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.

  • 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 vehicles 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 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.

11Jeff AltenburgMazda Protege ES26-
25Bill AuberlenBMW 325i26-
38Chuck HemmingsonMazda Protege ES26-
416Bob EndicottAcura RSX-S26-
57Bob StretchBMW 325Ci26-
62Shauna MarinusMazda Protege ES26-
712Shane LewisMazda Protege ES26-
89Tim PappasLexus IS30026-
914Jon PrallAudi A426-
1015James SofronasBMW 325Ci26-
1111Will TurnerBMW 325i26-
126Mike FitzgeraldLexus IS30026-
1324Bobby CarterBMW 325Ci26-
1425Zac MazzottaAcura RSX-S26-
1522Kevin McKeeAcura Integra R26-
1623Mike Van SicklenLexus IS30026-
1718Robert BaxterMazda Protege ES26-
1819James ClayBMW 325i26-
1921Matt RichmondBMW 325i26-
2027Mickey MillerBMW 328is26-
2126Ralph WarrenBMW 32826-
223Pierre KleinubingAcura RSX-S26-
2328Andrew MonterrubioAcura Integra R26-
2435Fred MeyerAcura Integra R26-
2534Mike DavisHonda Civic25-
2636Scott LucasAcura Integra R25-
2737Terry McCarthyMercedes-Benz25-
2829Rich MakiBMW 325Ci23-
2933Paul BonaccorsiMazda Protege ES21Mechanical
304Peter CunninghamNissan SE-R18Suspension
3130Ori Della PennaBMW 328i13Contact
3217Christian ElderMazda Protege ES12Mechanical
3310Ken DobsonBMW 325Ci9Suspension
3420Eric CurranNissan SE-R7Transmission
3513Roger FooMazda Protege ES6Mechanical
3631Charles EspenlaubMazda Protege ES3Mechanical
3732David SanbornAudi A40Did Not Start

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