No. 42 Acura Nets No. 42 Victory for Cunningham in Monterey. Maximum points weekend puts RealTime’s Manufacturer and Driver in championship lead
May. 15, 2012 - Monterey, CA - Round Five of the Pirelli World Challenge GTS Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca brought maximum points and record numbers for RealTime Racing. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., earned his record-extending 42nd World Challenge career win in the aptly tagged No.42 Acura TSX. It was the 83rd win for an Acura in the World Challenge series, another record-extending statistic. After running third for most of the race, teammate Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., narrowly missed a podium finish, crossing the line in fourth.
After topping both practice sessions, Cunningham set a new World Challenge GTS qualifying lap record, 1:33.094 (86.544 mph) en route to scoring his fourth consecutive pole position. Esayian put in his best qualifying performance of the season, earning the third spot in his No. 34 RealTime/Acura/HPD Acura TSX. The RealTime teammates sandwiched a Porsche Cayman of Jack Baldwin on the GTS grid.
“We’ve always been fast in Monterey,” Cunningham said. “The difference from past years is these V6 engines, which make the straightaways a lot shorter. We’ve always had an edge here because of the Acura’s handling, but now with the extra horsepower we have good speed too.”
When the lights went out and the cars launched from a standing start to commence the 50-minute race, Cunningham was scrambling immediately, as a stalled GT car gridded directly ahead of him forced the veteran to take evasive action.
“I had to change lanes and sneak between the wall and a stalled Porsche,” Cunningham recalled. “This allowed the whole right lane, including Jack [Baldwin], to edge past me.”
Cunningham was not out of the lead for long, as the No. 42 RealTime/Acura/HPD Acura TSX bounced back into the top spot on lap two.
“We were really fast at the beginning,” Cunningham said. “I think it takes the Porsche a couple laps to get going. We were just all over him. Coming out of turn six on lap two, after I’d been hounding him all through lap one, I had a huge run on him. He didn’t have the exit I had. We were side-by-side going up the hill, we touched, I continued. From there, we had a good pace and we were able to just click off the laps.”
One of those laps was the fastest GTS lap of the race, a 1:34.137 (85.585 mph), which extended Cunningham’s World Challenge career record to 26 fast race laps. His rocket ship run to the win was briefly interrupted by two full-course cautions. The second of which enabled Baldwin’s Cayman to get a little too close for comfort.
“On that first yellow I had a good restart and kept a gap,” Cunningham said. “But on the second restart, Jack was right there. I knew there wasn’t much time remaining, but when I came around hoping to see the white flag they said ‘ok, two laps to go,’ so it was a really close finish! It was just enough margin to take it to the checkered flag.”
Just enough indeed, the victory margin at the line was in fact 0.468 of a second.
“After heartbreak and tears over the last couple races, it’s great to get the job done here in Monterey,” Cunningham smiled. “We’re very pleased to max out on the points this weekend with the pole, most laps led and the win.”
Starting directly behind Cunningham, Esayian was also held up by the stalled GT car.
“I got up along Peter on the start and we went through the first couple of turns door-to-door,” Esayian recalled. “Then I made the decision that one of us had to go, because Baldwin was starting to check out on us. I lifted and tucked in behind PD. He was faster than me in qualifying, so it was a quick decision.”
After Cunningham was around Baldwin and into the lead, it was Esayian’s turn to crank up the pressure on the Cayman. Unfortunately, slower Touring Car traffic came into play during one of the full-course caution restarts, which allowed Baldwin to place two slower cars between himself and Esayian.
It appeared as though the day would end with two RealTime Racing cars on the podium until the final lap around the 2.238-mile course.
“I got passed by [Aaron Povoledo] with four wheels off going into turn five on the last lap,” Esayian lamented. “I could have turned in, but physics would have superseded judgment at that point, because he couldn’t have stopped if he wanted to. I left the door open, got in the marbles and he got by. I tried to get up alongside him, but I couldn’t make it happen.
“The TSX was great. It was fun running in third the whole time up until the end there. The restart was a real problem with the Touring Cars getting jammed in between us and I think that was a mistake that cost us.”
The Monterey weekend in whole was a big success for the RealTime Acura team, who left with the GTS Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship lead. Cunningham leads the GTS Drivers’ Championship with 602 points, 50 markers ahead of Jack Baldwin (602 to 552). Esayian advanced to sixth in the championship with 383 points. Acura has edged ahead in the GTS Manufacturers’ Championship by one point over Ford (32 to 31).
Round five of the Pirelli World Challenge GTS championship will air on the NBC Sports Network, Sunday, May 27th at 11PM ET.
Next Up – Detroit Double
RealTime Racing now heads to Detroit, Mich., for a doubleheader at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Round six is scheduled for 2:45 PM ET on Saturday, June 2. Round seven will take the green flag at 11:45 AM ET on Sunday, June 3. Both races will air live on www.world-challengetv.com. Live timing and scoring is available on www.world-challenge.com.
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.