AUSTIN, Texas (March 7, 2016) – RealTime Acura came away with another top-10 performance for the Acura TLX GT in season opening weekend for the Pirelli World Challenge at Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Peter Cunningham and Ryan Eversley both had their share of tangles with the rest of the GT field, but were able to rebound and make progress in the development of their new rear-wheel drive machines.
For the 2016 World Challenge season, the series mandated the Acura TLX GT be changed from an all-wheel drive configuration to rear-wheel drive, bringing it further in line with GT3 regulations. RealTime has spent the off-season working hard to make the change. COTA was the first opportunity to see how the car stacked up against the rest of the GT field composed of 11 different manufacturers.
After a promoter’s test day and two 60-minute practice sessions, it was time to qualify under a warm Texas sun. Eversley put the No. 43 Acura/HPD/Red Line Oil/RealTime Acura TLX GT eighth for Saturday’s grid, while Cunningham put his No. 42 machine 20th.
SATURDAY – RACE ONE
In Race One, not long after the 33-car field took the green flag, a full-course caution came out for a collision between an Aston Martin and a Porsche. Cunningham narrowly avoided the wreck and moved into 18th.
On the restart, Eversley got hit from behind as the lead pack swarmed into Turn 1. The contact left a piece of bodywork dangling from the No. 43 machine for the remainder of the race.
Undaunted, Eversley began a battle with the No. 87 Bentley Continental GT3 driven by Andrew Palmer. After several pass/re-pass exchanges with the Bentley, Eversley was forced to settle into 10th behind Palmer.
“The Bentley is pretty successful GT3 car, so to run with them for most of the race was good to see where we have advantages and where they have advantages,” Eversley said. “Andrew did a great job and raced me very clean. We were able to go side-by-side through a bunch of corners. I love racing with guys like that and I’m sure the fans love seeing it.”
From there, Eversley worked on holding off an Audi R8, McLaren 650S and Ferrari 458 Italia to collect RealTime’s first top-10 of the season.
After his earlier close-call, Cunningham was on his own in 17th for a good part of the 50-minute race. As time ran out, he began to reel in the pack ahead of him. Two cars conveniently took themselves out of the race with contact and penalties, enabling Cunningham to claim 15th by the checkered flag.
“We were struggling with some understeer,” Cunningham said. “It wasn’t much fun because I had to over-slow everywhere. It only made it worse when I would catch the car ahead of me. In the high-speed stuff, I would get aero push and not be able to do what the car was capable of. I know our RealTime crew has some fixes in mind to get us in a better spot tomorrow.”
SUNDAY RACE TWO
On Sunday, it appeared that Lady Luck had turned her back on RealTime Acura. The day began with a suspension failure on the No. 43 in warm up. With only two hours before the car needed to be on the pre-grid, the crew went into overdrive to get it ready and had it back in race form with time to spare.
The grid for Sunday’s race was set from each competitor’s fastest race lap on Saturday, so Eversley took the 12th spot on the grid. His mid-pack starting position was reset, however, when he made an uncharacteristic error on the formation lap.
“Saturday, when we started the race we had really cold tires on the rear, so I tried to work them harder, so they’d be better on the start,” explained Eversley. “I overdid it and looped it. It was totally my mistake and a frustrating way to start the race.”
As a result of the spin, Eversley had to start the race from the back of the field.
“From there it was about picking guys off one by one until the tires fell off,” Eversley said. “Tire wear was a lot better today than it was yesterday, so we learned a lot about the rear-wheel drive TLX GT in terms of tire degradation.”
By the checkered flag Eversley had worked his way back to his grid position to finish 12th.
“The car felt really good, even better than it did yesterday, so hats off to the RealTime guys,” Eversley said. “It was a bummer I wasn’t able to get them a better result, but we finished where we started and honestly I think that’s what we had today. All in all, the car is in one piece for the race next weekend and that’s what’s important.”
Sunday’s race started with an accident in the first turn and quickly went full-course yellow. Cunningham executed the restart perfectly and picked off five cars by the time he reached Turn One. It was all erased when the Bentley behind him tapped the bumper of the Acura and turned it around.
“There I sat until the GT Cup cars got by,” Cunningham recalled. “I got it re-fired, but just as I was going to go, then the GT Cup cars were coming by, so it would have been unsafe to re-enter. I had to get behind those guys and pass them. There was no help from any yellow flags after that, so I was by myself.”
At the conclusion of the 50-minute race Cunningham had worked his way up to 18th. It was a result not reflective of the car’s pace, which the team had worked hard to improve from Saturday’s event.
“I’m pleased with how the car worked today versus yesterday,” Cunningham said. “I think we made some good improvements to it. I liked it a lot. I was able to run consistent times. We’ll take what we learned and go get them at the next one.”
The next one is only a few short days away. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg takes place March 11 – 13. Saturday and Sunday’s races will stream live on world-challenge.com. Coverage from COTA airs on CBS Sports Network, Sunday, March 13 at 10:30am EST.