In 2003, the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) World Challenge series was in its fourteenth season.
For the fifth year Speed Channel was the primary sponsor.
SCCA had developed a successful format that attracted competitors and fans.
Race weekends included two standing start fifty-minute races – one for the Grand Touring class and another for the Touring Cars.
To prevent any driver/car combination from dominating the class and ensuring tight competition, the R.E.W.A.R.D.S. System was implemented. Introduced in 1995, R.E.W.A.R.D.S. is the acronym for ‘Rewarding of Equalizing Weight Assigned to Reduce Driver Sensitivity.' This weight equalization rule adds or removes ballast from a car based on the finishing position of a driver.
There were ten-race weekends during the 2003 season. The opening round was in March at Sebring, Florida, followed by back to back race weekends in May at Mosport Park and Lime Rock. Two races would be held for the Grand Touring category at Lime Rock. Lime Rock was followed by the first of two events held at Road Atlanta (June and October). Both classes competed at Infineon Raceway but the next event at Mid-Ohio was only for Touring Cars. The series moved to Road America, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and then the penultimate round at Road Atlanta. The series finale was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Round eight of the 2003 SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge Touring Car Championship was held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The race was scheduled to be fifty-minutes in length around the eleven-turn 2.238-mile road course.
|A field of third-six, Speed World Challenge Touring Car competitors follow the pole-sitter, Jeff Altenburg, into Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s corner two. Immediately, behind Altenburg is the Acura RSX-S of the third-fastest qualifier and championship hopeful, Pierre Kleinubing. Beside Kleinubing is front row starter, Shauna Marinus in a Mazda Protege ES and the BMW 325i of the point’s leader, Bill Auberlen.|
|The start of Jeff Altenburg’s 2003 World Challenge campaign was dismal. In the first three-rounds, his best finish was a twenty-first place. His results improved at Road Atlanta and Infineon Raceway, where he captured the runner-up spot. But the highlight of Altenburg’s racing season had to be Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where, he started on the pole in the Tri-Point Mazda Protege ES and led flag-to-flag for his first series victory.|
|By the time the series arrived at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Bill Auberlen had a firm grip on the points lead. His only challenger for the title was Pierre Kleinubing and it would take a miracle for him to win the championship. Auberlen started fifth and captured the runner-up spot. His rival, Kleinubing, encountered problems and finished twenty-second. Auberlen clinched the Touring Car title with two events remaining.|
|Chuck Hemmingson entered the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event with one podium finish (third place at Mid-Ohio) to his credit in 2003. Hemmingson would add another this weekend. In the qualifying session, he recorded the eighth fast time driving the Red Line / Mazdaspeed sponsored Mazda Protege ES. During the race, Hemmingson moved up the order and on the last lap, he passed Bob Stretch for third place.|
|The 2000 and 2001 SCCA World Series Touring Car champion, Pierre Kleinubing, had a chance of securing his third championship. It would require him to finish ahead of the point’s leader, Bill Auberlen and post some outstanding results in the final three rounds. At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Kleinubing qualified on the outside of the front row. But his title hopes ended with a misfire that relegated him to a twenty-second-place finish.|
|Bob Endicott joined the series in round two at Mosport. The early part of his season included a disqualification at Infineon Raceway and a failure to start the Road Atlanta race. But it came together for Endicott at Mid-Ohio, where he started third and won. In qualifying at Laguna Seca, he was sixteenth quickest but charged to the front and finished fourth. For his effort, Endicott was earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award.|
|It seemed appropriate that the front row of the starting grid at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was occupied by a pair of Madazs. Starting second was Shauna Marinus in a Tri-Point Racing prepared Mazda Protege ES. The former SCCA National Solo champion put her driving skills to good use – this season, she had qualified second four-times. Unfortunately, Marinus was unable to maintain the pace of the leaders and finished sixth.|
|RealTime Racing team principal, Peter Cunningham, switched makes in round two at Mosport. Instead of driving an Acura, he was now campaigning a Nissan SE-R. In the early part of the season, the Nissan was fast but unreliable. In the previous, race at Road America Cunningham qualified on the pole and scored the car’s first victory. At Laguna Seca, he qualified fourth but retired late in the contest with a suspension problem.|
|Driving the No. 13 Mazda Protégé ES was Charles Espenlaub. Espenlaub’s last two outings were terrible – he retired early with mechanical issues at Mid-Ohio and Road America. His ‘string of back luck’ would continue at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Espenlaub qualified thirty-first but was out of the race after just three laps. His only consolation was earning the B&M Hole Shot Award for advancing eight positions on the first lap.|
|1||1||Jeff Altenburg||Mazda Protege ES||26||-|
|2||5||Bill Auberlen||BMW 325i||26||-|
|3||8||Chuck Hemmingson||Mazda Protege ES||26||-|
|4||16||Bob Endicott||Acura RSX-S||26||-|
|5||7||Bob Stretch||BMW 325Ci||26||-|
|6||2||Shauna Marinus||Mazda Protege ES||26||-|
|7||12||Shane Lewis||Mazda Protege ES||26||-|
|8||9||Tim Pappas||Lexus IS300||26||-|
|9||14||Jon Prall||Audi A4||26||-|
|10||15||James Sofronas||BMW 325Ci||26||-|
|11||11||Will Turner||BMW 325i||26||-|
|12||6||Mike Fitzgerald||Lexus IS300||26||-|
|13||24||Bobby Carter||BMW 325Ci||26||-|
|14||25||Zac Mazzotta||Acura RSX-S||26||-|
|15||22||Kevin McKee||Acura Integra R||26||-|
|16||23||Mike Van Sicklen||Lexus IS300||26||-|
|17||18||Robert Baxter||Mazda Protege ES||26||-|
|18||19||James Clay||BMW 325i||26||-|
|19||21||Matt Richmond||BMW 325i||26||-|
|20||27||Mickey Miller||BMW 328is||26||-|
|21||26||Ralph Warren||BMW 328||26||-|
|22||3||Pierre Kleinubing||Acura RSX-S||26||-|
|23||28||Andrew Monterrubio||Acura Integra R||26||-|
|24||35||Fred Meyer||Acura Integra R||26||-|
|25||34||Mike Davis||Honda Civic||25||-|
|26||36||Scott Lucas||Acura Integra R||25||-|
|28||29||Rich Maki||BMW 325Ci||23||-|
|29||33||Paul Bonaccorsi||Mazda Protege ES||21||Mechanical|
|30||4||Peter Cunningham||Nissan SE-R||18||Suspension|
|31||30||Ori Della Penna||BMW 328i||13||Contact|
|32||17||Christian Elder||Mazda Protege ES||12||Mechanical|
|33||10||Ken Dobson||BMW 325Ci||9||Suspension|
|34||20||Eric Curran||Nissan SE-R||7||Transmission|
|35||13||Roger Foo||Mazda Protege ES||6||Mechanical|
|36||31||Charles Espenlaub||Mazda Protege ES||3||Mechanical|
|37||32||David Sanborn||Audi A4||0||Did Not Start|
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