Robinson Racing duo leads TA2 Practice 2, Ernie Francis, Jr., sets the pace for TA at Sebring
March 4, 2017
Andrew Aquilante and Todd Napieralski lead production classes
SEBRING, Fla. [March 4, 2017] – The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli continued its opening weekend of the 2017 Trans Am Championship at Sebring International Raceway with two separate practice sessions, as teams and drivers alike made final preparations for this afternoon’s qualifying. TA2 would hold their practice session first, while TA, TA3 and TA4 would follow with a practice session of their own on the 17-turn, 3.74-mile course.
In TA2, the Robinson Racing duo of Gar Robinson and Shane Lewis led the way, finishing the practice session one, two atop the class charts. Robinson, from behind the wheel of the No. 74 Pura Vida/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, set the fastest lap of the session, a 2:07.616, far quicker than his own track record from qualifying last year, a 2:08.358. If he can replicate that speed in qualifying later today, Robinson stands a strong chance of not only starting on pole as he did at Sebring in 2016, but vying for the TA2 class win—another accolade he captured in 2016.
Lewis was not far behind his compatriot, turning a 2:08.158 lap of his own from behind the wheel of the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro. Lewis is currently in the midst of a very successful streak in the TA2 class in his home state of Florida, having secured wins at Homestead-Miami and Daytona to close out the 2016 Trans Am Championship.
Third in the TA2 class was Dillon Machavern, in the No. 24 Heritage Motorsports Ford Mustang, with a time of 2:08.394. Machavern led yesterday’s practice session with a time of 2:08.111. Machavern was followed in the top five by Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 5 Pennzoil/ ETE Reman Chevrolet Camaro, and 2016 TA2 champion Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Best Line Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang, with times of 2:09.196 and 2:09.213, respectively.
The TA2 top ten also included Kevin Poitras, Ron Keith, Louis-Philippe Montour, Cameron Lawrence and Jordan Bernloehr. The TA2 top ten and the rest of the 29-car TA2 field will return to the track for qualifying later today to determine the order for yet another independent 100-mile TA2 race.
The 21-car TA class was led by Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Breathless Performance/ Beta Tools Ford Mustang, with a time of 2:01.846. While many may have thought the transition from TA4 to TA would have taken some time for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 TA4 champion, Francis has showcased speed throughout the weekend’s practice and test session culminating in this, a chart-topping performance in the final practice session. Francis also has a history of success on the Sebring course, with a TA4 victory in 2016.
Francis was followed by fellow Floridian RJ Lopez, in the No. 06 Republica Brewing Chevrolet Corvette, with a time of 2:03.524. Lopez has captured pole here at Sebring in 2016 with a time of 2:02.657. Joining Francis and Lopez in the TA class top three was Practice 1 leader Vinnie Allegretta, in the No. 41 TA Sights and Sounds Chevrolet Corvette, with a time of 2:03.648. The TA class top five also featured David Pintaric, in the No. 57 Kryderacing Cadillac CTS-V, and Cliff Ebben, No. 36 Stumpf Ford/ McMahon Group Ford Mustang, with times of 2:03.939 and 2:04.757, respectively.
The TA class top ten was completed by Amy Ruman, Claudio Burtin, Tomy Drissi, Simon Gregg and Blaise Csida, in that order.
Joining the TA class in the session were competitors from the TA3 and TA4 classes, led by Andrew Aquilante, in the No. 32 Phoenix Performance/ Hawk/ Penske Chevrolet Corvette, and Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/ Tremec Chevrolet Camaro, respectively.
Aquilante, who also led TA3 in the first practice session of the weekend, turned a 2:10.765, far quicker than last year’s pole of 2:13.635, a testament to both Aquilante’s skills and the new Pirelli P ZERO™ tires outfitted throughout the class—with eight of the class’ participants all turning times quicker than the class qualifying record.
Following Aquilante in the class was Mark Boden, in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports/ Calypso Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, with a time of 2:11.345, highlighting the intriguing mix of both domestic and international performance within the class. Third was secured by last year’s pole sitter, Randy Kinsland, in the No. 11 Kinsland Racing Chevrolet Corvette, with a time of 2:11.588.
2014, 2015 and 2016 Sebring class victor Lee Saunders, in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper, was fourth in the session with a time of 2:11.833 and was joined in the TA3 top five by Boden’s teammate Tim Kezman, in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports/ Calypso Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, with a time of 2:11.952.
The TA3 class top ten was completed by Conor Flynn, Preston Calvert, Tom Herb, Jason Berkeley and Craig Conway.
Napieralski logged a time of 2:18.308 to lead the TA4 class, beating out Practice 1 leader Mike Geldart, in the No. 43 Racers Edge/ Ford Performance Ford Mustang, who turned a 2:20.014—second fastest for TA4 in the session. Brian Kleeman, in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang, was third quick in class with a time of 2:20. 607; while Mel Shaw, in the No. 22 Bay Commercial Group Chevrolet Camaro, was fourth with a time of 2:26.963.
The TA, TA3 and TA4 class session was shortened after Tomy Drissi, driving the No 8 Ghost in the Shell Corvette, made contact with the tire wall at the exit of turn 17, four laps into the session. Tomy was uninjured in the incident. The crew is working on the car prepping for this afternoon’s qualifying session.
“We’ve been making gains with the car set up,” noted Tomy. “I came down the back stretch and struggled to get the car to the inside of turn 17. As the car pushed out wide, I was instantly into the marbles… it’s pretty messy out there. I was basically a passenger at that point … so all I could do was ride it out. The car suffered body damage, but the guys are pretty sure we’ll be ready for qualifying. I want to thank the safety crews out there…. they got to me right away. Those folks are great!”
The Trans Am field will return to the Sebring track for qualifying sessions later today, commencing with the TA2 class at 5:05 PM ET, followed by the TA and then the TA3 and TA4 classes, with all sessions determining the starting order for tomorrow’s 100-mile Trans Am races.
Fans of the Trans Am Series by Pirelli can follow along throughout the weekend at www.gotransam.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotransam and on Twitter at @gotransam.
Remaining Event Schedule
Saturday March 4, 2017
5:05 PM – 5:25 PM TA2 Qualifying
5:25 PM – 5:45 PM TA Qualifying
5:45 PM – 6:05 PM TA3/TA4 Qualifying
Sunday March 5, 2017
11:05 AM – 12:30 PM TA2 Race – Powered by AEM Infinity
3:05 PM – 4:35 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Race
*all times eastern