Ave Scores Fourth Trans-Am Victory of 2010 Season in Thrilling Finish at Autobahn
JOLIET, Ill. (August 1, 2010) -- For 25 of the 26 laps in the inaugural SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series Harrah's Autobahn Grand Prix presented by Mazda, it appeared that championship leader Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., would easily cruise to his fourth victory of the season after starting from the pole position.
On the final lap around the 3.56-mile road circuit, however, RJ Lopez, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, managed to close a gap of more than five seconds to Ave and pulled out all the stops in an attempt to steal the victory at the line. Unfortunately for Lopez, he crossed the stripe 0.460 seconds behind Ave and then slid off course and into the barrier in Turn 1 just after taking the checkered flag. Luckily, neither Lopez nor his racecar were significantly injured in the incident.
It was Ave's first victory in the No. 4 Lamers Racing/McMahon Group/Optech/PME Chevrolet Corvette since winning at Lime Rock Park last month, and he also won at Miller Motorsports Park and Road America in June. Today's victory -- which was also Ave's sixth podium result in seven races this season -- allowed him to grow his lead in the championship to 98 points, 891-793, over Lopez with three races remaining in the 2010 season.
"It was a little harder than I was hoping," Ave said. "RJ and I just had a really good race. It was a bigger gap than you would think for such a tough race. We were both running as hard as we could. I lost my brakes at the end for some weird reason, so he about got me, but I hung on. I've got to really thank Denny Lamers, Bob Monette and Mark Smith. Those are the guys that are helping me do this. Without them, we wouldn't be here.
"I want to win races and I need the prize money. We use that to race on. I sell cars, and winning sells cars, but you're thinking about (the championship), too. Like when you see him coming, if he was a lot faster, you're not going to let him spin you out, you've got to just let him go. But it worked out good."
Like Ave, Lopez also picked up his sixth podium of the year with his second-place run aboard the No. 6 Disco 106/ECR Engines/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette. Under hot and steamy conditions, Lopez encountered similar brake issues to Ave's and was ready to concede the victory before he got wind of potential difficulties with Ave's No. 4 Corvette.
"I found out (the lapped car of Tomy) Drissi got by Ave, and I didn't know if he was just slowing down or if he had a problem, so I figured, let me go after him," Lopez explained. "We got closer and closer, we got right on him, and coming onto that front straight, I got on him and I was right on his bumper. Then I got sideways coming onto the front straight and I pulled up next to him and just drag raced. I'd been pumping my brakes every corner, and I was just so focused on keeping that (throttle) pedal down on the ground that I forgot to pump the brakes and whatever. I finished second. It was a really close second, probably one of the closest ever, and I didn't have any brakes going into Turn 1 so I just went straight and almost took Tony out, but it was fun."
For her third consecutive Trans-Am race, Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, claimed a third-place trophy in the No. 23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette. Ruman's previous two podiums this season came at Toronto two weeks ago and at June's race at Road America, and she is now fifth in the Trans-Am driver standings.
"Three times is the charm," Ruman said. "I just tried to maintain as usual. I had a good car. I just wish I could have kept them at bay at the beginning a little more. At first, I was running pretty close to them and then I just faded a little bit. This track is really bumpy and it was just hot. I tried to just maintain. If you look at my lap times, you can't get any more matching lap times than I had in that race. Unfortunately, I was just too far away.
"I was starting to gain on them at the end, my dad said, and their tires and brakes were gone. I felt like I had a pretty good car at the end, but I just wasn't close enough. I'm proud of my team. I'm proud of the McNichols Corvette again. It puts me on the podium again. We've run four Trans-Am races this year and we got three podiums, three thirds. I can't complain. I'm happy about that. I just want to thank my parents and my sponsors, McNichols and Goodyear. The tires held up for me again, race after race. I'm just glad we were here again."
Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., picked up his fourth top-five result in seven races this season with a fourth-place run in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. Gregg is fourth in the championship with 650 points; 74 points behind 2009 Trans-Am Series champion Tomy Drissi, of Hollywood, Calif., who is third in points.
Denny Lamers, of Appleton, Wis., finished fifth in the No. 66 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford/Lamers Racing Ford Mustang. It was the best result of his Trans-Am career to date, one spot better than a sixth-place result from Road America last year. Glen Jung, of Osteen, Fla., was poised to take his third straight top-five result in the No. 77 Rotary Xtreme/MAZDASPEED/Goodyear Mazda RX-7, but he ran out of fuel three laps shy of the finish and wound up sixth.
Drissi started third in the No. 5 Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Jaguar XKR and briefly moved up to second on the opening lap. However, on Lap 2, Drissi's car broke a tie rod in the Turn 2 complex, sending him off course and into the barrier. With parts from Lopez's Lopesport team, Drissi's RSR team made repairs to the car on pit lane and got him back on course, albeit several laps down to the leaders. He wound up seventh in the final race standings.
In the STO race, Joe Koenig scored the victory in the No. 70 Trim-Tex Drywall Products/Fall-Line BMW M3 by one lap over Mark Boden in the No. 45 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup.
-source: scca pro racing