In 2001, the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) World Challenge Championship was in its twelfth season. For the third year, Speedvision was the primary sponsor. SCCA had developed a successful format that attracted competitors and fans. A couple changes of note for this year:
  • There were larger purses due to an increase in the number of sponsors.
  • Competitors would be using a new spec tire from Toyo.

Race weekends included two standing start races (limited to fifty-minutes) – one for the Grand Touring class and another for the Touring Cars.

  • Grand Touring (GT) – The GT class rules accommodate an extensive range of vehicles from different manufacturers. There is no limit to the engine displacement in this category and cars may use a forced induction system. To stop the cars, alternative materials may be utilized for the brake pads and shoes. Rules also allow the use of four-piston calipers but rotors are limited to 14-inches in diameter. The maximum diameter of the wheels is 18-inches and any changes to the bodywork must be approved. The series uses a spec tire and competitors race on Toyo Proxes RA-1s.
  • Touring Car (TC) – The Touring Cars are limited to an engine displacement of 2.8-liters. The motors must be naturally aspirated (turbochargers or superchargers are not permitted). The Touring Cars are also allowed four-piston calipers and alternative materials for the brake pads and shoes but the maximum rotor diameter is 12-inches. Wheels in this group are limited to 17-inches. Cars can be fitted with a spec rear wing and approved aftermarket bodywork. This category also uses a spec tire from Toyo – the Proxes T1-S.

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 eight-race weekends during the 2001 season. The opening rounds were in March at Texas Motor Speedway and Sebring, Florida. Teams weren’t back in action until May at Mosport International Raceway and Lime Rock Park. Lime Rock would be a doubleheader for the Touring Cars. The next event would be at Detroit’s Belle Isle which was just for the Grand Touring category. The championship would move to the west coast with races at Sears Point Raceway, Portland International Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The schedule initially included a round at Charlotte Motor Speedway but when the American Le Mans Series announced the cancellation of their event at Charlotte, the World Challenge championship lost its season finale. To replace it a doubleheader was scheduled for the twelve-turn 2.54-mile road course at Road Atlanta.

The field is gridded for the season’s final Speedvision World Challenge Touring Car race. On the pole, is the newly crowned Touring Car champion, Pierre Kleinubing driving the RealTime Racing prepared Acura Integra Type R. Sharing the front row with Kleinubing is the duPont Motorsports BMW 328is of Jeff Altenburg. Behind these two is Friday’s race winner, Neal Sapp in a BMW 325is and the Honda Civic Si of Taz Harvey.
The series 2000 Touring Car Rookie of the Year, Neal Sapp entered the final weekend fifth in the point standings and was one of six drivers that could finish in the runner-up spot. Driving the duPont Motorsports BMW 325is, he was victorious earlier in the season at Sears Point and Portland. At Road Atlanta, Sapp was back on form and added two more wins to his total. These results elevated him to second in the final standings.
Team principal, Alfred duPont sat out the final weekend as the result of broken ribs sustained in a motorcycle accident. Filling in for duPont was Jeff Altenburg. Altenburg had not competed in the series since round two at Sebring where he finished tenth. duPont’s decision proved to be a good choice as Altenburg finished in the runner-up position in the final two races of the season.
Securing his third World Challenge title would be an easy task for Pierre Kleinubing. Kleinubing, driving the No. 1 RealTime Racing Acura Integra Type R needed to finish eleventh or better in the weekend’s first race to capture the 2001 Touring Car crown. In Friday’s race, he started and finished third. In the season finale, Kleinubing qualified on the pole and was fourth at the checkered flag. He won the championship by forty-one points.
Included in the list of drivers that could finish second in the final Touring Car standings was Ken Dobson. Dobson’s was gaining momentum; he captured the runner-up spot at Laguna Seca and was fourth at Portland. At Road Atlanta, Dobson qualified the No. 7 BMW 328Ci eleventh for the weekend’s first contest and finished fifth. On Sunday, he started eighth and grabbed the final spot on the podium. Dobson was fourth in the final standings.
Steve Pfeffer drove the No. 26 John Hancock sponsored BMW 328is. A victory in the first event at Texas and third place at Sebring allowed him to lead the championship early in the season. Entering Road Atlanta, Pfeffer and fallen to third in the points but he had a mathematical chance of capturing the runner-up spot. During the final weekend, he logged fourth and eighth place finishes and retained his position in the standings.
Charles Espenlaub did not start the 2001 season until round four at Lime Rock Park. The year did not go well as the team struggled to finish events with the new Mazda Protege. Espenlaub’s best performance occurred at Road Atlanta. In the weekend’s first race, he gridded twenty-first and gained ten positions to earn the Borla Performance Award. On Sunday, Espenlaub scored his first top-ten finish of the year.
The driver with the best shot of finishing behind Pierre Kleinubing in the standings was Don Salama. It would not be easy as the points spread was very close with six different drivers vying for the spot. Salama qualified sixth and finished eighth in the penultimate round and still had a chance of securing the runner-up position. Unfortunately, his season ended on lap-9 of the finale when contact caused him to crash in turn twelve.
Mike Fitzgerald crashed the No. 44 Acura Integra Type R on Thursday when Hugh Plumb lost an engine in front of him. The following day, an axle failure caused a second accident. After encountering two incidents in two days, Fitzgerald decided not to tempt fate and withdrew from Sunday’s race. With the car repaired team principal, Peter Cunningham drove it in the season finale. Cunningham started fortieth and finished tenth.
The 2001 Rookie of the Year title was still to be decided. Roger Foo held a ten-point margin over Rob Hines. Foo scored his first series victory in the previous round at Laguna Seca. Neither driver posted outstanding results at Road Atlanta. Hines recorded thirty-fourth and thirteenth place finishes. Foo in the No. 88 Honda Civic was thirteenth and fifteenth but it was enough for him to take the Rookie of the Year honour.
Turner Motorsports prepared two BMW 328is – one for Don Salama and the second for the team owner, Will Turner. Turner drove the No. 92 entry. To date, his year had included a second and third but also two twenty-ninth place finishes. Turner was fourth on the starting grid for the first race at Road Atlanta and finished fifth. In the finale, he was sixth at the checkered flag after qualifying seventh. Turner was fifth in the final standings.
The World Challenge Touring Car class podium at Road Atlanta for the penultimate round of the 2001 championship. To the right is the runner-up, from duPont Motorsports, Jeff Altenburg. And, on the left is the newly crowned class champion who earned his third World Challenge title, Pierre Kleinubing. In the center, capturing his third victory of the season is Neal Sapp. Sapp’s win secured the Manufacturer’s title for BMW.

