Ernie Francis, Jr., and Gar Robinson secure Trans Am poles in Detroit
June 2, 2017
Trans Am fields set for 3-Dimensional Services Motor City 100 Muscle Car Challenge
DETROIT, Mich. [June 2, 2017] – Ernie Francis, Jr., and Gar Robinson will start on pole for their respective Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli races at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear after their efforts in today’s qualifying sessions for the 3-Dimensional Motor City 100 and Muscle Car Challenge, constituting Round 4 of the 2017 Trans Am Championship.
For Francis and the No. 98 Breathless Pro Racing/Beta Tools Ford Mustang the pole stands as the second of what has been a rampant start to the 2017 Trans Am Championship. which has seen Francis win two of the three contests thus far. The season is Francis’ first in the TA class after moving up from the TA4 class where he was a three-time champion. The transition has been a quick one for Francis, but wheeling the No. 98 around a street course started as a far different experience than Francis’ previous time on temporary courses in production-based racecars— including his TA4 class victory here in 2016.
“The first couple laps on this track at the beginning of the day were pretty scary,” said Francis. “I’m not used to driving an 850-plus horsepower car on a street course. I’ve run plenty of street courses in my GTS car but hopping into a TA car was a totally different animal. I just had to get used to it; figuring out where the limits of the car were— and dealing with just how much wider the car is compared to what I’m used to. Once we had that down we were able to put in a fast lap.”
Francis’ times progressed over the course of the day’s sessions— starting with a 1:39.120 in the first practice session, then a 1:34.698 in the second and ultimately a new track qualifying record 1:32.964 lap, well in front of the previous record, 1:34.613 set by Paul Fix in 2016.
“We’re pretty happy with the car,” said Francis. “We’ve spent some time testing and developing during the off-season and between the races— running laps and trying to sort out the various issues we’ve had. The team has put in plenty of work; we’re satisfied with what we have going into tomorrow.”
Starting alongside Francis will be Vinnie Allegretta, in the No. 41 TA Sights & Sounds Chevrolet Camaro, tying his career best starting position. Allegretta has secured podium honors three times throughout his Trans Am career, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2016. After turning a 1:33.443 during qualifying, Allegretta can now pursue his career-first TA win from the outside of the front row.
Qualifying third was Tomy Drissi, in the No. 8 War for the Planet of the Apes Ford Mustang, with a time of 1:33.718. The remaining TA class top five also featured Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, and Claudio Burtin, in the No. 7 GoShare Chevrolet Corvette, who turned times of 1:35.756 and 1:37.448.
In the TA2 class’ separate qualifying session, Gar Robinson, in the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, secured his second pole of the season and the third of his career with a new qualifying track record of 1:36.817—despite only being able to complete a single qualifying lap.
The entirety of the TA2 field was limited to that single lap after the No. 77 Speedlogix Dodge Challenger of Jordan Bernloehr was halted on track and needed to be dislodged from the tire barrier. The result is a starting TA2 grid that rewarded competitors who got up to qualifying speed rapidly—something Robinson and the Robinson Racing team planned on from the outset.
“When we came here last year, actual laps at race pace were very few and far between,” said Robinson. “With that in mind, we set up our car to be fast, immediately fast. We knew there were going to be some yellows; we knew we had to capitalize on the laps that we’d get.”
Detroit holds special significance for Robinson and the entirety of the Robinson Racing team that’s called the Motor City home for decades, dating back to when his father, George Robinson, campaigned the No. 74 in Trans Am in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“My entire team has always called Detroit home,” said Robinson. “I’m from Texas but moved up to Detroit a few years ago. Despite calling this city home and racing in the Detroit Grand Prix for years, our team has never had a win here. There’s a history to it… Robinson Racing is celebrating 30 years in 2020—but we’d love to have our first win here this weekend. “
Robinson only grabbed the TA2 pole by a slender margin, 1:36.817 to the 1:36.886 of defending TA2 champion Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Bestline Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang, who will start alongside Robinson come Sunday’s TA2 competition. The lap time came as a surprise even to Buffomante, who was victorious last round at Road Atlanta, after the No. 34 had struggled to get up to its customary speed in both practice sessions.
““We made a lot of changes before that session,” said Buffomante. “Mike (Cope), Travis (Cope) and the guys pulled a rabbit out of the hat there in a big way. I was a little surprised on that first lap just how much quicker we were, because I knew there was a chance of a shortened session. Of course, you don’t want it to be that short; I think we had a good one going on that second lap but I’m sure everyone else did too. Who knows? Congratulations to Gar and these guys that have been awesome for years—we’ll try and figure it all out for tomorrow, and I’m sure it will be a great show.”
Cameron Lawrence, in the No. 19 Class Auto Centers Chevrolet Camaro, would qualify third with a time of 1:37.558, completing a trifecta of current and past TA2 champions in the top three positions. Lawrence stands as the 2013, 2014 champion, Robinson the 2015 champion and Buffomante the 2016 champion.
The TA2 class top-five also included Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 5 Pennzoil/ ETE Reman Chevrolet Camaro, and Adam Andretti, a 2016 Motor City victor in the No. 44 ECC/ Anchor Bolt and Screw Chevrolet Camaro, with times of 1:38.345 and 1:38.623.
As a consequence of the shortened session, the TA2 class will see front runners from the previous practice sessions start further back in the 15-car TA2 grid. Rafa Matos, in No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro, who was second in both practice sessions will start 12th, while a 2016 TA2 race winner Kyle Marcelli, in the No. 96 AARDA Inc/FerPal Infrastructure, who was third quick in the final practice session will now start 13th— creating an intriguing lineup come Sunday’s TA2 race.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will return to the course at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear tomorrow, June 3, for the 3-Dimensional Services Motor City 100 featuring the TA class at 8:45 AM ET, and on Sunday, June 4, for the 3-Dimensional Services Muscle Car Challenge, featuring TA2 at 11:45 AM.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli joins the Verizon IndyCar Series, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks for one of the great weekends in motorsport, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
Fans can keep up with the event and all of The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli at www.gotransam.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotransam and on Twitter at @gotransam.
Remaining 3-Dimensional Services Motor City 100 Schedule:
Saturday, June 3, 2017
8:45 AM – 9:45 AM 3-Dimensional Services Motor City 100 – TA
Sunday, June 4, 2017
9:30 AM – 10:00 AM Trans Am drivers’ Autograph Session – Picnic Shelter 3
11:45 AM – 1:00 PM 3-Dimensional Services Muscle Car Challenge – TA2
Live Timing: All on-track sessions can be followed at www.gotransam.com and on the Race Monitor app available on Windows, Android, iOS and OSX.
Text Commentary: Updates provided throughout sessions on Twitter at @gotransam.
Broadcast: This weekend's event will be broadcast, tape delayed, on CBS Sports Network.
3-Dimensional Services Motor City 100 (TA)- Jun 24, 12:00pm ET – featuring TA
3-Dimensional Services Muscle Car Challenge (TA2) - Jul 01, 12:00pm ET