Trans-Am Series ready for rumble in the great white north

BOWMANVILLE, Ontario -- The relative calm of the Ontario, Canada countryside will again be interrupted by the thundering roar of V-8 racing engines as the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup visits Mosport International Raceway. The Victoria Day Trans-Am Series Weekend, Round 3 of this year's championship, is scheduled for Sunday, May 18 at 1 p.m.

Mosport has been a witness to many racing series since it opened in 1961, but none have been more crucial to the track's success than the Trans-Am Series. The Series, America's oldest continuously running road racing series, has competed 23 times during its 37-year history at the 2.459-mile, 10-turn road course since 1976.

The Mosport race comes at an interesting juncture for the Series. Coming off two street-course races, Trans-Am Series competitors can now really stretch the legs of their V-8-engined machines. Considered one of the fastest tracks on the tour, the Trans-Am Series cars will reach top speeds of nearly 175 miles per hour here.

One active driver in the field is undefeated at Mosport. Scott Pruett, driver of the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR, has accomplished the seemingly impossible task of winning each of his three Trans-Am Series starts here, and once in an SCCA World Challenge endurance race in 1987. Interestingly, two of those Trans-Am Series victories came during Pruett's championship seasons, in 1987 and 1994. His first triumph came in 1986, his first full season of Trans-Am Series competition. This season, Pruett is returning to his Trans-Am Series roots, after an eight-year hiatus, during which he competed in the Champ Car World Series and NASCAR. Yet, Pruett is happy to be where he is, and looks forward to the Mosport round.

"It's pretty phenomenal when you have an undefeated record at a race track," said Pruett, who comes into Mosport with a three-point lead on Boris Said in the championship standings. "I don't think there are many drivers who can say they're undefeated at a race track, especially four times. One time is pretty easy; two times, perhaps; but four times is amazing."

Pruett, who has a victory and a third-place finish at the first two events of this season--both of which were held on temporary street courses--is excited about the Series' first 2003 visit to a permanent road course.

"Going back to Mosport, I'd like nothing more than come out five for five," added Pruett. "We've had some great performances out of the Jaguar so far this year, and out of Rocketsports Racing. The lack of testing caught me out a little bit at Long Beach. I used up the rear tires a little prematurely. I learned a lot from Long Beach and I'm going to carry that forward."

However, Pruett was quick to warn that Mosport is not a track for the faint of heart.

"Mosport is one of those tracks where you have to balls it up to go fast," said Pruett. "It's not for the timid, and I think that's one of the most exciting things about that track. If you're aggressive with it, and not afraid of it, you're going to be competitive. If you're tentative, you're going to be running in the middle to the back of the pack."

But Pruett won't be alone in his quest for a repeat victory here, as his team owner, three-time Trans-Am Series titleholder Paul Gentilozzi, seeks his third Mosport trophy. Gentilozzi, driver of the No. 3 Jaguar R Performance XKR, won in 1996, and again in 2001, the year of his third Drivers' Championship. In all, Gentilozzi has finished in the top 10 nine times, and has scored four top-five finishes.

Although victory has eluded him at Mosport, Johnny Miller, driver of the No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR, has a record of success here. Miller finished second at Mosport last season, behind winner Boris Said. In his six starts here, Miller has recorded five top-10 and two top-five finishes.

But don't count out 2002 BBS Most Improved Driver Randy Ruhlman. Ruhlman came within one turn of finishing on the podium in 2000 were it not for a late-race incident, and is looking for big things at Mosport.

Other drivers to watch include Stu Hayner, as well as Tomy Drissi, Michael Lewis, Max Lagod, Simon Gregg, Glenn Andrew, Ontario native Jerry Simmons, and John Baucom. These seasoned veterans will also have some stiff competition from this year's rookie crop. Jorge Diaz, Jr. leads Bobby Sak in the rookie championship, while Joey Scarallo sits third.

With two returning champions, a host of seasoned veterans, and a talented rookie crop, all racing at the Series' fastest track, this year's Mosport round will definitely be one to watch.

-scca pro racing/trans am-