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 seventh round of the 2009 SCCA SPEED World Challenge Championship was held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Competitors in the Touring Car class would race for fifty-minutes around the 2.258-mile thirteen-turn road course in the Toyo Tires Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Presented by Dish Network.

Thirteen Touring Car entries sit on the starting grid at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for round seven of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge championship. On the pole for the first time in 2009 is the No. 74 MAZDASPEED / StopTech Brakes/ ProParts Mazda 6 driven by Charles Espenlaub. Making his first appearance of the season and starting second is Patrick Lindsey in the Horton Autosport prepared Mazda 6.
The race winner, Jason Saini qualified eighth. Saini had victories earlier in the season at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt Raceway and the Autobahn Country Club. He jumped from eighth to sixth on a lap-6 restart and improved his position again on lap-9 when there was an incident in the ‘Esses.’ The No. 74 Mazda 6 was now is second but four laps later, Saini passed the race leader, Charles Espenlaub for the win.
At the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Peter Cunningham qualified third in the RealTime Racing / Red Line Oil Acura TSX. During the race, he battled with the leader, Charles Espenlaub and Eric Foss. Contact on lap-9 between the three caused, Cunningham, to lose control of the Acura and fall to fifth place. He fought his way back and was in the runner-up position at the checkered flag.
One of Peter Cunningham’s teammates was four-time World Challenge Touring Car champion, Pierre Kleinubing. Kleinubing qualified the No. 42 RealTime Racing Acura TSX ninth quickest. During the standing start, he moved before the green lights came on and received a stop-and-go penalty. Now in twelfth place, Kleinubing moved through the field and finished third – setting the fastest race lap in the process.
Seth Thomas driving the No. 38 BimmerWorld / Gear Wrench BMW 328i had a pair of victories in 2009 – the opening round at Sebring International Raceway and Watkins Glen International. Thomas was gridded sixth for the start but in the race, he moved up to third when Patrick Lindsey, Charles Espenlaub and Eric Foss encountered issues. On lap-22, he lost the final position on the podium to Pierre Kleinubing.
The driver of the No. 57 Horton Autosport / Sloan Securities Mazda 6, Patrick Lindsey was making his first appearance of the season. He impressed series regulars by qualifying on the outside of the front row. At the start of the contest, Lindsey lost some positions and fell even further back in the pack when he pitted on lap-7 to replace a flat tire. Returning to the race, Lindsey passed several competitors and finished fifth.
At the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Charles Espenlaub qualified on the Touring Car pole - his first time in 2009. Espenlaub led the race until lap-9 when he was passed by Jason Saini at the ‘Keyhole.’ Now in the runner-up spot, Espenlaub battled with Cunningham and Foss. After losing a position to Cunningham, he was challenged and passed by Kleinubing, Esayian, Thomas, Wittmer and Lindsey – eventually finishing eighth.
On lap-9, BimmerWorld team principal, James Clay was in sixth place just behind the battle for third which included, Peter Cunningham, Charles Espenlaub and Eric Foss. Contact between the trio caused Cunningham to get loose. While trying to regain control of his Acura, Cunningham was hit by Clay’s BMW. Cunningham was able to continue but Clay’s car received damage and he was forced to retire.

18Jason SainiMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Pro Parts27-
23Peter CunninghamAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line27-
39Pierre KleinubingAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line27-
46Seth ThomasBMW 328iBimmer World/Gear Wrench27-
52Patrick LindseyMAZDA 6StreetUnit.com/Snapitt.com27-
610Nick EsayianBMW 328iBimmer World/Gear Wrench27-
74Kuno WittmerAcura TSXAcura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line27-
81Charles EspenlaubMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Pro Parts27-
95Eric FossMAZDA 6Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Pro Parts27-
1013Branden PetersonAcura TSXSupertech Competition Clutch25-
1111Chris PuskarAcura Integra Type RExedy/DBA/Carbotech/Vicity11Mechanical
127James ClayBMW 328iBimmer World/Gear Wrench8Mechanical
1312Kevin HelmsHonda CivicDBA/Honda Works0Off Course

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