On this Day in Trans Am History: Sept. 12, 2010
September 12, 2020
Sept. 12, 2010
R.J. Lopez passed Tony Ave with a bold move under braking in Turn 14 on the final lap to win round nine of the 2010 Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli at Virginia International Raceway.
Driving the No. 6 Disco 106/ECR Engines Corvette, the Bal Harbour, Florida driver beat eventual champion Ave to the checkered flag by 2.713-seconds.
Lopez ended Ave’s three-race winning streak with his first Trans Am triumph in Round 6 at Toronto, but Ave responded with victories at Autobahn and Brainerd, where Lopez finished a distant fourth.
"We made some major changes to the suspension in the short time after Brainerd and the car responded great,” Lopez said after the race. “Danny Slack of ECR brought us a new power plant to the track and it made killer power.”
The team was pleased with the changes right off the truck at VIR.
“We were quick right out of the box and the car just got better and better with every change we made," said Lopez "Too bad qualifying was canceled [due to bad weather], I think we had a chance at scoring our first pole, but sitting on the front row based on points was acceptable.”
Following the green flag, Lopez was content to run a steady pace behind Ave.
“We ran a comfortable pace making sure we saved something for the end as we usually do," said Lopez. "The tires were going away from pretty early on, so I had to drive the car a little more carefully than usual. We caught Ave on the last lap and went for the pass in turn 14 at the end of the back straight. I was about half a car length behind on the inside when Ave closed the door on me. It was a racing incident in my opinion, obviously Ave didn't see it as I did as he was pretty upset after the incident.”
The Corvettes of Doug Harrington, Bobby Sak and Simon Gregg took the next three places, followed by Tomy Drissi in a Jaguar.
After the checkered flag, Ave ran into Lopez hard enough to break one of his shocks on the cool-down lap, although Ave said it was not intentional. Lopez was later fined $500 for what was deemed an unsafe pass, with Ave penalized a similar amount for the post-race contact.
Ave went on to win the season-ending race at Road Atlanta during the Petit Le Mans weekend, with Lopez dropping out with mechanical issues after 18 laps. Ave won the title by 201 points over Lopez, 1280-1079.
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Mark Windecker photos of R.J. Lopez from 2010 (Autobahn)