Ave Moves to Top of Time Charts at VIR
After posting the sixth-quickest time in the first SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series practice session at Virginia International Raceway on Friday morning, championship points leader Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C. restored order in the second session on Friday afternoon by running the fastest lap of the day.
On his first flying lap of the session, Ave turned in his best time at 1:47.077 (109.939 mph) in the No. 4 Lamers Racing/McMahon Group/Optech/PME Chevrolet Corvette. It was the quickest lap of the day by more than half a second, but Ave’s session came to an early end shortly thereafter when he made contact with the barrier at the famous VIR “Oak Tree” turn, otherwise known as Turn 11.
“I just slid off the road,” Ave explained. “We tried something a little different setup-wise and I slid off once coming onto the pit straight just a little bit on my fastest lap. I came in and thought I’d make one more blast and then I got up going into Oak Tree and just slid a little bit wide and couldn’t stop. We just touched the wall there. It’s just hood and nose. They’re not wrecked, we’ve just got to bend them back straight a little bit. We should be OK. We need to work on the car to go a little bit faster, but I think we’re OK.”
RJ Lopez, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was second quickest on the day thanks to a lap at 1:47.538 (109.468 mph) in the morning session. He posted the third-quickest lap in the afternoon session at 1:48.518 (108.479 mph), but like Ave, his session also ended in less than ideal fashion.
“We’ve had an adventurous couple of weeks lately,” said Lopez, who also had an incident last weekend at Brainerd. “First of all, hats off to the guys. They’ve really been working on this car, especially after what happened last week. I mean, REALLY been working hard. ECR gave me a new powerplant and the thing is just flying down the straights. I think for the first time this year, we’re actually faster down the straights than Tony Ave on the straightaway.
“We’ve had the shocks in and out of the car a few times this weekend just looking for that perfect setup. We’ve really been working hard on it and something happened. I’m not sure if the bolt that was holding the shock gave out or wasn’t tight enough, but basically the left rear shock broke going down the front straight. That was that. The whole car just shifted all its weight on the left rear and then under braking I killed the right front tire. I was able to get it under control and basically I just pulled over somewhere where I figured it was kind of safe and just waited there. The car is real, real fast. I think we’re going to have a great shot for the pole tomorrow and also a great shot to win the race. Overall, I’m happy. It’s too bad what happened, but I’m sure the boys will figure it out.”
Second quick in the afternoon session and third quick on the day was Bobby Sak, of Kalamazoo, Mich. in the No. 17 The Pita Pit/The Grotto at Capone’s Chevrolet Corvette. Sak, who is preparing for just his second Trans-Am start since 2003, posted a best lap at 1:48.001 (108.999 mph).
“It went really well,” Sak said. “We found out we’ve got a good car. We’ve got a lot of work to do tonight for qualifying, but I think we can find at least another second out there. The Pita Pit and The Grotto at Capone’s Chevy was really good. Scott McLaren and Ken Kelley have given me a real good car and I think we can contend for the win this weekend.”
Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, wound up fourth on the combined time sheets with a best lap at 1:48.719 (108.279 mph) in the No. 23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette. Ruman’s best lap came in the morning session. Defending series champion Tomy Drissi, of Hollywood, Calif., completed the top five in the No. 5 Unstoppable Jaguar XKR. Drissi’s best time of 1:49.149 (107.853 mph) was achieved in the afternoon.
1. (4) Tony Ave, Maiden, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette, 1:47.077, 109.939.
2. (6) RJ Lopez, Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, Chevrolet Corvette, 1:47.538, 109.468.
3. (17) Bobby Sak, Kalamazoo, Mich., Chevrolet Corvette, 1:48.001, 108.999.
4. (23) Amy Ruman, Kent, Ohio, Chevrolet Corvette, 1:48.719, 108.279.
5. (5) Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, Calif., Jaguar XKR, 1:49.148, 107.853.
6. (59) Simon Gregg, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Chevrolet Corvette, 1:50.780, 106.264.
7. (00) Doug Harrington, Kemah, Texas, Chevrolet Corvette, 1:51.754, 105.338.
8. (86) John Baucom, Charlotte, N.C., Ford Mustang, 1:52.810, 104.352.
9. (77), Glen Jung, Osteen, Fla., Mazda RX-7, 1:53.880, 103.372.
10. (35) Robert (Bob) Monette, Alpharetta, Ga., Ford Mustang, no time.