Touring Car Race Report on Lime Rock

by : Kraig Johanssen

Chip Herr of Lititz, Pa., has recently obtained his first win of the 2007 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship season in Round of Three at Lime Rock Park, part of the SPEED Touring Car Classics. James Sofronas of Newport Beach California together with Jeff Altenburg of Ellicott City, Md., has completed the podium.

Everything was going right for Herr from the very start that the lights went out; he has gotten a great launch in his No. 17 STaSIS/Clear Capital Audi A4 and beat polesitter Pierre Kleinubing into Turn One to take the lead. Kleinubing slotted his No.1 Acura Certified Pre-Owned/RealTime Acura TSX behind Herr for four laps but was able to pass Herr on the fifth lap due to some mistakes made by Herr.

Herr said, "I came into Turn Six and there was a car in the wall. I saw the marks and thought the accident happened at the turn-in. I turned in a little bit early and hit grass and dirt and got into a four-wheel slide and had to jump on the brakes. He just went right inside of me on the downhill. I almost put it in the wall. I had to back out of it and he didn't. He knows what to do, that's why he's good."

Shortly after Kleinubing took the lead, a full course yellow came out when the No. 11 3R-Racing Dodge SRT-4 of Robb Holland and the No. 96 Tindol Motorsports/Pesco Inc. Mazda 6 of Charlie Putman came together in West Bend. Miraculously both drivers walked away uninjured.

On the lap 10 restart, it was Kleinubing with the great launch going unchallenged in Turn One and slowly pulling out a lead over Herr which reached 2.514 seconds by lap 16. But Herr would not just let Kleinubing get ahead farther and trumped Kleinubing's fast race lap with one of his on. Then on lap 26 it happen, Herr shot by a slowing Kleinubing on the front stretch. As Herr led by 1 3.207 second over Sofronas, Kleinubing headed to the pits.

Herr said, "I said 'thank you' on the front straight."

Kleinubing after checking under the hood rejoined the field and finished 19th. The crew was able to repair the defending SCCA SPEED Touring Ca Champion's running problem. From there it was all smooth sailing for Herr. He took his fourth career-win by 3.211 seconds over Sofronas in the 44-lap, 67.32-mile race. Herr was also been able to set the fastest lap of the race at 58.646 (93.919 mph) on the 1.53 mile road course.

Herr explained, "It feels great. I love Lime Rock. Every time I've come here, I've done well. This is a momentum course that takes a lot of guts and you have to know your car. STaSIS has really worked with me to get the car right and with a new teammate, we've been able to share data between the three of us. Pierre had a strong car and he actually started pulling away from me. I didn't know if I should try to burn the car up and track him down or risk having [Sofronas] catch me. I was going to be happy with a podium, but then Pierre had his problem and came back to me."

And after passing off current point leader Altenburg immediately on the start, Sofronas played a more relaxed and consistent race in his No. 29 Global Motorsports Group BMW 325Ci which has equaled his career-best finish second which last happened at Road America in 2005. The finish has also earned Sofronas his second straight Toyo Cup award.

Sofronas said, "I really wanted to try to get a win for [Tecmark team owner] Walter [Swick], but second is obviously the next best thing. On the start, I got a heck of a launch and Chip closed the door and I had to lift or else I would have plowed him. He made a nice move. My car was loose in the beginning and it was a little hairy the first five laps, but Walter set the car up to be good over a long run. I was able to cut a couple of quick laps to try to chase Chip down, but it wasn't enough to get up to him. All the while, I had Jeff behind me, so I tried to click off my laps, hoping Chip would make a mistake, but he didn't."

On the other for Altenburg the race was an even finish. He started third and finishes third. However the current point leader has a close call with Seth Thomas of the No. 38 BimmerWord BMW 325i on the restart. Thomas had the jump on Altenburg going into Turn One and tried the outside line on the No. 72 Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development Mazda 6. The pair made a slight contact before Thomas finally went off course in the Esses with a flat tire.

Altenburg said, "On the restart, Seth Thomas got a great run on me and we went side-by-side through Turn One. The second part of Big Bend tightens up. He was on the outside, maybe half a car back and we made a little contact. I was worried my day was over, but it turned out it might have been the end of his. When Pierre fell back, that took a little bit of my aggression away. I don't know that I had anything for James--probably not."

The remainder of the race for Altenburg was much relaxed and the podium finish help extend his lead in the Championship to 26 over teammate Randy Pobst who finished 11th place. With the win Herr lies in third, specifically 14 points behind Pobst.

Adam Pecorari of Aspon, Pa., has place two Audis in top five by wheeling his No. 19 STaSIS/Centre Parts Audi A4 to a fourth place finish. This is a career best for the SCCA SPEED Touring Car newcomer who also collected the Piloti Rookie of the Race Award.

And after a long battle with the No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol/Oakley/Sparco Mazda 6 of Charles Espenlaub, peter Cunningham of Grafton, Wis., has obtained fifth position in his No. 42 Acura Certified Pre-Owned/RealTime Acura TSX on the final lap when the Espenlaub ran wide passing the Esses.

Espenlaub then returned to the track in time finish sixth ahead of Kuno Wittmer of Acura RSX, Ian Baas of Audi A4 , Michael Galati of Mazda 6 , and Jason Martinelli of BMW 325Ci---they completed thetop ten.

More results:
Stan Wilson of Mount Joliet, Tenn., finished 13th in the No. 92 sorted Performance Dodge SRT-4, collecting both the Sunoco Hard Charger and the B&M Shifters Holeshot Award given for advancing 10 positions in the race of which five were derived from the start of the race.

And lastly, Mazda the maker of high-quality continues to lead the Manufacturer's Championship by 23 points over Acura and Audi who are now both at second place. BMW on the other hand is currently on fourth with nine points.