Watkins Glen: Tri-Point Motorsports race report
Dominant Weekend for Pobst and Tri-Point MAZDA6 at Double Header Watkins WCTC Event With Two Poles and Two Wins It was a near perfect weekend of racing for Tri-Point hot shoe Randy Pobst of Gainesville, Georgia as he dominated the racing action ...
Dominant Weekend for Pobst and Tri-Point MAZDA6 at Double Header Watkins WCTC Event With Two Poles and Two Wins
It was a near perfect weekend of racing for Tri-Point hot shoe Randy Pobst of Gainesville, Georgia as he dominated the racing action at this past weekend's double header SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car race that was held as part of the Sahlen's Six Hour Grand American endurance racing weekend. Pobst qualified on pole for both of the Touring Car races of the weekend and then went on to win the first race in flag to flag fashion and took the win in the second race after an intense dice at the sharp end of the field. The two wins vaulted Pobst to the top of the driver's championship points race and also padded Mazda's points tally in the manufacturer's title battle. Tri-Point drivers Jeff Altenburg of Ellicott City, Maryland and Roberto Santos of Monterrey, Mexico also had strong weekends, making the Watkins event a successful outing for Tri-Point Motorsports and Mazda.
With only one official practice session and two qualifying sessions scheduled for the double header Touring Car weekend, teams and drivers were under pressure to settle on a proper set up for their machines. Pobst started the weekend the way he would end it, by setting fastest time with a 2:06.604 / 96.670 mph lap of the 3.4-mile "long course" version of Watkins Glen International Raceway. Altenburg, who this season has had phenomenal practice, qualifying and race results was an uncharacteristic fourteenth place in practice at a 2:08.368. Roberto Santos, who continues to show speed at every track and every event turned in a 2:09.322 to finish the session nineteenth.
Qualifying Session #1
Qualifying for race number one was held shortly following the first and only practice session, and it took Pobst only four minutes to turn in his pole position qualifying lap. Pobst and his blue and white #73 Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDA6 stopped the clocks at a 2:05.459 earning the top qualifying spot for the first time this season. Altenburg improved considerably and moved forward in qualifying although he still was not in familiar 2007 qualifying territory as he placed the #72 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Tri-Point entry ninth with a 2:06.984. Santos also gained time in qualifying as he shed over two seconds from his practice time to turn in a 2:07.316 to earn eleventh on the grid. Santos' rookie status continues to belie his obvious ability in hustling the #74 MAZDA6.
Qualifying Session #2
Qualifying for race number two was held early Saturday morning and Pobst again was the yardstick for the field as he turned in another pole-position- winning lap of 2:02.730. Altenburg bouncing back to his accustomed 2007 form, joined Pobst on the front row with a 2:04.122 and Santos secured eighth on the grid with a time of 2:04.456. Just over three tenths of a second separated second from eighth on the grid for race two, and the race promised to be action packed.
Despite pressure over the first lap from several competitors, Pobst was largely uncontested in race one as he lead all twenty laps, taking a commanding flag to flag victory. Altenburg, who had several similar performances in the 06 SPEED Touring Car season, raced better than he had qualified, and was able to move up to fifth by the checkered flag. Although not where he is used to finishing in 07, it was a solid improvement for the #72 MAZDA6 pilot and gained him valuable championship points. Santos also raced strongly, moving his way up to seventh before a green flag restart on lap fifteen following a lap fourteen full course yellow. A bunched up field and the fact that only five laps remained in the race made for some hard racing on the restart, and the #74 MAZDA6 of Santos was unceremoniously bumped into a spin. Santos hung tough however and clawed his way back to finish sixteenth on the day.
On the face of it, the fact that Pobst won race two suggested an easy time of the weekend, but there was considerably more action for the Tri-Point driver on Sunday. In fact, from the green flag Randy would find himself in a position from which he would have to fight back for the lead. The #29 Tecmark Autosport BMW 325 Ci of James Sofronas ultimately got a better start than either Randy or Jeff, and was able to assume the lead into turn one. Shortly thereafter Altenburg snuck by Pobst and by lap eight the race became a nose to tail battle between the front running BMW of Sofronas, Altenburg's MAZDA6, the Tri-Point entry of Pobst and the #1 Realtime racing Acura TSX of defending series champion Pierre Kleinubing.
On lap twelve, Altenburg, pushing hard for the finish, dropped tires in a rare miscue for the Mazda driver, and fell back into the clutches of Kleinubing. The #1 Acura tried an outside move around the fast right hander turn eleven that leads onto the front straight. Altenburg was squeezed onto the tall inside curbing and the #72 entry bounced off the curbing making contact with the #1 Acura and sending it spinning toward the outside tire barrier. Altenburg was able to continue despite the contact and ultimately brought the car to the checkered flag third.
Following the contact between Altenburg and Kleinubing, Pobst, now running second, set his sites on the #29 of Sofronas. By lap fourteen, Pobst was hounding the #29 and when Sofronas snapped the car slightly sideways at the exit of "The Boot" section Pobst was by in a flash. Randy immediately stretched his lead and continued in that fashion until the checkered flag on lap twenty. The only point that Pobst failed to score for the weekend was the single point for most laps lead in race two, which went to Sofronas.
Santos got the most of his #74 entry in race number two and turned a very strong 2:05.648 lap on his way to a sixth place finish. Santos' run earned him the Piloti Rookie of the Race award for the second time this season.
Jeff Altenburg - Driver #72 Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDA6
"Some less than stellar qualifying strategy for the first race put me at a disadvantage but we moved forward to finish 5th taking me off the podium for the first time this year. Qualified 2nd for the next race and came home third after some tough moments with a couple of different drivers. My StopTech brakes were stellar as always and helped me get back on the podium for the 4th time this year.
I feel bad for Pierre Kleinubing as his race ended prematurely after we made contact at the apex of the last turn. I had an unscheduled trip off track for a few seconds, and came back on a couple of hundred yards before the last turn, Pierre went for an outside pass, and I went low to give him room, unfortunately he came down just low enough to squeeze me into the curbing which bounced me out and into him spinning him out of the race. It's a bad deal and I wish I hadn't been involved."
Randy Pobst - Driver #73 Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDA6
"Thanks Mazda and Tri-Point for the greatest weekend of my career! Watkins Glen felt like my home track from the moment we rolled off the trailer. The MAZDA6 loved "The Boot", and StopTech was part of our winning package. Or maybe it was my new partners Team Janica Racing? Special thanks to Craig Nagler and mechanics Chris, Greg and Ron for a job well done."
Roberto Santos - Driver #74 Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDA6
"My MAZDA6 was great through both races, Saturday and Sunday. Craig and the guys at Tri-Point did a great job on the Mazda working long into the night to have it ready for both races. I ran 7th on Saturday until the restart about halfway through the race when everyone got jammed together, and I was bumped and spun. On Sunday everything went great. I gained a couple spots on the start and managed to keep my position all the way to the end."
Randy's strong performance at Watkins Glen allowed him to take over first in the driver's championship points race, and he currently sits just slightly ahead of teammate Altenburg 172-171.
With fifty points, Roberto Santos sits fifteenth in the championship race. Although he does not currently lead the Rookie of the Year chase since he did not compete in the season opener, his current performances suggest that he will likely be a factor in the ROTY title as the season continues.
Mazda continues to add to its manufacturer's points total and at the halfway point of the season now has a commanding lead over Acura 45-22. BMW is currently third with seventeen points and Audi sits fourth with twelve.
The SPEED Touring Car championship takes a one-month break in race action until July 6-8 when they visit Toronto as part of the Champ Car World Series weekend.