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[Credit: Mark Weber, World-Challenge]
DP7 Racing, the team behind the lone Lamborghini Gallardo in the SPEED World Challenge GT series has just hired on World Challenge veteran Chip Herr to pilot the exotic racer for the remainder of the season.
Former NFL quarterback Dan Pastorini, who was scheduled to pilot the car for the season, will stay on as a part of the DP7 Racing team. The DP7 Gallardo did not compete in the first race of the season at Sebring, however, the team had intended to run the car but after a dismal showing during the practice sessions (with the slowest tie in the field) the Lambo never even made it to qualifying.
“After Sebring, I felt we needed someone with experience that can give the necessary information to the crew in order to maximize the performance of the DP7 Gallardo GTR,” said Pastorini. “I had a chance to visit with many drivers, but Chip is a special individual with all the ingredients to accomplish what team owner Betty Johnston and I wanted and that’s to make this program successful.”
Herr, being a big football fan was eager to accept. “NFL Football has been a huge part of my life,” Herr said. “But I weigh 135 pounds and I’m 5’5″. I was going to have to find another sport to try and become a professional.”
“To be asked to work with Dan Pastorini and the DP7 crew is a dream come true for me. Yes, DP7 is an excellent organization and the Lamborghini is a great car, but holy smoke, Dan Pastorini wants ME to drive HIS car!”
Last year Herr was featured as “One of the Dynamic Dozen in North America, by Grass Roots Motorsports magazine, which said he was a driver to watch in the coming years. He has 11 years of racing experience with a great deal of time in the World Challenge Touring Car series, having earned six poles and topping the podium six times.
Herr is also signed on this year to race in the Touring Car series in the Mazda6 of Tindol Motorsports.
The DP7 Racing team is hoping that with a marketable young driver with “rockstar good looks” the team can secure sponsorship. The car is already a great marketing platform as, “Nothing looks better on the track or generates more interest and excitement than our Gallardo GTR,” says Pastorini.
“There is one driving force behind any race team and that’s sponsorship, without it you simply cannot succeed,” said Pastorini. “The addition of Chip will allow me more time to focus on securing the necessary sponsorship for our program. We have all the ingredients of a winning team and the addition of Chip will only make our presence stronger when we come to Long Beach.
The second race of the World Challenge season takes place this Sunday, April 5th at Long Beach.
Seth Thomas, piloting the No. 38 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i, jumped into the lead off the standing start during the first race of the 2009 World Challenge Touring Car series and never looked back.
With a qualifying run that landed him in 2nd, Thomas used the BMW’s rear-drive advantage to get a quick lead on pole-sitter Pierre Kleinubing in the front-drive RealTime Acura TSX and after just three laps had put just over a second between the two cars.
“I didn’t expect that kind of advantage going into Turn One,” Thomas said. “The BMWs have rear-wheel drive and they launch really well off the start. Pierre [Kleinubing] has a lot of experience starting up there and I expected him to be tough and get a little better launch. The way it worked out, I went into the brake zone for Turn One and looked in the mirror and saw the gap. I just thought ‘just maintain that and see what we can do.’”
Kleinubing and RealTime teammate Kuno Wittmer attempted to chase Thomas down, but after Whitmer retired due to mechanical problems, the race belonged to the Bimmerworld team, taking the podium 2.563 seconds ahead of the RealTime Acura.
“I’ve been coming here for many years,” Thomas said. “I always had good success at Sebring in the BMW Club stuff I did. Then we came to World Challenge and things went a little haywire. After last year, it’s definitely redemption here. Last year, we should have started on the pole but a technical infraction got us in trouble and we had to start from the back. I felt like this year was going to be the year.
“I keep telling everybody, there’s no words that can describe winning. It’s the best feeling. We’ve worked so hard to get here and it’s finally happened.”
Kleinubing admitted he pretty much lost the race right at the beginning thanks to an overly eager right foot.
“Halfway through first gear I spun the tires pretty badly on the big painted stripe and lost a little bit there from first to second. [Thomas] pulled a huge gap at that point. Every time I’d get a little closer, he seemed to answer and pull it back out. I just did what I could and finished second.”
Kleinubing states that he was eager to get to the next race where he will pilot a brand new TSX. At Sebring, only RealTime owner/racer and defending series champ Peter Cunningham had one of the new TSXs on the track and finished in 9th place after loosing body work in an incedent.
Mazda finished the day at Sebring yesterday with the fastest car during the first practice session ahead of the 2009 World Challenge Touring Car season.
Jason Saini, piloting the Tri-Point No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart Mazda, posted the best lap time at the end of the day with a 2:25.294 on the 17-turn, 3.7-mile circuit.
“Conditions were a bit variable,” Saini said. “It was damp this morning, but it got better throughout the session. It was hard to learn what the car was really doing in the changing conditions. I was lucky to have a late lap when the conditions were getting better every lap.”
“The team has done such a great job pulling things together in short order. So many people pulled together to make this happen at the last minute. All credit to the team for staying up late all last week and getting these cars together.”
The Tri-Point team of Mazda6′s also claimed 4th and 6th for the day with Charles Espenlaub piloting the No. 73 car and rookie Eric Foss in the No. 75 car taking the respective positions.
Much of the rest of the top 10 was filled with the RealTime Racing Acura TSXs with Kuno Wittmer taking 2nd, Pierre Kleinubing taking 3rd and Toby Grahovec taking 7th. Defending World Challenge Touring Car Champion Peter Cunningham, the only driver piloting a new TSX vehicle, placed 5th.
Finishing out the top ten were Andrew Aquilante and his Subaru WRX in 8th, Nick Esayian in his BMW 328i in 9th and James Clay in his BMW 328i in 10th.
The World Challenge Touring Car Series kicks-off with the opening race this Friday, March 20th .
Full Practice Session results after the jump: