The SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series – which is celebrating its 45th Anniversary Season this year – gets its 2011 season underway this weekend back where it all began for the series in 1966, when Jochen Rindt won the inaugural Trans-Am race.
Legendary names like Rindt, Jerry Titus, Bob Tullius, Peter Gregg, Sam Posey, Mark Donohue, Paul Gentilozzi and Boris Said have celebrated Trans-Am victories at Sebring over the years and a whole new crop of racers will be looking to add their names to this illustrious list after the race on Friday morning beginning at 9:10 a.m. ET.
Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., will begin defense of his 2010 series championship in the No. 4 Lamers Racing/McMahon Group/Optech/PME Engines Chevrolet Corvette in Friday’s race. Ave led the series last year with six victories from the season’s 10 races and looks to carry that momentum into this season.
However, Ave’s closest competitor in the 2010 championship, RJ Lopez, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, also returns to the series in 2011. Lopez is armed with another full year’s experience and two 2010 victories under his belt, and he will give Ave and the rest of the field all they could handle in his No. 6 Disco 106/ECR Engines/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette.
This week’s field features two more top-five finishers in the 2010 series championship in Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio. Gregg – who finished fourth in the 2010 championship – returns aboard the familiar orange-and-yellow No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette while Ruman, who finished fifth in the title chase last year, is back in the No. 23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette. Ruman is the only woman in this weekend’s Trans-Am field.
Last year’s sixth-place points finisher, Glen Jung, of Osteen, Fla., is also back this week aboard the fan-favorite No. 77 Rotary X-treme/MAZDASPEED/YAW Power Mazda RX-7, as is 2009 Trans-Am Rookie of the Year Daniel Ramoutarsingh, of La Romain, Trinidad, in the No. 18 Trinrico Steel & Wire Products Limited Jaguar XKR.
The Sebring field also includes another former Trans-Am Series race-winner in Cliff Ebben, of Appleton, Wis., who will be back in the cockpit of his No. 36 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford/Lamers Racing Ford Mustang and running as a teammate to rookie Denny Lamers in the No. 66 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford/Lamers Racing Ford Mustang. Ebben won the Trans-Am round at Road America in 2009.
A pair of 2010 Trans-Am podium finishers will look to duplicate or exceed that performance again on Friday. Canadian racer Blaise Csida, of Stouffville, Ontario, will pilot the No. 07 Gateway Racing Inc. Chevrolet Corvette and Doug Harrington, of Kemah, Texas is in the No. 00 Pinnacle Autosports/New Orleans Voo Doo Chevrolet Corvette. Csida finished third last year in his home event at Mosport International Raceway while Harrington took third in the penultimate round of the 2010 championship at Virginia International Raceway.
Harrington is still considered a series rookie as he contested his first three rounds last season and he leads an impressive list of rookies at Sebring. Other rookies this weekend are Jordan Bupp, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in the No. 9 Hamilton Safe Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette; Carlos de Quesada, of Coral Gables, Fla., in the No. 22 Allegra Motorsports/Vitalz Jaguar XKR; Scott Tucker, of Overland, Kan., in the No. 55 Kelly Moss Motorsports Porsche 997 Cup; the aforementioned Lamers; David Jans, of Mundelein, Ill., in the No. 70 World Information Systems Ford Mustang; and Charles Wicht, of Big Pine Key, Fla., in the No. 92 Wicht Racing/Crystal Clear Pools Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Also returning to Trans-Am competition this week are John Baucom, of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 86 Baucom Motorsports Ford Mustang and Kenny Bupp, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the No. 3 Hamilton Safe Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Baucom competed in the final two rounds of the 2010 season while Bupp is back in Trans-Am for the first time since 2009.
This week will also see the full-season debut of the new Trans-Am 2 (TA2) class for 2011. There are six TA2 entries, including three drivers who competed in the TA2 class exhibition in the 2010 Trans-Am finale at Road Atlanta last fall. Those three drivers are Gregg Rodgers, of Southlake, Texas, who finished second in the inaugural TA2 race and will drive the No. 40 PinnacleAutosports.com/Eagles Canyon Raceway/Petfinder.com Chevrolet Camaro; Tony Amico, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who finished third in class at Road Atlanta and is driving the No. 78 Caddy’s on the Beach Chevrolet Monte Carlo this week; and George Lutich, of Palm Harbor, Fla., who finished eighth in TA2 last year at Road Atlanta and is back in the No. 37 Paragon Water Systems Inc. Chevrolet Camaro. The three TA2 newcomers in this week’s field are J. Thomas (Hollywood) Graham, of Clearwater, Fla. in the No. 7 Financial Knowledge Network Ford Taurus; Ricky Sanders, of Fayetteville, Ga., in the No. 19 Pitboxes.com/Racetrailersales.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo; and Bill Prietzel, of Richfield, Wis., in the No. 32 Quality Auto Repair Inc. Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
-source: scca pro racing