Realtime Acura Results at St. Petersburg Grand Prix *Spoilers*
Date: March 26, 2013 10:00
Double Podium for RealTime Acura at St. Petersburg Grand Prix
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 25, 2013) – The 14-event 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season got underway last weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., with a double header the St. Petersburg Sports Car Challenge. The RealTime Acura team began its defense of the GTS Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ titles with two third-place finishes from Peter Cunningham, plus a 10th and seventh-place finish from Nick Esayian.
The fourth season for the GTS category looks to be the strongest yet, with representation from no fewer than 10 different manufacturers. The Acura TSX V6 will face stiff competition from BMW M3, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Ford Mustang Boss 302 S, Kia Optima Turbo, Lotus Exige S, Nissan 370Z, Pontiac Solstice, Porsche Cayman S and the brand new, supercharged Scion FR-S.
Friday - Qualifying
Up against this diverse 25-car GTS field on the punishing St. Pete street circuit, RealTime pilots Cunningham and Esayian qualified fifth and ninth, respectively. Cunningham, the defending GTS Drivers’ Champion, turned a 1:21.394 (79.612 mph) in his No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, while Esayian entered a 1:22.290 (78.645 mph) in the No. 34 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX.
Saturday – Race One
Saturday’s 34-lap race began with a rolling start, a policy initiated last year at double weekends for the first of the two races on those weekends. With the RealTime crew chanting “green” on the radio, Cunningham immediately picked up a position on the start, moving past the sideways No. 16 Porsche Cayman S of Kevin Gleason and into fourth.
The top four cars then checked out from the rest of the GTS pack. By midrace, Cunningham experienced increasing pressure from fifth-running Gleason, but he was able to navigate traffic efficiently enough to develop a comfortable gap.
That cushion was erased when a full-course yellow was issued on lap 26 to retrieve a stalled GTS car from the course. On the restart, Gleason made his move on Cunningham and tried to pass third-place Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 10 Chevrolet Camaro as well. It ended up paying dividends for Cunningham.
“Gleason out-braked me into Turn One and tried to out-brake Lawson at the same time, but he couldn’t get it slowed enough and got into the back of the Camaro,” Cunningham recalled. “I was able to get around both of them. I went from fourth, to fifth, to third in one corner.”
The checkered flag flew three laps later and Cunningham crossed the finish line in the final podium spot with a comfortable gap to fourth. The top-three finishers were the same as the top-three in the 2012 Drivers’ points, but in reverse order, as Jack Baldwin’s No. 73 Porsche was victorious over Andy Lee’s No. 20 Camaro and Cunningham’s Acura.
Esayian appeared en route to a top-five finish before a power steering issue derailed his charge through the field.
“That was probably the most physically demanding race I’ve dealt with,” Esayian said afterwards. “In a front-wheel drive car, on a bumpy course, it's not just about steering the car, but all the feedback you get through the wheel.
“I could have managed it had we stayed yellow, but when the green came back out I didn't want to be unfair to the guys behind me, so I pulled over and let them go. We may have had a top-five, but it was 10th today. We still took home good points though.”
Sunday – Race Two
The grid for Sunday’s race was set by fast laps from Saturday’s race, placing Cunningham fifth on the grid once again and Esayian eighth.
The race started with the traditional standing start, followed by a brief, two-lap full-course caution for a GT car stalled on course. A great start from Esayian promoted the No. 34 to seventh before the yellow.
On the lap three restart, the Camaro of second place Lee began to smoke heavily and was black flagged, promoting Cunningham to fourth. The 33-lap race ran caution free from there on out, leaving Cunningham plenty of time and track to chase down Gleason’s third-place Porsche.
The Acura was on Gleason’s tail when the GT leaders began to come through the front of the GTS field. As one of the GT runners passed Gleason, Cunningham saw his opportunity to pull alongside for the final podium position in Turn 10. Gleason put up a strong defense, but ultimately lost the braking duel, as Cunningham took over third place on the penultimate lap. Baldwin won again and Aschenbach improved three spots from Saturday to finish second.
Esayian briefly moved his car to sixth after the restart, but eventually brought his Acura home in seventh.
“All in all it was a good start to our 2013 season,” Cunningham said. “The key on a street course like St. Pete is to keep your nose clean and let the race come to you, and I think that’s what we did. The whole team is focused on the goal of winning another championship for Acura and as it stands, Acura is second in the points, so we’ll keep building from here.”
To learn more about RealTime Racing, visit www.realtimerl.com or follow the team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RealTimeRacing
With a pair of third-place finishes, Acura is currently second in the GTS Manufacturers’ Championship, five points behind Chevrolet. Cunningham is tied for second in the Drivers’ points. Esayian is ninth.
The Pirelli World Challenge season opener from St. Petersburg will air on NBC Sports, Sunday, April 7 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
From one ocean to another, RealTime Racing next heads to Long Beach, Calif., for the Long Beach Grand Prix, round three of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships. The race is scheduled for April 21 at 7:30 PM ET. Live coverage will be available on www.world-challengetv.com.
RealTime Racing’s 2013 season is brought to you by Acura, HPD, Eibach, Sparco, BOSCH, Brembo, Earthwalk Flooring, and Total Auto Body.
Last edited by JMU R1 on
March 26, 2013 10:07