Acura Still Second in Manufacturer Points
August 4, 2002 ? Trois-Rivieres, Quebec
RealTime Racing driver Peter Cunningham is the new points leader in the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship, following a crash by teammate Pierre Kleinubing, who was leading early in the Trois-Rivieres street circuit race when he suffered a cracked brake line.
Cunningham drove his #42 RTR Acura Integra Type R to a fourth place finish, only 2.766 seconds away from the win, but behind Mazda Protege-mounted Chuck Hemmingson, Mosport-winner Ken Dobson?s BMW 325Ci, and former RTR teammate Mike Fitzgerald?s Lexus IS 300.
Cunningham took the points lead from Kleinubing 157-143, after seven of 11 rounds in the 2002 Touring Car Drivers? Championship.
Acura remains second in Manufacturers? Championship points to BMW, but the gap is now 13 points instead of nine.
Kleinubing put his similar #1 plated RTR machine on the pole for the third time this season with a blistering 71.466mph lap on the 1.521-mile fairgrounds circuit, with Cunningham third fastest at 71.294mph. Four cars qualified within one second of the pole. Kleinubing held the track?s qualifying record coming into the race, and won the 1999 event there, the last time SPEED World Challenge cars came to central Quebec.
RTR entered three Touring Cars this weekend. Fred Meyer qualified 33rd fastest in his #45 RTR Integra, and finished 25th, picking up his first points of the 2002 season.
At the drop of the green flag, Kleinubing powered his way into the lead of the 35-car field, and on lap four went even faster than his qualifying time with a 71.497mph lap, which would stand up as the race?s fastest.
However, on lap six, Kleinubing approached Turn Eight in a similar fashion to what he had on the previous five tours, only to realize he had a serious braking problem, caused by a cracked hydraulic brake line. He scrubbed as much speed as possible by intentionally spinning, before slamming backwards into the tires protecting the concrete retaining wall.
?After two years of keeping the fenders on my car, we go to two street tracks and have body damage at both places,? Kleinubing said. ?These two 34th place finishes weren?t very helpful with the points championship, but we?re not far behind, and there?s still plenty of time to catch the boss!?
At the time of Kleinubing?s crash, Cunningham was pressuring second place Will Turner?s BMW 325is, after passing Charles Espenlaub?s Mazda Protege on lap two. After Pierre?s demise, this became the battle for the lead, and it continued in lockstep until lap ten.
At the end of the long back straight, Cunningham found himself sliding straight off the road into the runoff area at Turn Six. ?At the time, I didn?t know what the hell happened, the tires just locked up on me,? lamented Cunningham. ?But then Taz (Harvey) immediately joined me, so I figured we both must have hit some oil.? Third place at the time and eventual winner Hemmingson confirmed this, and was thankful he had managed to sneak through.
After backing up and returning to the fray in a distant fifth place, a frustrated Cunningham was catching Fitzgerald at a reported rate of two seconds per lap, and with a best effort of a 71.293mph lap, Cunningham was only able to snuggle up to the bumper of the rather wide Lexus, but not complete the pass. The two finished .298 seconds apart at the checkered flag.
The next race for the Touring Cars is August 16-18, a return engagement for 2002 at Mosport International Raceway, near Toronto, Ontario. The SPEED GT category cars will not compete there.
The Trois-Rivieres Touring Car race will debut on the SPEED Channel on Sunday, August 17, at 9pm EST.
The RealTime Racing Acura Integras are sponsored by the Acura Division of American Honda, Red Line Oil, Eibach Springs, BOSCH, Sparco, Brembo, Hella, Gemini Technologies, Goodridge, Hawk Performance, and Acura of Brookfield.