The 2010 SCCA World Challenge season was a classic for Honda and Acura racers, as Peter Cunningham and his RealTime Racing team took their Acura TSX to the championship in the new GTS class, and debuted the new HPD Honda Civic Si in the Touring Class, the traditional “stomping ground” for Honda and Acura racers in World Challenge competition.
For 2011, Acura is back in a GTS category that has seen astounding growth over the off-season, while Civic drivers will make up nearly a third of the always-competitive TC field.
At the St. Petersburg season-opener last weekend, the Acura TSXs of Cunningham and teammate Nick Esayian faced off against no fewer than a half-dozen Ford Mustangs, a pair of Chevrolet Camaros and a Porsche Cayman, among others, in a 15-car GTS field.
In Saturday’s season-opener, Cunningham led the early laps of a caution-shortened event, but was jumped by the Mustangs of Jason von Kluge and Eric Foss on a late-race restart. With von Kluge headed for the GTS win, Cunningham slipped around Foss at the last turn of the final lap to finish second.
Meanwhile in TC, Lawson Aschenbach gave his Toronto-based Compass360 team a debut win, taking advantage of the contact and caution-filled race to move up from third on the grid to claim a relatively comfortable six-second victory. Yet another Civic racer, Ray Mason from Columbus, Ohio, brought his TLM Racing Honda home third in TC.
“There are so many factors in a race like this – the walls, the pavement changes, the other cars,” Aschenbach said. “I can’t thank (team owner) Karl Thompson and the whole Compass360 team enough for having me this year. With this Honda, I think we have a shot to race for the championship.”
On Sunday, the World Challenge field lined up once more, with both the GTS and TC battles going all the way to the finish.
Foss and Cunningham continued their battle from Saturday, but this time it was for the GTS victory. Foss held on for the win in his Mustang, but the stage is set for a season-long battle with Cunningham’s Acura.
In TC, Tristan Herbert took a narrow, seven-tenths of a second victory over Aschenbach. But the 1-2 result for the Honda driver was enough to see him lead the early-season TC drivers’ championship standings. Patrick Seguin finished second in his Segs Motorsports Honda, with Mason finishing fifth in his Civic Si.
After damaging her own Honda beyond immediate repair in Saturday’s race, Shea Holbrook moved into a spare Compass360 Civic on Sunday, and finished an excellent eighth in the unfamiliar car.
Highlights from the St. Petersburg SCCA World Challenge races will be shown at 4:40 p.m. EDT, April 9, on Versus.