Jason Saini, who grew up in nearby Cleveland, Ohio, topped the opening round of practice for Round Seven of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. RealTime Racing Teammates Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec, were second and third fastest, respectively.
Although this is the rookie’s first World Challenge race at the 13-turn, 2.558-mile road course, it certainly isn’t Saini’s first visit to Mid-Ohio.
“I’ve raced here quite a bit,” Saini said. “I think more in my head than anything else. Growing up here and coming here every year I would walk the track and hang out on race weekends like this, so I know the track well from just being here.
“I’ve got family and friends coming, my sister, the whole bunch. My dad can’t be here, but he’ll be watching from home online. It’s great being back. I spent a couple days at home already and it feels great to be here.”
Driving the No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6, Saini led the session with lap of 1:34.867 (85.686 mph).
“The car feels great,” Saini said. “We’ve had a couple struggles, a bit of an up and down season, but Mazda and Tri-Point haven’t given up. They’ve been working hard on the cars. The cars are all perfect and the setup is really good right now. We’re going to keep working on it, because I know everybody else is right now and hopefully we’ll have a good weekend.”
Saini will return to the track for the second SCCA SPEED Touring Car practice session at 6:45 p.m. (EDT).
“It’s probably going to be a little slower later,” commented Saini. “There’s going to be a whole day’s worth of rubber on the track and it’s going to be an entirely different. We race and qualify in the morning, so this afternoon session is going to be different from anything else we do. We learn every session though, so we’ll see if we can make some improvements.”
RealTime Racing teammates Cunningham and Wittmer followed Saini on the time sheets. Cunningham entered a 1:34.932 (85.627 mph) in the No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line/Acura TSX, followed by Wittmer with a 1:35.148 (85.433 mph) in the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX.
Saini’s teammate, Jim Daniels, of Germantown, Tenn., was fourth fastest in practice. Daniels turned a 1:35.177 (85.407 mph) in the No. 75 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6.
Championship point leader Pierre Klienubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., completed the top five. Driving the No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, Kleinubing’s fastest lap was a 1:35.201 (85.385 mph).
Lime Rock Park race winner Chip Herr, of Lititz, Pa., was sixth fastest in the No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6, followed by Nick Esayian in the No. 34 BimmerWorld BMW 325i.
Seth Thomas (BMW 325i), Charles Espenlaub (MAZDA6) and Dino Crescentini (Acura TSX) completed the top 10.
Qualifying for Round Seven of the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. (EDT). Sunday’s race is set for 9:15 a.m. (EDT). Live timing and lap notes for all sessions are available at www.world-challenge.com.
Results from first practice session for Sunday's SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship Round Seven race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with position, car number in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, fastest lap time, and speed in miles per hour.
1, (74), Jason Saini(R), Fort Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 1:34.867, 85.686.
2, (42), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 1:34.932, 85.627.
3, (44), Kuno Wittmer, Montreal, Quebec, Acura TSX, 1:35.148, 85.433.
4, (75), Jim Daniels(R), Germantown, Tenn., MAZDA6, 1:35.177, 85.407.
5, (43), Pierre Kleinubing, Coconut Creek, Fla., Acura TSX, 1:35.201, 85.385.
6, (97), Chip Herr, Lititz, Pa., MAZDA6, 1:35.210, 85.377.
7, (34), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., BMW 325i, 1:35.406, 85.202.
8, (38), Seth Thomas, Cumming, Ga., BMW 325i, 1:35.423, 85.187.
9, (73), Charles Espenlaub, Lutz, Fla., MAZDA6, 1:35.441, 85.171.
10, (46), Dino Crescentini, Mahattan Beach, Calif., Acura TSX, 1:35.653, 84.982.
11, (63), Robb Holland, Denver, Colo., Dodge SRT-4, 1:35.697, 84.943.
12, (8), Jason Martinelli, Roxbury, Conn., BMW 325i, 1:35.876, 84.784.
13, (45), Glenn Bocchino, Delray Beach, Fla., Acura RSX, 1:35.900, 84.763.
14, (95), Michael Galati, Olmsted, Ohio, MAZDA6, 1:36.163, 84.531.
15, (57), Patrick Lindsey(R), Santa Barbara, Calif., MAZDA6, 1:37.212, 83.619.
16, (36), James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., BMW 325i, 1:37.879, 83.049.
17, (49), Branden Peterson, Breckenridge, Colo., Acura TSX, 1:41.942, 79.739.
18, (24), Jim Osborn, Ooltewah, Tenn., Volkswagen Jetta TDI, no time.
19, (52), Byron Smith, Salt lake City, Utah, BMW 330i, no time.
20, (96), Charlie Putman, Mills, Wyo., MAZDA6, no time.