The 2012 Pirelli World Challenge season got off to a promising start at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for both the RealTime Racing Acura TSX V-6 of Peter Cunningham and the Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si of Todd Lamb, as both scored a pair of second-place finishes during the doubleheader season-opening weekend.
The off-season switch to V-6 power paid dividends for the RealTime duo of Cunningham and teammate Nick Esayian, as the pair found their Acura NSXs on a much more equal footing with the V8-powered Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro competition in the GTS category.
Saturday - Race One
Starting second and fifth in GTS, Cunningham and Esayian avoided the early-lap carnage that resulted when a 47-car starting field squeezed into the confines of a 1.8-mile temporary circuit. After leading early, Cunningham finished second to the Mustang of Justin Bell following a fierce battle that was only halted by a race-ending caution flag. After running as high as fourth, contact with another GTS car sent Esayian into the wall and out of the race with suspension damage on Lap 6.
In TC, Lamb started and finished second in his Compass360 Honda, while fellow Civic racer Anthony Rapone rounded out the class podium with a third-place finish in his Durabond Racing Honda. The Civic Si is proving to be a popular choice in the always-competitive TC class. No fewer than seven of the 14 entries in the class are Civic Si’s.
Sunday – Race Two
In Sunday’s race, Cunningham started from the GTS pole, while Esayian rocketed from 14th on the grid to fifth on the opening lap. By mid-race, Cunningham and Bell had renewed their battle from the previous day, with Bell again just able to hold off the Acura at the checkers. Esayian bounced back from his difficulties on Saturday to finish a strong fifth in class.
The TC race also saw a repeat performance from the opening round, with Michael Cooper again claiming the class victory and Lamb leading the Honda contingent with another second-place result.
Rounds One and Two of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will air on the NBC Sports Network, Sunday, April 8, at 4:30 p.m. EDT.
The Pirelli World Challenge Championships next travel to the streets of Long Beach, Calif., for the Long Beach Grand Prix presented by StopTech, April 13 – 15. The races will air live on http://www.world-challengetv.com/ April 14 and 15, at 7:15 p.m. EDT, with live timing and scoring available at http://www.world-challenge.com/.