12Neal SappBMW 325is20-
210Jeff AltenburgBMW 325is20-
33Pierre KleinubingAcura Integra Type R20-
45Steve PfefferBMW 328is20-
511Ken DobsonBMW 328Ci20-
68Don SalamaBMW 328i20-
77Shauna MarinusMazda Protege20-
84Will TurnerBMW 328is20-
912Paul BonaccorsiMazda Protege20-
106David LeslieMazda 62620-
1121Charles EspenlaubMazda Protege20-
121Hugh PlumbAcura Integra Type R20-
1319Roger FooHonda Civic Si20-
1437Fred PignataroBMW 328is20-
1520Peter TonelliBMW 328Ci20-
1624Albert MirkoMazda 62620-
1733Ed SchairbaumNissan 240SX20-
1829Rudy VajdakHonda Prelude20-
1925Thomas GaffneyBMW 325is20-
2031David RosenblumMazda Protege20-
2130Tom StewartHonda Civic Si20-
2243Manny MatzBMW 328is20-
2339Nick VitucciAcura Integra Type R20-
2428Phil ParlatoBMW 328is20-
2535Alex JuhaszBMW 328is20-
2626Laurence OlivaBMW 328is20-
2732Bob HagestadAcura Integra R20-
2840Carl WenerVW Golf20-
2947Fred MeyerAcura Integra Type R20-
3027Walter MarkesBMW 328is20-
3138Stephane TrahanVW Beetle20-
3223Grant LockwoodMazda Protege17-
3342Carlos SteyerAcura Integra Type R17-
3414Rob HinesBMW 328is17Accident
3517Andy LallyBMW 328is16-
3615Taz HarveyHonda Civic Si12-
3713Mike FitzgeraldAcura Integra Type R9Accident
3834Hugh StewartVW Jetta5Mechanical
399Leo CapaldiMercury Cougar4-
4036Matthew SklarzBMW 328is2Mechanical
4122Drew HagestadVW Jetta0Accident
4216Jim DanielsMazda Protege0Accident
4344Mark CrellinNissan 200SR0Did Not Start
4445Mark HeinAcura Integra Type R0Did Not Start
4541Frank BarbaChrysler Neon0Did Not Start
4618Mike BuzzettiAcura Integra Type R0Did Not Start

13Neal SappBMW 325is24-
22Jeff AltenburgBMW 325is24-
38Ken DobsonBMW 328Ci24-
41Pierre KleinubingAcura Integra Type R24-
56Shauna MarinusMazda Protege24-
67Will TurnerBMW 328is24-
714Jim DanielsMazda Protege24-
85Steve PfefferBMW 328is24-
911Charles EspenlaubMazda Protege24-
1040Peter CunninghamAcura Integra Type R24-
1116Drew HagestadVW Jetta24-
1218Andy LallyBMW 328is24-
1313Rob HinesBMW 328is24-
1429Chuck HemmingsonMazda Protege24-
1521Roger FooHonda Civic Si24-
1622Peter TonelliBMW 328Ci24-
1720Thomas GaffneyBMW 325is24-
1812Paul BonaccorsiMazda Protege24-
1926Rudy VajdakHonda Prelude24-
2041Matthew SklarzBMW 328is24-
2135Nick VitucciAcura Integra Type R24-
2230Bob HagestadAcura Integra R24-
2333Laurence OlivaBMW 328is24-
2432Alex JuhaszBMW 328is24-
2531Phil ParlatoBMW 328is24-
2628Manny MatzBMW 328is24-
2725Walter MarkesBMW 328is24-
2838Fred MeyerAcura Integra Type R24-
2937Hugh PlumbAcura Integra Type R23-
3019Albert MirkoMazda 62622-
3136Carl WenerVW Golf22-
329Leo CapaldiMercury Cougar20-
3323Tom StewartHonda Civic Si16-
3439David RosenblumMazda Protege16-
3427Fred PignataroBMW 328is15-
3610David LeslieMazda 62610Transmission
3715Don SalamaBMW 328i9Accident
384Taz HarveyHonda Civic Si4Brakes
3914Stephane TrahanVW Beetle1Suspension
4025Ed SchairbaumNissan 240SX0Accident
4146Carlos SteyerAcura Integra Type R0Did Not Start

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