LEXINGTON, Ohio – Veteran Tony Ave mastered changing conditions to score his 38th pole in Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli completion, leading Friday’s qualifying session at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Ave will lead the field of 24 competitors in the TA, XGT. SGT and GT classes in Saturday’s 45-lap race, set to take the green flag at 1:35 p.m. E.T.
Driving the No. 4 Lamers Motor Racing Corvette, the 51-year-old driver from Hurley, Wisconsin turned a lap of 2:02.728-seconds on the 15-turn, 2.4-mile circuit.
The TA competitors were gridded for the 15-minute session on slick tires, when rain began to fall on the circuit. Most drivers changed to Pirelli wets before their first lap, but Ave gambled with the slicks. It only took him one lap before he made his way back to the pits to make the switch to rain tires. Ave went off track on his first lap out, and then ran his pole-winning lap in the rain.
“The qualifying session was very slick,” Ave said. “I was hoping it was dry enough on the back to use slick tires but I couldn’t even keep it on the road. We switched to rain tires and were able to get a good lap in. This morning we found an electrical issue so the car doesn’t run well on the straightaway. With the rain, it has not affected us as much. It will be fixed for tomorrow and we will see how we do. It feels great to be back in a Trans Am car and kick off the weekend with a pole.”
Ave’s time was well off Lawrence Loshak’s track record of 1:21.613-seconds, set in 2018 in a Camaro.
Ave will be joined on the front row by Tomy Drissi, who ran a quick time of 2:02.728-seconds in the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro.
Making up the second row will be Simon Gregg in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Camaro with this quick time of 2:03.078-seconds, and Chris Dyson, 2:03.872-seconds in the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang.
Ernie Francis Jr. – going for his seventh-consecutive Mid-Ohio victory – rallied late in the session to move from 12th fastest with one minute remaining to score fifth on the grid with this third and final lap of 2:06.145-seconds in the No. 98 One South Florida Wealth Advisors Mustang
The SGT, XGT and GT competitors held separate qualifying following the TA drivers, with lightning halting the session prior to the scheduled 15 minutes.
Mark Brummond won the SGT pole with a lap of 2:08.845-seconds in the No. 24 Garage Door/Dynamic Auto Tune BMW M4 GT4. Making his first Trans-Am start in his first visit to the circuit, Brummond managed to out-qualify the faster XGT cars.
Sebring winner Lee Saunders was second, 2:14.847-seconds in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper, followed by New York City driver Adrian Wlostoski, 2:26.516-seconds in the No. 96 F.A.S.T. Auto Racing Mustang.
Tim Horrell captured his second-consecutive pole in the GT class, turning a lap of 2:11.371-seconds in the No. 45 Breathless Racing Porsche GT4 Clubsport. He was followed by Aponte-Rios Racing BMW E92 M3 teammates Miguelangel Aponte-Rios and Gabriel Jasper.
XGT qualifying saw Ken Thwaits fastest with a lap of 2:13.068-seconds in the No. 5 Franklin Road Apparel Audi R8 LMS Ultra. Sebring pole and race winner Eric Joiner was second in the No. 10 Championship Coffees and Tool Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The TA2 class will hold a separate 45-lap, 100-mile race. The class qualifies on Saturday at 5:55 p.m., with the race Sunday at 1:45 p.m.