Trans Am to return to historic home, fabled Road America
August 2, 2012
On August 17, 2012 Trans Am will be returning home. The road racing series has visited a multitude of courses over it’s near 50 year history, but the Trans Am Series has made more appearances at Road America than any other course—41 in total.
Over the decades a multitude of legends have taken home victories at the fabled course: Mark Donohue, Peter Gregg, Bob Tullius, Scott Pruett, Dorsey Schroeder and Tommy Kendall just to start. Racing royalty has covered every inch of this track over the years, and on August 17th the next generation of Trans Am legends will take to the course at Elkhart Lake.
This next generation is growing rapidly. The 28-car field is the largest of the year for Trans Am. The 100 mile race will feature the octane driven excitement that made Trans Am famous years ago and has powered the series’ rebirth so far.
The TA class will feature twelve cars and one of the deepest driver fields the Series has seen in years. The mix of Corvettes, Mustangs and XKRs look to showcase the TA class in all it’s glory, cemented atop the ranks of GT cars in North America.
The race marks the return of Cliff Ebben to Trans Am and the TA class. Ebben was the victim of a mechanical failure during the qualifying session at the season opener, which resulted in a serious injury and forced him to sit out the season until now. Ebben has won two of the last three Trans Am races at Road America in his #36 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford Mustang. Ebben, teammate Danny Lamers and David Jans will doing their best to uphold the Ford heritage at Road America. The Mustang has won more Trans Am races at Road America than any other model, and, while this year has been dominated by Corvettes and Camaros, Ebben’s return to Trans Am, and Road America, may be just the boost needed to get the Mustang back on the podium.
The heat will be on for points leader Simon Gregg, while he’s held that lead, currently 140, since the third race of the year at Mid-Ohio, where he was victorious, challengers will be in abundance. His father, Peter Gregg, notched three wins at Road America, if Simon were to capture his first; it would go a long way toward sustaining his championship hunt. Gregg will once again be driving his white, red and blue #59 Gregg Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. So far, he and the car have been the vision of consistency—Gregg is yet to miss a podium this year and the car has completed an extraordinary 68 races without a mechanical failure.
Gregg’s closest challenger is currently Amy Ruman, who is now second in the points standings with 131. Ruman has only missed a single podium this year and, after finally getting her #23 McNichols Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette up to speed, has the potential to overtake Gregg this race if things go wrong for the points leader. Most recently, Ruman took home second at Watkin’s Glen to cap off a run of four consecutive podiums.
However, there are plenty of other drivers who will have a chance to throw a wrench into Ruman and Gregg’s plans. Three that standout are Doug Peterson, Jorge Diaz, Jr. and two time defending champion Tony Ave.
Tony Ave has struggled this year. While he’s proved time and time again that he’s fastest man on the track by taking pole in every qualifying session this year, he has also been the victim of mechanical problems. Last race, Watkin’s Glen International, it seemed that Ave had left those problems behind, at one time passing five cars in one lap, however disaster eventually stuck, as Ave relates here:
“We had the fastest car for sure; we got up to fourth in a lap, and then passed a couple more cars. Then I was pretty set on just riding along and got by Amy on a restart, but we had a lot of time left in the car. Then I lost the power steering, so I ran with her for a while after that, but it was getting to the point that to keep up the pace I would be risking the car—then the power steering line actually burst and covered the window with oil.”
This time Tony Ave has left the car that won him two championships at home and will unveil his new #4 Lamers/PME Engines Chevrolet Corvette at the race at Road America. If Ave can maintain the lethal speed he’s known for in his new car, he’ll be one of the favorites to stand atop the podium at Road America.
Ave’s teammate Doug Peterson is equally a threat to place. He’s currently third in the points standing with 108 and has three podiums to his name as well, including the season opener at Mosport. Up to this point Peterson feels he’s just been learning the ropes:
“This is a still new car for me, and I’m still getting used to it and we’re still working a few things out. We’ve been doing well though, so I can’t really complain. I’m enjoying myself and look forward to the rest of the year.”
The #87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette missed out at Watkins Glen as Peterson was unable to attend, but the duo will be in attendance at Road America and ready to get back on the track and back on the podium.
