2009 was a milestone year for the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) Pro Racing Speed World Challenge series. The championship was now in its 20th consecutive season. The SCCA had developed a successful format that attracted competitors and fans. But the recession of 2008 was impacting car counts.

To add some excitement to qualifying, the series organizers introduced the Fast Five Coin Toss. A World Challenge official flipped a coin and the fastest qualifier would have to call, heads or tails. If they guessed correctly, the top five would line-up as they qualified. If not, the starting order would be inverted for the five quickest drivers.

Most race weekends included two standing start races with a time limit of 50-minutes. One event for the Grand Touring (GT) class and another for the Touring Cars (TC).

  • Grand Touring (GT) – The GT class rules accommodated a broad range of vehicles from different manufacturers. Engine displacements ranged from the 2.5-liter turbocharged Volvo S60 to the Dodge Viper with an 8.3-liter V10 motor. While most of the cars were rear-wheel drive, the series also permitted all-wheel-drive. A majority of the competitors raced a Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911 GT3 or Dodge Viper.

  • Touring Car (TC) – The Touring Cars were limited to an engine displacement of 2.8-liters. Vehicles originally equipped with turbocharged or supercharged motors were also homologated for the series. The class was split predominantly between front-wheel-drive cars from Acura, Honda, and Mazda and the rear wheel drives such as the BMW 328i.

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 added or removed ballast from a car based on the finishing position of a driver. The maximum amount of weight that could be removed from a vehicle was 100-pounds. And, no more than 200-pounds could be added to a GT class car and 150-pounds to a Touring Car.

During the 2009 season, there were ten-races for each category. The Touring cars did not compete at Long Beach. However, they raced twice at Mosport Park. As in 2008, the opening round was in March at Sebring, Florida and the championship ended in October at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, California.

Round seven of the 2009 SPEED World Challenge Grand Touring Championship was held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Drivers would compete for fifty-minutes around the thirteen-turn 2.258-mile road course.

The pole-sitter, Brandon Davis driving the Applied Computer Solutions / Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang Cobra, leads a field of sixteen Grand Touring competitors through the ‘Carousel’ on the opening lap. Following Davis is the second fastest qualifier, Andy Pilgrim racing the No. 8 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60. The pair would run in tandem until lap-17 when Pilgrim retired.
The SPEED World Challenge Grand Touring point’s leader entering round seven at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was Brandon Davis. Davis was yet to score a victory but had five top-five finishes in six starts. At Mid-Ohio, he qualified on the pole – his first of the season. Davis would lead the contest flag-to-flag. Although, he was challenged by Andy Pilgrim and Tony Rivera he could open the gap at will.
A transmission issue prevented the defending champion, Randy Pobst, from recording a time during the qualifying session. Starting last in a field of sixteen entries, Pobst began moving up the race order and by lap-10, he was in seventh. Without the benefit of a caution period, Pobst finished fourth. His drive earned him two awards - the ‘Sunoco Hard Charger of the Race’ and the ‘AutoWeek Move of the Race.’
K-PAX Racing’s, Andy Pilgrim qualified the No. 8 Volvo S60 on the outside of the front row. Pilgrim’s season included a victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt but he had a number finishes outside the top-ten. At the start, Pilgrim trailed the pole-sitter, Brandon Davis and chased the race leader until lap-17. A transmission issue forced him to pit and ultimately retire – he was classified in fifteenth.
Tony Rivera won the season opener at Sebring International Raceway making him the first World Challenge Grand Touring driver in five years to be victorious in his series debut. Rivera entered the Mid-Ohio round third in the point’s standings. In qualifying, he was fourth quickest driving the No. 97 Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. A pass on James Sofronas and the retirement of Andy Pilgrim resulted in a second place finish.
Another driver with a Grand Touring victory in 2009 was James Sofronas. Sofronas won round two at Long Beach and trailed the point’s leader, Brandon Davis by forty-three-markers heading to Mid-Ohio. Driving the GMG prepared Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, he was third quickest in qualifying. During the race, Sofronas lost positions to Rivera and Eric Curran but Curran retired and he grabbed the final spot on the podium.
Whelen Engineering entered two Chevrolet Corvettes – one for team owner, Sonny Whelen and a second for Eric Curran. Curran drove the No. 30 Corvette and was sixth fastest in the qualifying session. He had moved up to fourth place during the race when a pass by Tony Rivera allowed him to slide by James Sofronas. Curran was now in third place but it only lasted a lap when the suspension failed and he retired.
Dino Crescentini was another competitor with a 2009 Grand Touring win to his credit - he was victorious in round five at Watkins Glen International. Driving the StopTech Brakes sponsored Porsche 911 GT3, Crescentini was gridded fifth for the contest. At the start, he fell to sixth but moved into fourth when James Sofronas and Eric Curran made contact. Crescentini was repassed by Sofronas and finished fifth.
The round seven Grand Touring podium at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. To the right is the runner-up from Brass Monkey Racing, Tony Rivera. And, on the left is the driver of the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, James Sofronas. In the center, taking his first victory of the season - is the class point’s leader, Brandon Davis.

11Brandon DavisFord Mustang GT29-
24Tony RiveraPorsche 911 GT329-
33James SofronasPorsche 911 GT329-
416Randy PobstVolvo S6029-
55Dino CrescentiniPorsche 911 GT329-
610Jeff CourtneyDodge Viper29-
78Charles PutnamDodge Viper29-
811Tony GaplesChevrolet Corvette29-
912Gunter SchaldachPorsche 911 GT329-
1014Sonny WhelenChevrolet Corvette29-
119William ZieglerPorsche 911 GT329-
127Ritch MarzialeDodge Viper28-
1315Mike HartleyDodge Viper28-
1413Mike BorkowskiDodge Viper26-
152Andy PilgrimVolvo S6017Transmission
166Eric CurranChevrolet Corvette2Suspension

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