Rivera, Kleinubing power to Road America wins

Tony Rivera and Pierre Kleinubing scored wins in the SCCA SPEED World Challenge events this weekend at Road America. Rivera took his second SPEED GT win for Brass Monkey Racing in a Porsche 911 GT3, while Kleinubing snapped a winless drought of 16 ...

Rivera, Kleinubing power to Road America wins

Tony Rivera and Pierre Kleinubing scored wins in the SCCA SPEED World Challenge events this weekend at Road America. Rivera took his second SPEED GT win for Brass Monkey Racing in a Porsche 911 GT3, while Kleinubing snapped a winless drought of 16 races in a RealTime Racing Acura TSX in Touring Car.

In GT, Rivera led home Eric Curran in a Whelen Engineering Corvette and Dino Crescentini in a Global Motorsports Group Porsche. In the Sunday morning race, Rivera captured his first win since the season opener in Sebring, his second this year. Rivera avoided a frantic start when pole sitter James Sofronas stalled.

"I didn't expect James not to move," Rivera said of the start. "I almost got into the back of him because I was so focused on the lights. They went out, I looked up and was like 'oh no!' I got alongside Kuno and I don't think he knew that I was there. He was trying to protect the right side going into one and I nearly had my right tires in the grass all the way up to Turn One. I decided to give [the position] to him."

Rivera advanced from third to second on the start, behind Kuno Wittmer. The field did an excellent job of swerving to avoid the stationary Porsche. A shame for Sofronas who was also supposed to make his ALMS debut this weekend with the GMG Porsche in the ALMS Challenge class, but that car was withdrawn.

Wittmer, running both GT and Touring Car this weekend, proceeded to get the jump on the field into Turn 1. Wittmer, in a Woodhouse Performance Dodge Viper, had the measure of the field until Rivera came calling with a pass into Turn 12, Canada Corner. Wittmer ran second but fell off the road on lap 7 with a wheel bearing failure.

"I realized later that lap that he was just flat holding me up," Rivera said. "I knew he wasn't going to interfere in our Championship, so I looked inside again down in Turn 12 and he let me have it."

Rivera proceeded to check out, a three-second lead becoming six as an intense battle for second was occurring behind him. Curran, Crescentini and Brandon Davis all were in lockstep while racing amongst themselves. Curran passed Crescentini into Canada, and then two laps later passed Davis for what became second in Turn 8. Crescentini got Davis on the outside into Turn 5.

"Brandon's a close friend of mine and it's fun to get in his mirrors and push him a little bit," Curran said. "He raced me clean. It would have been nice to see Kuno have a good run but he had a problem. He really slowed up and he held Brandon and me up quite a bit and that allowed Tony to get away and really gap us."

Crescentini won at Watkins Glen so this was his second podium finish of the season. He discussed his battle amongst the leaders.

"It was a great day, it was good, clean racing," he said. "We had some troubles with practice and qualifying. But the StopTech/GMG team did a great job preparing the car for the race. I was trying to chase down Eric (Curran) at the end but just didn't have enough for him."

Davis finished fourth and maintained his points lead, with the returning Jason Daskalos completing the top-five. Randy Pobst, the Autobahn winner in a K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, finished sixth.

There was another very tight battle from seventh on back. The five-car group of Mike Borkowski, Ritch Marziale, Sonny Whelen, Tony Gaples and Brian Kubinski were all running amongst themselves and trading positions almost at each corner.

In Saturday evening's Touring Car race, Kleinubing's win has added value by winning at Peter Cunningham's team's home track. RealTime houses their Acura TSXs in Saukville, Wis, about 50 miles from the circuit.

"This is a big weight off my shoulders," Kleinubing said. "I'm glad I still can do it. I was a little worried that (team owner) Peter (Cunningham) was going to fire me after this season. Hopefully, he'll keep on for a few more."

Despite the home track presence, it has been a dry spell for Peter Cunningham's team at the track. It's the first win for the team at Road America since Michael Galati in 1996. Kleinubing ends a 16-race winless drought dating to the 2008 season opener at Sebring.

Kleinubing led home four Mazda 6s, as fastest qualifier Charles Espenlaub snared second place ahead of Patrick Lindsey, Jason Saini and Eric Foss. While Espenlaub recorded his third runner-up finish of the season, Lindsey in a privateer Horton Autosport entry split up the trio of Tri-Point's entries, en route to his first ever SPEED World Challenge podium finish.

Kleinubing took the lead from teammate and first-starting Kuno Wittmer on the sixth of 17 laps, and cruised from there to the victory. Wittmer ran second for a couple laps before stopping with mechanical gremlins. He lost a lap and finished an unrepresentative 10th.

It was a clean race from that point on for Kleinubing except for one particularly hairy moment, the Brazilian who has become an adopted RealTime family member with all his years of service to Cunningham's organization running well wide at Turn 7 but not lifting.

"I usually run pretty hard on that curb," Kleinubing admitted. "At that point, I was thinking 'I'll just take it easy through here,' but then the car bounced off the curb in a weird way and put me off. I just kept my foot in it and it saved me."

Espenlaub earned the day's hard charger award after advancing three positions, making the best of losing the post-qualifying coin toss. Espenlaub was the fastest qualifier but incorrectly called "heads" and fell to fifth on the starting grid.

"Tri-Point gave me a great MAZDA6 today," Espenlaub said. "It absolutely could have won had the coin toss gone another way. I probably could have caught Pierre eventually, but catching Pierre and passing Pierre are two different things. I definitely had a car to lead the race."

He got a solid start and advanced to fourth, then made a move on Lindsey for third as the youngster went wide in Turn 7. That became the runner-up spot when Wittmer fell off the road.

"I had a pretty good launch, so we got up there, but then the lead pack started to take off a little bit," Espenlaub said. "When Pierre and Kuno started running together, I thought 'let's save the tires and maybe when I get to them I'll have some tire left,' but they kept going harder and harder. I finally had to pick it up and try and run with them.

Lindsey was in the top three in each session and felt rewarded for scoring a podium in an intensely-fought class. Points leader Saini's day was uneventful and fourth was a tough result to swallow after consecutive victories.

"Maybe in the beginning I could have caught (Kleinubing), but I think I drove a little too hard trying to catch those guys, and I had to starting settling down and managing my tires better," Lindsey said. "The car was set up really well. Horton Autosport did a great job, just not quite enough to catch Charles and Pierre today."

Cunningham's race was eventful, as throughout the day he was battling intensely with the Tri-Point Mazda driven by series rookie Foss and the Bimmerworld BMW 325i of James Clay, the 2008 Road America Touring Car race winner.

Cunningham emerged sixth behind Foss at day's end, Clay having a moment at the notorious Turn 7 after a series of laps just beating and banging on Cunningham's car. It was an unfortunate personal result for Cunningham, who still managed to see one of his cars score an overdue victory at the team's home race.

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