Heartbreak in the Desert. Final Corner Chaos Robs RealTime Acura of Podium in Utah
May. 1, 2012 - Tooele, UT - From the outset it appeared that the RealTime Acura team would produce a strong result in the PrivacyStar Utah Grand Prix presented by Bondurant at Miller Motorsports Park. Instead, a crash between the GTS race leaders in the final corner collected RealTime driver Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., while Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., recovered from a momentary start line electrical glitch to a strong fifth-place finish in the diverse 19-car GTS field.
The Utah Grand Prix started with solid practice times. Cunningham set the fastest GTS lap in Friday’s final practice session, but the RealTime crew would have to roll up their sleeves after a rare engine failure on Esayian’s No. 34 RealTime/Acura/HPD Acura TSX. With only an hour and 40 minutes between practice and qualifying, the crew immediately went to work changing engines.
“I feared I’d have to start from the back of the grid,” Esayian said. “But, the RealTime crew was amazing. This was the first time they’ve had to make a quick swap on the V6 engines and they did it in 90 minutes! I was sitting inside putting my gear on, they dropped the car to the ground and said ‘you’re ready to go’ and I made qualifying, no problem.”
Cunningham was there too, and wasted no time, setting a qualifying lap record and GTS pole time of 2:00.108 (91.357 mph) on his second lap. Confident he had wrung all that he could from his lap, Cunningham parked the No. 42 RealTime/Acura/HPD Acura TSX in pit lane and watched the time tick away, with the rest of the GTS field unable to match his pace. It was a record-extending 47th career-pole for Cunningham.
“At Miller you have to hit your marks for a good qualifying lap and have your tires just warm enough,” Cunningham said. “I took a whole lap to warm up and on the second lap, I did manage to hit all of my marks and it worked out. It was a real testament to the RealTime guys though, to be able to put the No. 42 Acura on the pole while thrashing so hard to get Nick’s car together.”
With all hands on deck changing his engine and no time to make adjustments for qualifying, Esayian was still able to put his Acura sixth on the GTS grid.
“After all the hard work by the RealTime crew, it was a shame I that I was blocked by slower cars in the last two corners of my hot lap,” Esayian said. “I think we could have done better than sixth.”
At the start of the 23-lap race, Cunningham lost a spot to the Porsche Cayman S of Jack Baldwin, but was able to move back ahead of him when the turbocharged Kia Optima of Michael Galati came charging through to take the lead. While sitting in second, Cunningham had to balance his pursuit of Galati’s Kia against a strong attack from Baldwin and a Chevrolet Camaro driven by Andy Lee. It was during this scrum that Galati’s Kia teammate, Colin Braun, worked his way through to second.
Now third, Cunningham set his sights set on the leading Kias, noticing a fair amount of contact between the teammates. The battle between Galati and Braun really heated up with three laps to go, enabling Cunningham to close the gap and leave just enough room so that he could make a move should either Kia falter. On the last lap, the Kia teammates collided in dramatic fashion in the final corner. Cunningham made an evasive maneuver to avoid both cars, which it seemed would let him slip through home free for the finish line. Sadly, the Acura TSX was hit hard on the right side by Braun, sheering off both wheels and leaving Cunningham stopped just a quarter mile from the finish line. He was credited with an eighth-place finish in the final results.
“For a minute I thought ‘hey I might have this,’ but the hit took off both right wheels and left me dead in the water,” lamented Cunningham. “Sometimes you’re able to limp to the finish like the Kias did, but I couldn’t move an inch. It was incredibly disappointing considering we had a podium for sure.”
Esayian’s race was equally dramatic, minus the contact. Looking to make up ground quickly after his hasty qualifying run, Esayian was stunned when the car lost all power on the standing start. He would eventually get the Acura re-fired, but was already a third of a lap behind the field. The adventure did not end there.
“I finally get going and arrived at turn one only to discover, I had no ABS!” Esayian recalled. “So, I basically had to re-learn how to drive the car for all 22 laps.
“All things considered, I’m happy we could get a top-five finish, but I wish it didn’t have to be because of Peter’s accident. It’s was really disappointing to not get the finishes these Acuras are capable of, but I think we can get the job done at Laguna Seca.”
Despite his eighth-place finish in Utah, Cunningham inched closer to Justin Bell’s lead in the GTS Drivers’ Championship, cutting the previous deficit by one-third to 38 points (475 - 437). Esayian is seventh, with 289 points. Acura maintained second in the GTS Manufacturers’ Championship, and is now a mere four points behind Ford (26 - 22).
RealTime Racing will travel to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey, Calif., for round five of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships: the Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix. The race will go green at 12:20 PM PT, Friday, May 11, and air live onwww.world-challengetv.com. Live timing and scoring is available on www.world-challenge.com.
A special two-hour broadcast featuring the Utah Grand Prix and the Monterey Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix will debut on NBC Sports on May 27th at 11:00p EST.
The 2012 season for RealTime Racing is brought to you by Acura, HPD, Red Line Oil, Eibach Springs, Sparco, BOSCH,Brembo, BuyBrakes.com and Total Auto Body.