Trans Am Descends on Sebring to Kick Off 2017 Championship
March 2, 2017
75-car field, Pirelli tires, set for season debut
SEBRING, Fla. [March 1, 2017] – The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli is set to commence its 2017 season this coming weekend, March 4-5, at Sebring International Raceway with 76 cars entered across four classes. The annual opening round at Sebring has become a modern-era tradition for Trans Am, with every season for the past four years beginning anew at the very location the Series held its inaugural event in 1966.
Now the revitalized Series descends upon Sebring once more, set to hold two 100.98-mile, 27-lap, races on the legendary 3.74-mile circuit—a TA, TA3 and TA4 multi-class race and a TA2 centric race will both be held on Sunday, March 5th. The field stands as Trans Am’s third largest in Series history, just three short of last year’s Sebring field of 78— a testament to the stability of the now revitalized Series.
Making their much-anticipated debut at Sebring will be Pirelli, commencing its role as the Official Tire, ready to display the result of nearly a year’s worth of design and development efforts dedicated to the creation of purpose-built P Zero tires for the TA and TA2 classes—two of road racing’s more distinctive classes.
The TA class will feature 26 of the iconic 875-horsepower GT cars that have carried the Trans Am banner for decades, key amongst them is two-time defending champion Amy Ruman, driver of the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, who once more returns to defend her title.
2017 offers an unenviable challenge for Ruman, with former TA champions also making their return to the TA field. 2013-2014 TA Champion Doug Peterson, in the No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Cadillac CTS-V, is set to make his return after a year away and will be joined by Simon Gregg, 2012 Champion and driver of the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, as well as 2009 Champion Tomy Drissi, driver of the No. 8 Ghost in The Shell Chevrolet Corvette. This season marks Drissi’s first year of full-time Trans Am participation since 2010.
Aside from the champions, other notable returnees to the TA class include Cliff Ebben, David Pintaric, John Baucom and 2016 Rookie of the Year Vinnie Allegretta.
A title challenger may also arise from the ranks of TA class newcomers, including 2014, 2015 and 2016 TA4 Champion Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Breathless Pro/ Beta Tools Ford Mustang, set to make his TA class debut at Sebring. Other notable newcomers to the Series include Hollywood stunt driver and NASCAR veteran Stanton Barrett, Jeff Hinkle and Lawrence Lepurage.
Last year’s TA race proved to be full of surprises, with Kenny Bupp claiming his first career Trans Am victory. Kerry Hitt and Claudio Burtin joined Bupp on the podium, a result in which the top three finishers had all qualified outside the top ten.
The TA2 class seems destined to once more be tightly contested in 2017, with returning TA2 Champion Tony Buffomante, driver of the No. 34 Bestline Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang, ready to begin his own title defense against a 32-car TA2 field full of rookies and veterans alike.
Previous champions, Gar Robinson, in the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, and Cameron Lawrence, in the No. 19 Class Auto Centers Chevrolet Camaro, will both be in attendance—together they have won the past four Trans Am openers at Sebring with Robinson’s win coming in 2016 and Lawrence’s in 2015, 2014 and 2013. The event marks the first time in the class’ short history that more than two TA2 title winners have raced together.
Lawrence, a resident of nearby Windermere, Fla., has never lost in a TA2 race at Sebring. Now with a new car and a new team the 2014 and 2013 TA2 Champion will attempt to keep his streak alive, as he returns to full Trans Am competition after a year away.
Additional challengers to Buffomante’s title may be no further than his own team with Mike Cope Race Cars featuring Lawrence Loshak, Louis-Philippe Montour, Dillon Machavern, Keith Prociuk and rookie Matt Parent. Loshak and Machavern were both race winners in 2017 and finished in the top five of the TA2 points while Montour stands as a recent addition to the Cope team.
Last year’s championship runner-up Shane Lewis, driver of the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, returns alongside Gar Robinson for Robinson Racing—reuniting the duo that finished two-three in last year’s championship. Lewis, in particular, completed the season in top form, with four consecutive podiums, including two wins— both coming in his home state of Florida at Homestead-Miami and Daytona.
Also returning to full-time competition is Adam Andretti, in the No. 44 ECC/ Anchor Bolt & Screw Chevrolet Camaro. After missing much of the second half of last year, Andretti and teammate AJ Henriksen return to TA2 hoping to recreate, and potentially one-up, the form that saw Andretti finish second in the 2014 and 2015 championships.
The 30-car field is highlighted by the presence of 12 rookie competitors: Carlo Falcone, Matt Parent, Scott Lagasse, Jr., Ray Neveau, Elias Anderson, Mitch Marvosh, Phil Lasco, Roberto Sabato, Philip Di Pippo and Alex Mayer. Also joining the TA2 class will be Doug Peterson, doing double duty on the weekend in both the TA and TA2 classes.
TA3 and TA4 will also compete on the weekend, joining the TA class in a multi-class competition to cap off the weekend, with both classes marked by the absence of last year’s class champions.
In TA3, a bevy of new faces are set to feature in one of the class’ largest fields to date, with Porsches, Corvettes, Aston Martins and more highlighting the entry list. 2016 race winners Tim Kezman, in the No 4 Fall-Line/ Calypso Porsche 911 GT3, Mark Boden, in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports/ Calypso Porsche 911 GT3, and Randy Kinsland, in the 11 Kinsland Racing Chevrolet Corvette, all return to competition.
Another prior victor of note is the addition of Andrew Aquilante, in the No. 32 Phoenix Performance/ Hawk Chevrolet Corvette, making his first Trans Am appearance outside of New Jersey Motorsports Park where he has won the past two Trans Am competitions.
Returning to Sebring in pursuit of his fourth consecutive class victory at Sebring will be Florida native Lee Saunders, in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper. Saunders, also the 2015 TA3 International champion, has dominated the class at Sebring since 2013, winning all three contests and missing out on pole only once.
2014 TA3 champion Jason Berkeley, in the No. 67 BMG Management Chevrolet Corvette, will also be in attendance—ready to expand on his tally of three career wins in the production-based class.
Rookies to the class include Steven Davison, Tom Herb, Preston Calvert and Craig Conway.
With Ernie Francis, Jr., now plying his trade in the TA class, the specter of the three-time TA4 champ no longer looms large over the class. Now 2016-runner up Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/ Tremec Chevrolet Camaro, will faceoff with the likes of Brian Kleeman, Chris Outzen, Mike Geldart and Mel Shaw to see who emerges as the class’ new front runner.
In total, the 75-car field consists of 25 previous race winners across all classes and 20 rookies.
Round 1 of the 2017 Trans Am Championship presented by Pirelli, will be held alongside the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s Spring Vintage Classic, mixing the past and present of road racing.
Tickets for the event can be purchased online at www.gotransam.com/events
Friday March 3, 2017
4:45 PM – 5:15 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Practice 1
5:15 PM – 5:45 PM TA2 Practice 1
Saturday March 4, 2017
10:30 AM – 11:05 AM TA2 Practice 2
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Practice 2
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM Paddock Open House
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