DETROIT, Mich. – The streets of Detroit were poised to be a place to shine for RealTime Acura and its twin Acura TLX-GT machines, but the cancellation of Sunday’s race prevented the team from showcasing the car’s wet weather abilities.
Rain was in the forecast for the Pirelli World Challenge GT doubleheader on the 2.35-mile, 13-turn street circuit. The TLX-GT thrives in such conditions. On Saturday the rain came too late and on Sunday it came too strong.
Saturday morning’s qualifying session was cut short when a Porsche made contact with the Turn 1 wall minutes after the session went green. The cleanup could not be completed before the end of the session. With only three laps under green, Peter Cunningham and Ryan Eversley were second and third quickest of their group, but World Challenge officials opted to set the grid by points instead of the limited qualifying laps. This put Eversley fourth and Cunningham 13th on the grid.
Saturday – Race 1
Kicking things off with a rolling start, Saturday’s 50-minute race started with a bang for Eversley, who made contact with the Audi R8 of Mike Skeen going into Turn 2. After initially keeping with the top five, Eversley’s car started to experience alternator issues, slowing his pace as he began switching off as many electronic components as possible.
“It was an interesting start,” Eversley recalled. “I didn’t realize Skeen was on the outside of me and he’s a good friend of mine, so I felt bad about getting into him on the outside of two, but I had no idea he was trying to go out there. After that he ran me clean though, because he’s a gentleman and a professional.”
Meanwhile, Cunningham’s clean start had him moving up through the field and into the top 10. At the race’s one-third mark he began to smell fuel in the car. Upon bringing the No. 42 into pit lane, the team discovered a problem with the fuel cell breather that they were able to fix. Before sending him back out, the team put fresh tires on Cunningham’s car hoping it would improve his chances of setting a fast qualify time for Sunday’s race.
“The start was promising,” Cunningham said. “I not sure where exactly I slotted in, but it seemed like I passed some cars on that opening sequence. Then I began to smell fuel in the car. It wasn’t just a little hint of fuel, it was raw fuel and it was getting worse. With a hot exhaust underneath me, that’s not something we want to mess with and I had to bring the car in.”
After a quick fix, Cunningham was no longer on the lead lap of the race. He was able to click off a lap good enough to qualify sixth for Sunday’s race and crossed the finish line in 20th.
Eversley continued to fight on with his ailing No. 43. By the final lap, he was unable to shift the car. Still, he soldiered on to finish ninth at the checkered flag and set a lap fast enough for seventh on the Race 2 grid.
“Over the course of the race, we had to keep shutting down one thing after another; coolers, brake coolers, helmet blower,” Eversley said. “At the end of the race, I was pretty worn out, because the car was physically getting harder to drive. All in all we came home with a ninth-place result, which is good for points and tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so here’s hoping!”
It turns out the World Challenge field narrowly missed the predicted rain on Saturday. Instead it was the next group on track that had to deal with wet conditions.
Sunday – Race 2
Cunningham, Eversley and the RealTime crew had high hopes for Sunday’s race, which was sure to be a rain race. The Acura TLX-GT and its all-wheel drive system had already proved to be well adept to rain racing at Circuit of the Americas and St. Petersburg.
In the wet morning warm up, Eversley and Cunningham were 1-2, respectively, by a healthy margin over the rest of the field, further bolstering the team’s expectations for the race.
Unfortunately, the persistent rain and winds made the street circuit increasingly dangerous. Water was not draining quickly enough and visibility was deteriorating for the safety workers. In light of these conditions, race officials decided to cancel the race and will announce a makeup round shortly.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Cunningham said. “We were really looking forward to showing what these cars could do in the rain. We had great pace in the warm-up and had every confidence in our cars for the race. The TLX-GT was the winning package today, but we weren’t able to capitalize on it.”
“It’s extremely frustrating not being able to race today, especially considering how fast we are in wet conditions, even more so than previous events,” Eversely said. “We’ve made progress developing the car in the dry, which helps us in the wet too. It’s sad, because I think Peter and I would have been 1-2 with our Acuras, but safety is always a priority.”
Overall, the team walks away from Detroit with good points and two cars intact. Now the focus turns to preparing the cars for their home race in Wisconsin.
“We had another top 10 this weekend and I see nothing but more success in the future,” Eversely added. “We’re really excited to go to RealTime’s home track and have all the family members come out and support us.”
The Pirelli World Challenge Championships will headline the June 26 – 28 race weekend at Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wis., just 30 minutes north of RealTime’s headquarters in Saukville.