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.

Round one of the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championship was contested at Sebring International R aceway as part of the 12-Hours of Sebring weekend. Drivers were scheduled to compete on the seventeen-turn 3.74-mile road course for fifty-minutes or eighteen laps – whichever came first.

Seventeen Touring Car competitors line up on the grid at Sebring International Raceway for round one of the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championship. On the pole is Pierre Kleinubing in the No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX. Sharing the front row with Kleinubing is his teammate also driving an Acura TSX, Kuno Wittmer. Third is the RealTime team principal, Peter Cunningham.
Pierre Kleinubing captured his thirty-first career Touring Car pole position in the World Challenge championship’s opening round at Sebring International Raceway. The veteran would lead the race flag-to-flag to score his twenty-seventh series victory by a margin of 0.645-seconds. It was not an easy win for Kleinubing as he was under constant pressure from his from his teammates, Kuno Wittmer and Peter Cunningham.
Canadian, Kuno Wittmer started on the outside of the front row for the season’s first event. Wittmer driving one of four Acura TSXs entered by RealTime Racing chased the pole-sitter and his teammate, Pierre Kleinubing the entire race. While attempting to challenge Kleinubing for the lead, he was also under pressure from team principal, Peter Cunningham for second place. Wittmer held on to take the runner-up spot.
Peter Cunningham had two World Challenge Touring Car titles (2002 and 2005) to his credit. In the season opener, Cunningham was third quickest at the end of the qualifying session – behind teammates, Pierre Kleinubing and Kuno Wittmer. During the race, he challenged Wittmer for second and fended off Charles Espenlaub for third. Cunningham was able to maintain the position which resulted in RealTime sweep of the podium.
Sixth on the starting grid was Charles Espenlaub driving the No. 73 Mazdaspeed / Stoptech / Racinghart Mazda 6. During the eighteen-lap race, Espenlaub was able to pass the fourth and fifth fastest qualifiers, Nick Esayian and Chip Herr. From there, he chased down the leaders and caught Peter Cunningham. Unable to get by Cunningham, Espenlaub settled for fourth place.
Other than the frontrunners from RealTime Racing, the most excitement during the event came from the BimmerWorld drivers. Leading the way was Seth Thomas driving a BimmerWorld prepared BMW 325i. Thomas was forced to start from the rear of the field after his car failed the post-qualifying technical inspection. Despite a couple of off-course excursions, he was able to charge through the field and finish sixth.
The defending World Challenge Touring Car champion, Jeff Altenburg was gridded eighth for the start of the fifty-minute race. The driver of the No. 1 Mazdaspeed / Stoptech / Racinghart Mazda 6 was able to pass the Acura TSX of seventh place qualifier, Dino Cresentini early in the contest. Then he gained two positions when Nick Esayian and Chip Herr encountered problems. At the checker, Altenburg was in the fifth position.
The BimmerWorld team principal, James Clay had a memorable event. Competing in a BMW 325i prepared by his shop, Clay qualified fifteenth quickest in the seventeen-car field. On the first lap of the contest, he advanced six positions which earned him the Racing Electronics Holeshot Award. Clay also won the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing the most positions during the race – he finished tenth.
It was an all RealTime Racing podium. Their last sweep was as recent as the 2007 series finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. On the left is the runner-up Kuno Wittmer and to the right is Peter Cunningham, who captured the final position on the rostrum. Between these two drivers is the winner Pierre Kleinubing. This was Kleinubing’s twenty-seventh World Challenge victory.

11Pierre KleinubingAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line18
22Kuno WittmerAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line18
33Peter CunninghamAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line18
46Charles EspenlaubMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech18
58Jeff AltenburgMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech18
617Seth ThomasBMW 325iBimmerWorld18
716Jason MartinelliBMW 325iTorrington Supply18
87Dino CrescentiniAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line18
913Jason SainiMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech18
1015James ClayBMW 325iBimmerWorld18
119Michael GalatiMAZDA 6Mazda North America/Tindol18
1212Patrick LindseyMAZDA 6Horton Motorsports/Sloan Securities18
135Chip HerrMAZDA 6Tindol Motorsports18
1411Charlie PutmanMAZDA 6Pesco/Tindol Motorsports18
154Nick EsayianBMW 325iBimmer World17
1610Glenn BocchinoAcura RSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line16
1714Jim OsbornVolkswagen Jetta TDIChili Pepper Racing3

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