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.

Race five of ten for the 2009 Grand Touring SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge Championship was conducted at Watkins Glen International as part of the Camping World Grand Prix weekend. Only twelve Touring Car drivers competed on the eleven-turn 3.337-mile road course.

Twelve Touring Car drivers are gridded for round five of the 2009 Speed World Challenge Championship at Watkins Glen International. Starting on the pole for the first time in his World Challenge series career is Seth Thomas in the No. 38 BimmerWorld / GearWrench BMW 328i. Next to Thomas is the No. 73 Mazdaspeed Mazda 6, driven by Charles Espenlaub. In the second row are Nick Esayian and Pierre Kleinubing.
Seth Thomas led flag-to-flag at Watkins Glen International to score his second victory of the season. The pole-sitter, driving the No. 38 BimmerWorld BMW 328i was challenged early by the second-fastest qualifier, Charles Espenlaub. The pressure diminished when Espenlaub had to protect his position from the Subaru of Andrew Aquilante. While these two fought, Thomas pulled away and won by a margin of 1.118-seconds.
Charles Espenlaub was the second-fastest qualifier at Watkins Glen International. At the start of the race, he lost second place to Nick Esayian but regained the position before the end of lap-1. Early in the contest, he challenged the leader, Seth Thomas. However, Espenlaub soon found himself in a fight with Andrew Aquilante. He lost second to Aquilante but regained the spot before the end of the contest.
At Watkins Glen, the driver of the No. 35 Phoenix Performance Subaru, Andrew Aquilante, earned his third World Challenge podium in four starts. Aquilante qualified fifth fastest but was challenging Charles Espenlaub for second place by the middle of the contest. He moved into the runner-up position; however, Espenlaub passed him on the final lap. Aquilante captured third place and the Sunoco Hard Charger award.
The championship points leader, Jason Saini, lost some ground at Watkins Glen International. Saini qualified eighth fastest in the No. 74 Mazdaspeed / Stoptech / ProParts Mazda 6. This was his worst qualifying effort to date. After twenty-laps, Saini received the checkered flag in the eighth position. His lead in the title chase shrunk from seventeen to just three markers over RealTime Racing’s, Pierre Kleinubing.
The five-time World Challenge Champion, Pierre Kleinubing, drove the No. 42 RealTime Racing / Red Line Oil Acura TSX. At the conclusion of the qualifying session, he had recorded the fourth-fastest time. However, Kleinubing was unable to maintain the pace of the leaders and was in the sixth position at the end of the contest. He moved to within three points of the championship leader, Jason Saini.
The 2009 round five Touring Car World Challenge Championship podium at Watkins Glen International. In the center is the winner for the second time this season, Seth Thomas. Standing on the left side of the rostrum and delivering his best performance of 2009 is the runner-up, Charles Espenlaub. Completing the podium is Andrew Aquilante. This weekend, Aquilante earned the Sunoco Hard Charger and Debaufre awards.

11Seth ThomasBMW 328i20-
22Charles EspenlaubMazda 620-
35Andrew AquilanteSubaru WRX20-
43Nick EsayianBMW 328i20-
57Peter CunninghamAcura TSX20-
64Pierre KleinubingAcura TSX20-
79Kuno WittmerAcura TSX20-
88Jason SainiMazda 620-
96James ClayBMW 328i20-
1010Toby GrahovecAcura TSX20-
1112Eric FossMazda 620-
1211VJ MirzayanBMW 32520-
1313John HeinricySubaru Legacy0Did Not Start

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