Ave Wins Fourth Straight Trans-Am Race in Grueling GP3R The record will show that Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., started from the pole position and led every lap en route to the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series victory at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres by 4.619 seconds over Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
And while it may have looked somewhat easy from the outside, it was anything but for the defending series champion and current championship points leader. For a few laps early in the race, Ave's No. 4 Lamers Racing/Beebe Racing/Optech/PME Chevrolet Corvette was leaking fluid from the rear of the car, primarily whenever he would make a left turn.
That problem quickly went away and Ave pulled out into a comfortable lead. Just past the halfway point, however, corner workers reported possible debris from Ave's car and a definite change in the exhaust note, which turned out to be a broken header. That made things much more difficult for Ave, as evidenced by the fact that his lead dwindled from more than 25 seconds to just over four at the finish. He admitted after scoring his 10th career Trans-Am victory that he was fortunate to make it to the end.
"When you go back to '09, we had so much bad luck and this year we've had really good luck," said Ave. "I was just cruising early. I got the lead and pulled away pretty easy and I wasn't really driving very hard, so I thought we'd be OK. Then, we broke a header halfway through.
"It hurt the power a bit, but it certainly was getting really hot and I couldn't breathe in there. The fumes were so bad, I was starting to get sick and my water bottle was hot water. Then, I broke third gear and I had to run the last 25 laps with no third gear and the header and everything, so I just tried to be smooth. With about five laps to go, the tires were pretty gone on the back. I did some extra laps to try to get the pole, and that didn't help, plus I was trying to conserve the brakes and try to run a little harder off the corners. It was all right. If we had many more laps, it would have been pretty tough."
Ave topped the podium, but the drivers standing next to him after finishing second and third may have been even more pleased with their performances. For much of the last two-thirds of the race, Gregg and David "D.J." Jans, of Mundelein, Ill., were locked in a spirited battle for position. They swapped third place a few times and then caught and passed Carlos de Quesada, of Coral Gables, Fla., for second.
Gregg eventually managed to get away and went on to finish second in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. It was the best result of Gregg's Trans-Am career, coming in his 93rd series start, and enabled him to maintain his second-place position in the driver standings. He currently trails Ave by 151 points, 664-513, with four races remaining on the schedule.
"It was great to finish second, on a street course, nonetheless," Gregg said. "The team did a great job preparing the car. I conserved the car early in the race, maybe a little too much, because at the end of the race it didn't fade at all. The brakes and the tires were still pretty good. It was fun racing with D.J. Tony had a little trouble. That was exciting having him within sight at the end too. I've been trying to think about the points and not blow it by taking unnecessary risks out there. I think second is almost locked up. That's good news."
Jans wound up third in the No. 70 World Information Systems Ford Mustang, which was also a career-best result eclipsing a previous best of fifth. After the race, Jans was enthusiastic about his result, to say the least.
"It went wonderful," he exclaimed. "I had a great run with (Gregg), had a lot of fun, got by him once or twice, traded places and it just makes it that much more exciting. I hope the fans enjoyed it because it was a lot like work, but it was good! This was wonderful. Outside of the dust if you got on the outside of (Turn) 1, it was a great place! I had a lot of fun!"
After starting second and running in that position for most of the first 50 laps, de Quesada faded to fourth at the finish in the No. 22 Allegra Motorsports/Vitalz Jaguar XKR. His run was undoubtedly hampered by contact with the Turn 3 tire barrier at the halfway point in the race, which left the car with some front-end body damage.
Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, rounded out the top five in the TA class in the No. 23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette. Ruman vaulted from third on the starting grid into second place at the start of the race but encountered a mechanical problem on Lap 5, bringing her onto pit road for an extended stay. However, she eventually returned to the race and was the only driver in the field to pass Ave.
Bob Stretch, of Arlington, Texas, finished fifth overall and picked up his third consecutive Trans-Am 2 (TA2) victory after starting from the pole position in the No. 98 Wheels America Racing Chevrolet Camaro. The result moved him to the top of the TA2 championship standings by 50 points, 417-367, over Gregg Rodgers, who did not compete in the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres.
"It was nine years ago this weekend that I raced a World Challenge car here that broke and I flew back to Dallas and took a great woman out to dinner," said Stretch. "She's now my wife. Exactly nine years later, to race here again and win, it felt fantastic. The venue here is fantastic, the fans are great and it was a great time."
Next up for the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series is Round 6 of the nine-race 2011 season at Road America on Saturday, August 20.
TROIS RIVIERES, Quebec, Canada - Results from Sunday's 61-lap, 92.781 mile SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series Round 5 race, part of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. (1) Tony Ave, Maiden, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette, 61.
2. (4) Simon Gregg, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Chevrolet Corvette, 61, -4.619.
3. (7) David Jans (R), Mundelein, Ill., Ford Mustang, 61, -6.957.
4. (2) Carlos de Quesada (R), Coral Gables, Fla., Jaguar XKR, 61, -25.750.
5. (8) Bob Stretch (R), Arlington, Texas, Chevrolet Camaro, 57, -4 laps.
6. (3) Amy Ruman, Kent, Ohio, Chevrolet Corvette, 53, -8 laps.
7. (10) Tom Sheehan, Auburn, N.H., Chevrolet Camaro, 52, Mech.
8. (5) Doug Harrington (R), Kemah, Texas, Chevrolet Corvette, 37, Mech.
9. (9) Bill Prietzel (R), Richfield, Wis., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 36, Mech.
10. (6) John Baucom, Charlotte, N.C., Ford Mustang, 11, Mech.
Time of race: 1 hour, 8 minutes, 06.567 seconds.
Average speed: 81.734 mph
Margin of victory: 4.619 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-61, #4 Tony Ave
Fastest race lap: #4 Tony Ave, 1:04.879 (84.397 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #4 Tony Ave, 1:03.437 (86.315 mph)