HOUSTON, Texas (Oct. 7, 2013) – The RealTime Acura team ended the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge GTS season with a podium finish at the Grand Prix of Houston. Peter Cunningham charged through the field for a runner-up finish and Nick Esayian battled through late-race traffic to finish ninth.
It's not often that RealTime Racing encounters a track it hasn’t seen before, but for the first time in Series history, World Challenge visited the Grand Prix of Houston’s 1.7-mile temporary street circuit located in Reliant Park. A brand new circuit meant a clean slate and level playing field for the 19-car GTS field.
Lengthy delays for track repairs forced race officials to alter the original schedule. Instead of a 30-minute practice session and 12-minute qualifying session on Friday, GT drivers received just two 15-minute practice sessions, both of which Cunningham topped by more than a second. Because of the limited track time, it was also announced that in lieu of qualifying, the grid would be set by championship point standings. This put Cunningham sixth on the grid and Esayian eighth despite the promise the Acuras showed in practice.
Further adding to the challenge presented to RealTime on the new circuit was a rainstorm that moved across the track just hours before the GTS field was scheduled to head to the grid. The steady rain required rain tires, though it slowed to a drizzle for the start. Because of the conditions and limited track time, officials announced the race would be a single-file start following one lap under caution, behind the safety car.
After battling his way through the spray and pandemonium of the start, Cunningham began to climb through the field. After passing Alec Udell’s Ford Mustang Boss 302R, Mark Wilkins’ Kia Optima and Andy Lee’s Chevrolet Camaro Cunningham had his sights set on Jack Baldwin’s Porsche Cayman. With the GT leaders now picking their way through the GTS cars, catching Baldwin proved to be a tough task, but Cunningham eventually moved the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX into second place in Turn Four. The move won Cunningham the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race Award.
With only a handful of laps remaining in the race and the circuit quickly drying, Cunningham reeled in the eventual race winner, Lawson Aschenbach in a Chevrolet Camaro, and fought for the lead. Racing on the 28th different street circuit in his career, Cunningham ran out of time and finished second.
“The Houston street circuit ended up being a particularity good track for us gearing-wise and because of the nature of the corners. The Acura likes chicanes and medium speed corners.”
The podium finish, number six for RealTime this season, extended Cunningham’s record of World Challenge podium finishes to 118.
Starting from eighth on the grid, Esayian had his hands full for the 28-lap race. Through the first half of the race it was a battle to find a way past Tony Gaples’ Chevrolet Camaro, a battle Esayian would eventually win in his No. 34 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. Later in the race Esayian had to defend his position in traffic, this time from Brad Adams’ Ford Mustang Boss 302S. On the second to last lap, Esayian finally ceded the spot to Adams and finished ninth.
RealTime Racing ends the 2013 World Challenge season with Cunningham fifth in the GTS Drivers’ Championship with 1063 points and Esayian eighth with 791 points. Acura ended the year third in the GTS Manufacturers’ Championship with 46 points.