BRASELTON, Ga. – Tire selection, turns of fortune, traffic and treacherous weather on Sunday all shaped the Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli stop at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta into a plot-twisting tale of two races in TA and SuperGT.
The 40-lap race ran under green flag conditions from start to finish, with the race featuring variable track conditions, three TA class lead changes, and four different SGT class leaders.
One of those SGT class leaders actually established a 30-second margin on the field early in the going, as Road Atlanta played host to another dramatic chapter of Trans-Am racing.
But after a dynamic race, it was a penultimate lap overtake that saw Lawrence Loshak capture the TA class win, driving his No. 3 Pennzoil/Elavon/GoShare Chevrolet Camaro to nearly a five second victory over his Burtin Racing teammate Tomy Drissi.
Drissi, who led the race for 13 laps, recovered from a late off-track excursion for second.
Three-time Road Atlanta winner Amy Ruman displayed her experience on the 2.54, 12-turn road course and crafted an advantage as she waited to make her move for a podium finish.
Chris Dyson and Simon Gregg rounded out the TA top-five.
Due to the inclement weather and variable track conditions, the race started with a rolling single-file start. Loshak started from pole and was immediately locked in battle with reigning Trans Am champion Ernie Francis Jr.
The duel was called off after Francis was forced to pit lane to sort out a malfunctioning taillight, returning to action two laps down.
With Francis pushed to the back of the field, the focus shifted to Loshak, Drissi and Dyson. Using lapped traffic to his advantage, Drissi stole position from Loshak, pulling away with a 1.21 second advantage.
Meanwhile, Dyson in third, continued to set fast laps of the race, chopping away at Drissi and Loshak’s lead.
“This was the hardest race I’ve done in a long time,” said Loshak. “All I kept thinking was 100 miles, Lawrence, 100 miles. I used to do the rain dance and loved racing in the rain in other series, but I am a bit inexperienced in wet conditions with these Trans-Am cars. We started on Pirelli slicks, looking for a rain line but with the Esses, the streams and the cold temperatures, we were having trouble getting grip.”
Loshak eventually paid back Drissi, using the lapped traffic and a rear bump to his advantage to make an inside pass, seizing the lead back from the No. 8 in the end.
“It was treacherous, but as the track started drying, I had an incredible battle with my teammate,” Loshak added. “Traffic played a huge factor in us exchanging the lead back and forth. In the end though, it was a one-two finish for Burtin Racing, and that’s all that matters.”
The SGT class, which features a wide range of entries including several Porsche 911 Cup cars, a Dodge Viper, and Ford Mustangs, found itself at a significant advantage early in the race as the field made the most of the grip on offer from the rain-specification Pirelli tires.
However, it was a choice of dry tires for fifth-starting Brian Kleeman that saw him secure his first win in the SGT class.
Fall Line Racing’s Mark Boden finished the SGT round in second and Lee Saunders wrapped up the SGT podium. A pair of Porsche 991 GT3 drivers, Milton Grant and Tom Herb, completed the top five.
Boden got an outstanding start to the race, moving the overall lead and creating a significant gap to the field with his Pirelli rain tire selection.
On Lap 19, Aaron Pierce passed Boden for not only first place in the SGT race, but for the overall lead. Boden continued to charge the way but as the track dried his tires began to fall off, losing the momentum he built up in the rain.
Boden eventually pitted to change to Pirelli slicks.
That turned the tables toward Kleeman, and he never looked back.
“We don’t have the fastest car out there – and we knew that – so we had to do it all on strategy today,” said Kleeman. “We threw the dice and I think we were the only ones out there on slicks. It was as absolutely a handful at the beginning and we fell way back. It was pretty treacherous, but once it started to dry out, we knew we had to click off the laps and close the gap, hoping those guys came in for tires – which they did.
“At that point, it was just a matter of staying in front and just holding on,” Kleeman continued. “By the end, it was pretty much a dry race.”