BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 24, 2016) – The 2.283-mile Barber Motorsports Park is notorious for having few passing zones, but Peter Cunningham and Ryan Eversley still managed to advance in their pair of RealTime Acura TLX-GTs. Cunningham even earned himself the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award on Saturday for his climb through the Pirelli World Challenge GT field.
Qualifying is crucial at a circuit like Barber, but unfortunately both RealTime Acuras qualified outside the top 10. Eversley lined up his No. 43 Acura/HPD/Red Line Oil/RealTime Acura TLX-GT 14th on the grid, while Cunningham qualified the No. 42 in 20th. History has shown that the TLX-GT is strong over the long run, so both drivers felt positive about moving forward in Saturday’s 50-minute race.
SATURDAY – RACE ONE
Both Eversley and Cunningham were able to pick up positions on the start. By the time the first (and only) full-course caution came out 15 minutes into the race, Eversley was up to 12th and Cunningham was 14th.
When green flag racing resumed, Eversley was stuck between a Bentley and a McLaren. With 10 minutes left in the race, he radioed in a heavy vibration coming from the left rear of the car and brought the No. 43 onto pitlane.
“I came in so the guys could look at things,” Eversley explained. “It was either that or wreck the car and I think I made the right choice, because we have a race tomorrow. They didn’t see anything when they took the wheels off. Coming into the pits the car wouldn’t downshift, so the crew had to address a transmission issue as well. When I went back out the car felt great.”
Eversley returned to the circuit with approximately five minutes remaining and proceeded to set his fastest race lap before finishing 24th.
Cunningham continued his climb through the GT field and finished 13th. His ascent was unmatched in the race, earning him the VP Racing Fuels Hard Charger Award for picking up seven positions.
“I got a decent start,” Cunningham recalled. “I wasn’t crazy aggressive, I just went up the middle and was able to pass a couple cars. Some of our competitors fell off as we pressed forward. My car was running strong, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow where we’ll start a little higher.”
SUNDAY – RACE TWO
Each driver’s best race lap from Saturday set the grid for Sunday’s race. Eversley took up the 12th spot on the grid, while Cunningham lined up 16th.
Sunday’s race start was chaotic. Eversley was pushed wide through the first turn, but was able to hold onto his position. Cunningham was good through Turn One, but lost a spot later in the lap.
“There were a lot of people bumping around and I really couldn’t make much headway,” Cunningham recalled. “I managed to get around a couple guys, but unfortunately, I picked the wrong lane later in opening lap and dropped behind a Ferrari.”
While running 12th, Eversley had a near miss with a McLaren, but soldiered on and even managed to mix it up with the pack in front of him. He ran out of time to advance any farther and crossed the line in the same spot he started.
“It was a good bounce back from yesterday,” Eversley said. “Even after the contact, I was able to catch up to the group in front of me, but we got some debris in the cockpit and I couldn’t put the gas pedal all the way down for about three laps. That might have cost us a spot, but it’s so hard to pass here. I’m happy the car is in once piece and we can go off to our tests and the next race in one piece.”
Cunningham stalked the No. 07 Ferrari for the majority of the race before capitalizing on a mistake by his opponent.
“I could tell he was driving in his mirrors when I got close,” Cunningham said. “Finally he got a little loose coming through Turn Three and I was able to stick it in there. When he tried to close it back down, I was already in position. I took the spot and never saw him again.”
Cunningham took the checkered flag in 15th.
“My car ran great all weekend,” he added. “We have great reliability with the Acura TLX-GT. We’re just not quite where we need to be yet, but we’re close. On to Mosport in a few weeks.”
GT Race highlights from Barber Motorsports Park will air on CBS Sports Network, Sunday, May 1, at 4pm ET.
RealTime Acura has three weeks off before it heads north of the border to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario. The Victoria Day Speedfest takes place May 19 – 22. Races will be streamed live on www.world-challenge.com.