Joining them for the second time will be Watkins Glen victor and Trans Am veteran Jorge Diaz, Jr. While Watkins Glen was Diaz’s first race of the year, he and his #8 Diaz Racing Jaguar XKR led from start to finish. Diaz and his crew are know for their dedication to perfecting the car for each track they visit, often working late into the night to have the car ready. While Diaz has little chance of landing a place on the championship podium, he’ll be a threat to be in the top three for every race he takes part in.
Ian Patterson, Alan Lewis, Blaise Csida and Rick Dittman will round out the highly competitive class, however it wouldn’t come as a surprise if any of them ended up on the podium this weekend.
The TA2 class will be the largest in attendance and feature 14 cars, double the number of entrants from last year. The top three points leaders will all be in attendance: Bob Stretch, Pete Halsmer and Michael Wilson.
Stretch will once again be behind the wheel of a #98 car. After crashing his original yellow Fix Rim Camaro in a practice session at Watkin’s Glen, Stretch was forced to race in a car that was put together in a matter of hours—a car that ultimately did not finish the race, despite Stretch’s charge from last to first place in the first half of the race. This time Stretch will be in a fully prepped #98 Fix Rim Mobile Wheel Repair Chevrolet Camaro and set to return to his winning ways. Stretch still has a stranglehold on the TA2 points lead with 141, with a 20 point margin over runner-up Pete Halsmer.
Halsmer has two Trans Am Series career wins at Road America, tying Ebben for the most of any active competitor in the series. He is also coming off a two-win streak from victories at New Jersey Motorsports Park and Watkins Glen International. Halsmer and the #12 Ctek Battery Chargers/Motorstate Chevrolet Camaro have won a total of three races this year and have engaged in a back and forth duel with Stretch that has produced some of the best racing this year.
Michael Wilson still holds third place in the TA2 point standings. He and his #08 Wilson’s Carpet Monte Carlo have three podiums to his name, second only to Halsmer and has been consistent throughout the season. He’ll need that consistency to fend off charges from both Kurt Roehrig and Tom Sheehan. They both placed at Watkins Glen and are within six points of Wilson and in the running for a spot on the podium at the end of the year.
The rest of the TA2 field includes Mel Shaw, Mike Miller, Joe Sturm, Cameron Lawrence, Greg Rodgers, Britt Casey and John Atwell. The sheer size of the field stands as a testament to the progress that the Trans Am series has made in just one short year.
The Trans Am race will once again feature the GGT class with Chuck Cassaro and Mickey Mills. Cassaro returns for the second time this year in his #76 Cassaro Enterprises/ Midwest Counsel Panoz GTS while Mickey Mills makes her Trans Am debut in her #43 Mills Racing BMW M3.
The Series will take to the track a total of five times over the course of the festivities at Road America. One Wednesday August 15 the series will feature promoter test day sessions from 8:00-8:45 a.m. and again from 1:00-1:45 p.m. Official events kick of on Thursday the 16th at 8:00 a.m. with an official practice which will conclude at 8:45 a.m. Qualifying will take place later that day from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m. Then on Friday August 17 Trans Am will take to the historic track for the 100 mile race at 8:00 a.m.
Additional coverage throughout the event may be found at www.gotransam.com, @Gotransam on Twitter and www.facebook.com/gotransam
The Trans Am Series dates back to 1966. Throughout the years, some of the greatest names in motorsports have participated in the Trans Am Series. Backdating the Driver’s Championship to the inaugural season, 30 different drivers took titles, with multiple Championships being won by Pual Gentilozzi, Tommy Kendall, Mark Donohue, Scott Pruett, Wally Dallenback Jr, George Follmer, Peter Gregg, Horst Kwech, Scott Sharp, Bob Tullius and Tony Ave.
The iconic Trans Am Series – America’s Road Racing Series – is operated by the Trans Am Race Company, LLC. Through a five-year agreement, the Trans Am Race Company manages the marketing rights to the series and is responsible for Trans Am Series public relations and promotions. SCCA Pro Racing sanctions Trans Am events and provides event operations services to the series.