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 season finale and eighteen World Challenge Touring Cars head into Mazda Raceway’s turn two. Leading the group is pole-sitter Pierre Kleinubing in the RealTime Acura TSX. Immediately, behind Kleinubing is his team owner Peter Cunningham who qualified third. The No. 36 BMW 328i of James Clay made a poor start which allowed Chip Herr to move from the fifth grid position to third place before corner two.
It was a great event for Pierre Kleinubing. Keinubing entered the last event 54-points behind championship leader Jason Saini. He started his weekend by capturing the pole position and earning fifteen bonus points. Kleinubing led the race flag-to-flag beating his teammate Peter Cunningham by 0.610-seconds. His win and Saini’s eighth place finish allowed Kleinubing to claim his fifth World Challenge Touring Car title.
Defending Touring Car Champion, Peter Cunningham qualified third in the No. 1 Acura TSX but when front row starter James Clay struggled at the start, he grabbed second place and maintained the position to the checkered flag. As team owner, Cunningham was more concerned about securing the Manufacturer’s title for Acura. Heading into the final round, Mazda led Acura by one-point by Kleinubing’s pole and victory secured the championship.
James Clay was improving each round and finished second in the previous event at Road Atlanta. Clay qualified second at Mazda Raceway driving a BMW 328i. But a poor start in the season finale dropped him to the fourth position before corner two. Clay diced with the Mazda 6 of Chip Herr and contact between the two allowed his teammate Nick Esayian to pass them. He battled back, setting the fastest race lap, and finished third.
Jason Saini was the Touring Car point’s leader entering the final event. In order to win the Driver’s Championship Saini needed to finish no worse than fifth. But the driver of the No. 74 Mazda 6 was having a challenging weekend. He qualified eighth but was passed by ninth and ten place starters – Charles Espenlaub and Seth Thomas. At the checkered flag, Saini was eighth and finished second in the Championship – 13-points behind Kleinubing.
Montreal’s Kuno Wittmer had mixed results during the 2009 World Challenge. Wittmer’s qualified in the top-five eight times but only earned one podium - a victory at Mosport. At Mazda Raceway, he qualified fourth in the RealTime Acura TSX. Unfortunately, Wittmer retired after only six-laps with a mechanical problem.
With only four races remaining in the 2009 season, Patrick Lindsey made his first appearance of the year. Lindsey’s impact was felt immediately. The first two races back in the series (Mid-Ohio and Road America) he qualified second and finished third at Road America. At Mazda Raceway, Lindsey started sixth on the grid in the No. 57 Mazda 6. During the race, he dropped down the running order and finished sixth.
The No. 38 Bimmer World/Gear Wrench BMW 328i was driven by Seth Thomas. Winning at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta helped Thomas finish fourth in the 2009 Driver standings. He qualified seventh a Mazda Raceway and had a terrific battle with Charles Espenlaub in a Mazda 6. Espenlaub prevailed and Thomas was seventh at the checkered flag.
Chip Herr was entered in the first round of the championship at Sebring but did not return until the season finale. Herr started from the fifth position on the grid. Making an excellent start, he slotted into third place and diced with James Clay. On the eighth lap, the two made contact at the Andretti Hairpin which allowed Nick Esayian to pass both drivers. After the final restart, Herr maintained his position and finished fifth.

11Pierre KleinubingAcura TSX26-
23Peter CunninghamAcura TSX26-
32James ClayBMW 328i26-
47Nick EsayianBMW 328i26-
55Chip HerrMazda 626-
69Charles EspenlaubMazda 626-
710Seth ThomasBMW 328i26-
88Jason SainiMazda 626-
913Graham DowneyHonda Civic Si26-
106Patrick LindseyMazda 626-
1112Eric CurranAcura TSX26-
1211Eric FossMazda 326-
1318Andrie HartantoAcura TSX26-
1414Sage MarieAcura TSX26-
1515Scott WebbScion tC26-
1616Tommy ChenMazda RX-822-
1717Andrew GillisFord Focus13Axle
184Kuno WittmerAcura TSX6Mechanical

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