SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 31, 2015) – RealTime Racing showed the pace for strong results for Rounds 18 and 19 of the Pirelli World Challenge GT Championship at Sonoma Raceway, but bad luck relegated the team to only one top-10 finish.
The Acura squad came off the truck and hit the track strong, placing fifth and sixth in the opening practice session. As the temperatures picked up for practice two, others surpassed RealTime’s pace, but the team felt positive heading into Saturday morning qualifying.
Peter Cunningham and Ryan Eversley cracked the top-five in qualifying early, but by the end of the 20-minute session, Cunningham’s No. 42 RealTime/Acura Motorsports/HPD Acura TLX GT was P10 and Eversley’s No. 43 Acura was P11 on the grid.
Saturday – Race 1
Following Saturday’s rolling start, things got a bit chaotic on the first lap. Both Cunningham and Eversley got door-to-door with the competition and dropped some tires in the dirt.
Shortly after settling into 12th place, Cunningham could tell something was amiss with his Acura.
“On the previous lap, it wouldn’t down shift going into the last corner, but then it finally did in the middle of the corner,” Cunningham said. “It upshifted and downshifted flawlessly right up until it got stuck in fifth gear and wouldn’t shift up or down.”
The No. 42 pulled into pit lane so the crew could take a look. Unfortunately, the fix couldn’t be made in pit lane and it was unsafe to continue without use of the lower gears, so Cunningham’s race came to an early end.
“Sadly, we didn’t set a good lap time that was representative of our pace, because it happened so early on, so we’ll be starting from the back tomorrow I’m afraid.”
After recovering from the rough and tumble opening laps, Eversley was on a mission to climb into the top 10. A mission he accomplished by making smart moves through traffic. He was able to get around the No. 41 Porsche and No. 6 McLaren and move into P10 where he finished. His move through the field earned him the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award.
“I used traffic on almost all the passes I made,” Eversley said. “The GT Cup cars were bogging people down. Chris Dyson and I were being smart and hanging back and not running up to their bumper. Chris and I would get a good run, come off the corner and be able to run side-by-side. There were a couple of moves where I used our all-wheel drive to come off the corner better than everyone else and that was an advantage here this weekend. I’m bummed Peter had an issue but I know we’ll be back tomorrow with two strong cars.”
Sunday – Race 2
Fast lap times from Saturday’s race set the grid for Sunday’s race. This put Eversley P15 and Cunningham, who only turned four laps, P23 for the standing start.
Eversley and Cunningham had fantastic starts. Eversley was already into the top 10 and Cunningham was only a few spots behind when they exited Turn One, but that’s when trouble struck for both cars. Ahead, in Turn Two, a sideways Audi blocked the track. Eversley nicked it with the left side of his car. Cunningham was on the brakes just in time, but the car behind him was not.
“I had a decent start,” Cunningham recalled. “I headed up into Turn Two. I was clean into the corner, but unbeknownst to me, there were at least three cars involved in a wreck there at the exit of the corner. I was checking up and might have made it, but I got hit from behind hard and shoved right into the wreck as it was still happening.”
The contact popped up the hood on Cunningham’s Acura, which made for an interesting trip back to the pits. Upon arrival at the RealTime pit box, the crew could immediately tell that the car would not return to the track.
“It did so much damage that we weren’t able to continue,” Cunningham said. “It’s a bad deal for the 42, but we’ll get her re-done and see what we can do at Laguna.”
It appeared that Eversley had continued unscathed, but after the race returned to green, he could tell something was wrong.
“We passed maybe eight cars going into Turn One, which was awesome,” Eversley said. “The problem with that was we arrived in Turn Two while there was a crash going on. I couldn’t avoid it. My friend, Mike Skeen, spun right in front of us and I had nowhere to go. That caused some damage. I was able to hang on to it for about six laps or so, but I knew we were losing the left rear. When I saw them take it off, there was a big chunk missing, so I’m glad we came in.”
After the tire change and some repairs to damaged bodywork, Eversley returned to the racetrack in 26th. He was able to gradually climb his way up through the field, crossing the finish line in 17th and setting the second fastest lap of the race.
“I heard we got the second fastest race lap, which is a HUGE pat on the back to RealTime and Honda/HPD,” Eversley said. “We thought this was going to be a bad track for us, but now I’m looking forward to Laguna knowing that we have some good pace. We just need some luck back on our side.”
Highlights from the doubleheader at Sonoma Raceway will air on CBS Sports Network, Sunday, September 6, at 2pm ET.
On the minds of everyone at RealTime Racing this week was the passing of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson. The Honda family and motorsports community lost a dynamic open-wheel and sportscar driver, when Wilson was struck on the head by debris at Pocono Raceway. If you would like to help support the family he leaves behind, visit: http://justinwilson.co.uk/donate
The World Challenge season finale takes place in less than two weeks time at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey California. There will be just one race for the GT category instead of the typical doubleheader format, so make sure you’re watching www.world-challengetv.com at 5:25pm ET on Sunday, Sept. 13.