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.

The first SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge event of 2009 was held at Sebring International Raceway during the 57th Annual Mobil 1 12-Hours of Sebring weekend. Twenty-five competitors would enter the event with twenty-one starting the race on the seventeen-turn 3.74-mile road course.

Twenty-one Grand Touring driver’s line-up for round one of the 2009 Speed World Challenge Championship. Qualifying and starting on the pole for the first time in his World Challenge series career is Dino Crescentini driving the No. 4 Stoptech / Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3. Sharing the front row with Cresentini is the 2007 race winner, Eric Curran, in the No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette.
Round one at Sebring International Raceway would be Tony Rivera’s first World Challenge event. Driving the Tax Masters / Mirage Group Porsche 911 GT3, he recorded the third-fastest time in qualifying. Early in the race, Rivera ran with the pole-sitter, Dino Crescentini and Eric Curran. On lap-5, he passed Crescentini and moved by Curran on the sixteenth circuit for the lead and, ultimately, the victory.
The 2007 Sebring winner, Eric Curran, returned for another season of World Challenge competition in the familiar No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette. Curran qualified second quickest and missed the pole by a margin of 0.186-seconds. On lap-4 of the race, he moved past the leader, Dino Crescentini. Curran lost the top spot to Tony Rivera on the sixteenth circuit and finished in the runner-up position.
Also returning to the World Challenge series was former Touring Car competitor, Brandon Davis. On his last lap of qualifying, Davis recorded the fifth-fastest time in the No. 10 ACS / Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang Cobra. Late in the contest, he battled for third place with the Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 of James Sofronas. Davis secured the position when Sofronas spun in oil on the penultimate lap.
The Sunoco Hard Charger award is given to the driver that advances the most positions during the race. The recipient in round one at Sebring International Raceway was William Ziegler. In the qualifying session, Ziegler was sixteenth fastest in the No. 05 Swisher Racing / Global Motorsports Group Racing Porsche 911 GT3. He moved up the race order and was in eighth place at the checkered flag.
After five-years of SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge competition, Dino Crescentini captured his first pole position. Crescentini, driving the No. 4 Stoptech / Global Motorsports Group Racing Porsche 911 GT3, jumped into an early but was passed by Eric Curran on lap-4 and one circuit later, Tony Riviera. He began to slide to the race order and on lap-16, Crescentini retired with a mechanical issue.
In the off-season, K-PAX Racing replaced their Porsches with a pair of Volvo S60. This new development program was challenged all week. The Volvo of the two-time defending series champion, Randy Pobst, suffered through a series of issues that prevented him from qualifying and starting the race. His teammate, Andy Pilgrim, fared better. Pilgrim turned one lap in qualifying, setting the twentieth fast time and finished twelfth.
One of the entries drawing a lot of attention at Sebring was the No. 7 DP7 Racing Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. The rear engine Lamborghini is equipped with a naturally aspirated 303-cu.in. V8 motor with four-valves per cylinder. Of equal interest was the driver, Dan Pastorini. After twelve years in the National Football League, Pastorini competed in the NHRA Top Fuel class. Unfortunately, the car did not start the race.
The 2009 round one Grand Touring World Challenge Championship podium at Sebring International Raceway. In the center is the winner, Tony Rivera. Rivera became the first driver in five-years to win their series debut. The last driver to accomplish this feat was Wolf Henzler in 2004 at Infineon Raceway. Standing on the left side of the rostrum is Eric Curran, the runner-up. And, completing the podium is Brandon Davis.

13Tony RiveraPorsche 911 GT320-
22Eric CurranChevrolet Corvette20-
35Brandon DavisFord Mustang GT20-
424Tony GaplesChevrolet Corvette20-
54James SofronasPorsche 911 GT320-
613Andrew AquilanteChevrolet Corvette20-
714David WelchDodge Viper20-
816William ZieglerPorsche 911 GT320-
925Joey ScaralloPontiac GTO20-
1017Lee SaundersDodge Viper20-
1110Sonny WhelenChevrolet Corvette20-
1220Andy PilgrimVolvo S6020-
1312Rob MorganPorsche 911 GT320-
1418Steve ValentinettiPorsche GT3 Cup20-
158Tim McKenziePorsche 911 GT320-
167Brian KubinskiChevrolet Corvette10-
171Dino CrescentiniPorsche 911 GT316Mechanical
189Ritch MarzialeDodge Viper7Mechanical
196Jason DaskalosDodge Viper4Brakes
DQ15Jeff CourtneyDodge Viper20Axle Weight
DQ11Gunter SchaldachDodge Viper20Camshaft
2019Joe FosterLotus Exige S0Did Not Start
2121Randy PobstVolvo S600Did Not Start
2222Dan PastoriniLamborghini Gallardo0Did Not Start
2323Patrick FlanaganPorsche GT3 Cup0Did Not Start

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