Pobst, Cunningham and Hein Lead Opening World Challenge Practice at St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., led the opening World Challenge Championship practice session of the season at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg weekend. Pobst topped the GT and overall time sheet, with Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., leading the GTS class and Mark Hein, of nearby Clearwater, Fla., topping Touring Car.

Peter Cunningham led the opening GTS class session at St. Pete. Mark Weber Image.

Driving the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60, Pobst turned a fastest time of 1:20.780 (80.217 mph) around the 1.8-mile temporary circuit. The 40-minute combined session for GT, GTS and Touring Car classes started at 8 a.m.—the first session of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend. After overnight rain, the track was both slightly damp and “green” due to the lack of rubber. As such, times fell throughout the session, and Pobst’s fastest lap came on his final tour around the circuit.

“This was a great start to the weekend for myself and the K-Pax Racing Volvo,” two-time St. Petersburg World Challenge winner Pobst said. “We’re really excited to get in and mix it up in these Sports Car Wars. We’re miles ahead of where we were a year ago, but we still have done a lot of testing on this car. This morning, we were looking for reliability. I followed the Vipers and the Porsches for a while, and they’re really fast. But it was slippery on both ends of the runway and with the all wheel drive Volvos I was able to motor away from them. I hope it rains this weekend because the Volvo is so great.

“The traffic was really tough because the GT class is so much faster here than some of the others, but I’ve dealt with it before and I think it’s going to make things very interesting this weekend.”

Montreal’s Kuno Wittmer was second fastest with a time of 1:21.465 (79.543 mph) in the No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper. Pobst’s teammate, Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., was third in the No. 8 K-Pax Racing Volvo.

Rookie Steve Ott was fourth, in the No. 96 Nissan/Brass Monkey Racing Nissan GT-R, followed by Jason Daskalos, in the No. 5 Daskalos Roberts Racing Dodge Viper.

Five-time series Champion Cunningham was quickest in the new GTS class driving his No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX with a fastest lap time of 1:26.986 (74.494 mph).

“Our car was working well. It was nice to get into a rhythm on a track I’m very familiar with. I wanted to push it a little bit to see what our Acura TSX had,” Cunningham said. “Traffic wasn’t bad at all, everyone was giving and taking. I’m proud of all of these drivers for not having any yellows and shortening our session. We’ll see if some of these other series can do that.

“The conditions were ever-changing. Some sections got really good, really quick, but other sections were junk. The times will drop really quickly when it’s dry this afternoon.”

Nick Esayian (No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX) and Michael Pettiford (No. 41 Go 4 It Racing Schools/Hawk Pontiac Solstice completed the top three.

Hein utilized his previous track experience to lead Touring Car in the No. 38 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Honda Civic Si with a fastest lap of 1:30.766 (71.392 mph).

“The track wasn’t as slick as I expected it to be,” Hein said. “Our car is very good, from a handling perspective. I like being here, and racing the car and it’s great to be back in World Challenge and with SCCA.

“Honestly, I came here looking at the grid and wasn’t surprised to be quickest in the first session. In Touring Car, there are a lot of rookies, so we’ll see how it plays out later in the day. This is the perfect event for me, being close to home. I’ve got 26 different clients coming this weekend, so it’s a big thing for me.”

Kevin Helms, of Charlotte, N.C., was second fastest in Touring Car, with a lap of 1:31.679 (70.681 mph) in his No. 04 DBA/Carbotech/AST/Exedy Honda Civic Si. Eric Meyer, of Indianapolis, Ind., was third in his No. 32 XOWii/Samaritan’s Feet/Delvira Mazda RX-8 with a lap of 1:32.756 (69.860 mph).

The series next takes to the track at 1:15 p.m. (EDT) for another practice session. Qualifying for both of this weekend’s races will be held at the end of the day. To follow each session’s notes and timing, please visit www.world-challenge.com.

Both races will be broadcast in Versus HD on Saturday, April 18 at 2 p.m. (EDT).

Follow World Challenge on Twitter @ WCRacing.

source http://www.world-challenge.com

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