In 2008, the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) popular World Challenge series for Touring and Grand Touring cars entered its 19th-season. With continued sponsorship from SPEED TV, the championship attracted a loyal following of race fans. Unfortunately, the series was not immune to the 2008 recession and the grid sizes dropped in both divisions.

Race weekends included two standing start 50-minute races – one for the Grand Touring class and another for Touring Cars.

  • Grand Touring (GT) – The Grand Touring class rules accommodate a broad range of vehicles from different manufacturers. Engine displacements ranged from a 2.5-liter turbocharged to an 8.3-liter V10 motor. While rear-wheel-drive cars are the most popular cars, the series also permits all-wheel-drive machines. Many of the competitors race the Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup or Dodge Viper.

  • Touring Car (TC) – The Touring Cars are limited to an engine displacement of 2.8-liters. Vehicles originally equipped with turbocharged or supercharged motors are also homologated for the series. The class is split predominantly between front-wheel-drive cars from Acura, Honda, and Mazda and the rear wheel drives such as the BMW 325. Also proving very competitive is the all-wheel-drive Audi A4.

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. The maximum amount of weight that can be removed from a car is 100-pounds. And, no more than 200-pounds can be added to a GT class car and 150-pounds to a Touring Car.

There were ten-race weekends during the 2008 season. The series dropped Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Toronto and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca from the calendar. Added were four new venues, Virginia International Raceway, Detroit, Road America and Thunderbolt Raceway. The Touring cars did not compete at Long Beach, but there was a standalone event for them at Virginia International Raceway and a doubleheader at Lime Rock Park. As in 2007, the opening round was in March at Sebring, Florida, but the season ended in early October at Road Atlanta.

The final round of the 2008 World Challenge season was held at Road Atlanta. Drivers would compete on the twelve-turn 2.58-miles road course for twenty-seven laps or fifty minutes – whichever came first.

Pole-sitter Chip Herr leads a field of nineteen Touring Cars into Road Atlanta’s corner one on the first lap of the season’s final event. There were three drivers that had a mathematical chance of winning the 2008 championship. The title contenders included RealTime teammates – Peter Cunningham, Pierre Kleinubing and Kuno Wittmer.
Chip Herr led flag-to-flag in the Tindol Motorsports prepared Mazda 6. Herr was the fastest qualifier and was chased for twenty-seven laps by his teammate, Michael Galati. At the checkered flag, he won by a margin of 1.204-seconds. This was Herr’s second win of the second – his first coming at Lime Rock. He would place fourth in the final Touring Car standings.
Rookie, Patrick Lindsey delivered his best qualifying performance of the season. At the end of the session, Lindsey was second quickest and shared the front row with pole-sitter Chip Herr. At the start of the race, he was passed by the Mazda of Michael Galati and Pierre Kleinubing in an Acura TSX. Unfortunately for Lindsey, the engine failed on his Mazda 6 after completing only one lap – he was classified in eighteenth place.
World Challenge Touring Car veteran, Michael Galati started third but before the end of the first lap was in second place. During the contest, Galati found himself in a terrific battle with former teammate, Pierre Kleinubing. On lap-17, Kleinubing moved into second but Galati overtook him on a restart. At the checkered flag, Galati was second and in the process set a new race lap record.
Pierre Kleinubing was one of three drivers with a chance of winning the Touring Car title. In qualifying, Kleinubing was quickest of the contenders – starting fourth on the grid. During the race, changes in position were critical in determining who would take the championship. It looked promising for Kleinubing when he moved into second but when he lost the position and finished third - the title went to his teammate, Peter Cunningham.
James Clay driving the No. 36 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 325i spun in corner ten during practice. Clay qualified tenth but an accident on lap-17 led to his retirement – he was classified in the fifteenth position. It was a difficult way to end a season that included a podium finish at Virginia International Raceway and a win at Road America. Clay finished ninth in the Touring Car Drivers’ Championship.
The No. 24 Volkswagen Jetta TDI was driven orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jim Osborn. This Volkswagen is especially unique as it was the first Bio-Diesel Touring Car competing in a professional race series. The car was entered by Chili Pepper Racing was built in 2006 and made its debut in March 2007 at Sebring. At the Road Atlanta finale, Osborn qualified eighteenth and was in thirteenth place at the checkered flag.
Nick Esayian left RealTime Racing and joined BimmerWorld in 2008. At the season finale, Esayian qualified fifteenth and after twenty-seven laps of racing finished sixth – which was his best results of the year. For his performance during the race, advancing nine positions, Esayian earned the ‘Sunoco Hard Charger Award.’ He was eleven in the final Touring Car Drivers’ Championship.
Of the three competitors that had a chance of winning the Touring Car title the best odds lay with Peter Cunningham. Cunningham was the sixth quickest in the qualifying session. During the race, the title outcome swung back and forth between Cunningham and Pierre Kleinubing - depending on the running order. At the checkered flag, he finished behind Kleinubing in fourth which gave Cunningham the championship by five points (939 to 934).
The 2008 World Challenge Touring Car podium at Road Atlanta. On the left is second place finisher Michael Galati and to the right is Pierre Kleinubing, who captured third. Between these two is the winner, Chip Herr. Herr’s victory was his second of the season – the first occurring in round five at Lime Rock. This was the fourth win in 2008 for Tindol Motorsports.

11Chip HerrMAZDA 6Tindol Motorsports27
23Michael GalatiMAZDA 6Mazda North America/Tindol27
34Pierre KleinubingAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line27
46Peter CunninghamAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line27
511Kuno WittmerAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line27
615Nick EsayianBMW 325iBimmer World27
75Eric CurranAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line27
89Charles EspenlaubMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech27
98Jim DanielsMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech27
1016Martin OhlinMAZDA 6Ohlins/Mazdaspeed27
1113Charlie PutmanMAZDA 6Pesco/Tindol Motorsports27
1217Byron SmithBMW 330iCompetition Associates26
1318Jim OsbornVolkswagen Jetta TDIChili Pepper Racing25
147Seth ThomasBMW 325iBimmerWorld/GearWrench23
1510James ClayBMW 325iBimmerWorld/GearWrench17
1612Jason SainiMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech15
1719Carl HoberAcura TSXBranden Peterson Racing2
182Patrick LindseyMAZDA 6Horton Motorsports/Sloan Securities1
1914Glenn BocchinoAcura RSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line1

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