, Esayian wondered if a yellow flag may have changed his fortunes.
“I was really surprised we went the full race without a yellow flag, especially on a street circuit,” Esayian said. “After the hectic opening laps, I just put my head down and starting picking off cars left and right. By the end I had second and third place in my sights, but the Porsche had checked out. I think if we’d had a couple more laps or a yellow flag, a podium was in the cards for us today, but it didn’t work out that way.
“We were happy to put on a good show for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation though. This group provides scholarship grants to the families of fallen servicemen and women, so their children are ensured a great education. We had a couple Navy SEALs from Coronado join us this weekend and they had a great time.”
Another ray of sunshine on the Long Beach weekend was the return of BuyBrakes.com to the RealTime Acura team. BuyBrakes.com will be featured on the sides of the Acura TSXs for the remainder of the 2012 World Challenge season.
Cunningham remains second in the GTS Drivers’ Championship with 354 points, 61 points behind leader Bell. A top five finish at Long Beach moved Esayian to top five in points with 209. Acura remains second in the Manufacturers’ battle, but the point it scored for the pole helped diminish the extra points Ford earned for second in the race.
RealTime Racing now prepares for round four of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships: the Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park just outside of Salt Lake City. The race will go green at 2:35 PM MT, Saturday, April 28, and air live onwww.world-challengetv.com. Live timing and scoring is available on www.world-challenge.com.
The 2012 season for RealTime Racing is brought to you by Acura, HPD, Red Line Oil, Eibach, Sparco, BOSCH, Brembo,BuyBrakes.com and Total Auto Body.