In 2004, the World Challenge series entered its fifteenth season. For the sixth consecutive year, Speed Channel was the primary sponsor. As evidenced by the growth of the series, the Sports Car Club of America 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 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 nine-race weekends during the 2004 season with a double-header events fore each class. Touring Cars would race Saturday and Sunday at Infineon Raceway and the Grand Touring competitors would have a similar format at Mosport International Raceway. The opening round was in March at Sebring International Raceway, Florida, followed by a two-month break before teams travelled to Lime Rock Park. The third race weekend of the year was at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. In July, the teams trekked west for races at Infineon. Competitors stayed on the west coast for races at Portland International Raceway. Next, the championship made its only Canadian stop at Mosport. Returning south of the border, the first stop was Road America. The penultimate round was held at Road Atlanta and the series finale took place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Round one of the 2004 SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge Touring Car Championship was held at Sebring International Raceway as a support event for the 12-Hours of Sebring. Thirty-four Touring Car drivers would compete in a fifty-minute race around the seventeen-turn 3.74-mile road course. A twenty-five-minute delay during the race - to remove a stuck wrecker – meant that there were only seventeen laps of racing.

Leading the field of thirty-four starters for the opening round of the 2004 Speed World Challenge series is the reigning Touring Car champion and pole-sitter, Bill Auberlen. Behind Auberlen is the other front row starter, Bob Stretch in the Wheels America sponsored BMW 325Ci. Up from the fourth position is the BMW of Nic Jonsson, who passed the third-fastest qualifier, Pierre Kleinubing, in the RealTime Racing Acura TSX.
The defending Touring Car champion, Bill Auberlen, returned to Turner Motorsports, driving a BMW 325i. Auberlen qualified on the pole and made a great start. When the leaders arrived at turn three on the first lap, Pierre Kleinubing grabbed the top spot. An accident on lap-1 resulted in an extended caution period. When racing resumed, Auberlen used the opportunity to get the jump on Kleinubing and moved into the lead for the win.
The three-time World Challenge Touring Car champion, Pierre Kleinubing, was back for another season. Kleinubing drove the No. 42 RealTime Racing Acura TSX. He was third fastest during qualifying. A tremendous charge on the opening lap gave Kleinubing the lead. A full caution before the end of lap one gave him first place for eight circuits. On the restart, he was passed by the pole-sitter, Bill Auberlen and finished second.
James Sofronas made his World Challenge debut in 1994. This season, he was part of the three-car Techmark team, which included drivers, Nic Jonsson and Scott Galaba. Sofronas qualified fifth quickest and after the restart found himself battling with his teammate, Jonsson and Pierre Kleinubing. When Jonsson spun, he only had to worry about Kleinubing. Unable to find a way by, Sofronas settled for his best series result, third place.
It was a surprise to see Peter Cunningham entered in a Nissan Sentra SE-R. Cunningham's RealTime Racing team and his company’s success had always been with the Honda brand. It was a good debut for the Nissan. Cunningham was seventh fastest in the qualifying session. During the race, he moved up the order and was fifth by lap-10. But then, Cunningham encountered issues and dropped to a thirteenth place finish.
Nick Esayian joined RealTime Racing in 2004 for his rookie season – one of ten rookie drivers at Sebring. He drove the No. 46 Acura Integra Type R with backing from Total Trolly and Datamine. In qualifying, Esayian was twenty-ninth fastest and seventh quickest in the rookie group. During the race, he advanced eleventh positions to finish in eighteenth place. For his effort, Esayian received the Sunoco Hard Charger Award.
Texas’, Bob Stretch made his first World Challenge start in 2002 but only participated in a limited number of races. Stretch returned this season with the intention of competing in all ten events. Proving that he would be a championship contender, Stretch turned a solid performance during qualifying and was second quickest. Driving the No. 98 BMW 325Ci, Stretch was in contention until lap-9 when he encountered a mechanical issue.
Jeff Altenburg joined Tri-Point Motorsports for the last five races of 2002 and was back with the team for the full schedule last year. In 2004, he returned for another season driving one of Tri-Point’s Mazda Protege ES. Altenburg was gridded sixth for the start. He was no match for the leaders and inherited two positions when Nic Jonsson spun and Peter Cunningham has experienced issues. Altenburg finished fourth.
World Challenge sophomore, Matt Richmond had a great rookie season. Richmond scored one top-five finish (fifth at Puerto Rico) and two top-ten results. At Sebring International Raceway, he was driving the No.37 Bimmerworld prepared BMW 325i and was gridded in thirty-fifth place. Richmond had a tremendous opening lap and passed ten cars. This performance earned him the B&M Hole Shot Award.

11Bill AuberlenBMW 325i17-
23Pierre KleinubingAcura TSX17-
35James SofronasBMW 325Ci17-
46Jeff AltenburgMazda Protege ES17-
58Justin MarksBMW 325i17-
69Shauna MarinusMazda Protege ES17-
74Nic JonssonBMW 325Ci17-
811Matt PlumbAcura RSX17-
915Dino CrescentiniBMW 325i17-
1017Scott FredricksenMazda Protege ES17-
1112Scott PoirierMercedes C23017-
1210Victor GonzalezAcura RSX17-
137Peter CunninghamNissan Sentra SE-R17-
1414Jon PrallBMW 328i17-
1519Andrew MonterrubioAcura Integra R17-
1625Tom StewartHonda Civic Si17-
1726Phil ParlatoBMW 325i17-
1829Nick EsayianAcura Integra R17-
1928Ken PaysonMazda Protege ES17-
2031Mark GermanMazda 62617-
2127Scott GalabaBMW 325Ci17-
2222Ryan PillaMazda Protege16Mechanical
2333Seth ThomasBMW 325i16-
2413Jim OsbornAcura Integra Type R15Mechanical
2518Kevin McKeeBMW 325Ci14-
2620Peter LockhartMercedes C23013Mechanical
2724Scott BradleyMazda Protege ES13Mechanical
2823James ClayBMW 325i12Mechanical
2935Matt RichmondBMW 328i12Mechanical
3016Chip HerrMazda Protege10Mechanical
3132Chris TindolMazda Protege ES10Electrical
322Bob StretchBMW 325Ci9Mechanical
3321Eric CurranBMW 325Ci8Mechnical
3430Michael FlynnSubaru Impreza0Accident
3534Mark HeinHonda Civic SiR0Did Not Start

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