Ave Earns Fifth Win of Terrific 2010 SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series Season at Brainerd

BRAINERD, Minn. -In the first SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series race at Brainerd International Raceway in 21 years, championship leader Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., added another victory in an already outstanding season on Sunday afternoon.
Tony Ave (No. 4) took his fifth victory of the season at Brainerd. Credit: Willa Stein/SCCA

Ave started from the pole position in the No. 4 Lamers Racing/McMahon Group/Optech/PME Chevrolet Corvette and had a reasonably close race with second-place Tomy Drissi through the early stages of the 36-lap race around the 2.5-mile circuit. Ave managed to pull away around the halfway point in the race, however, to win by one minute and five seconds over Drissi.

It was the second straight victory for Ave, who also won last time out at Autobahn Country Club last month, and was his fifth win in the last six races dating back to early June at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah. The Miller victory was the first of Ave’s Trans-Am career. He now leads the championship standings by 133 points, 1,022-889, over RJ Lopez with two races remaining.

“I’m really happy,” Ave said. “We haven’t been the best car at the end of the races and we used the break between Autobahn (on August 1) and here to totally redo the rear suspension. All the pieces are different. It’s something that we messed with in the past that worked OK, but I never really pushed on with it. It worked really good. If it works like that on the fast tracks, we’re going to be really onto something that’s going to be pretty tough to beat.”

While Ave was obviously pleased with the setup on his race car, the same couldn’t be said for Drissi, of Hollywood, Calif., who finished second for the third time this season in the No. 5 Unstoppable Jaguar XKR. Drissi felt that he missed out on the pole in Saturday’s qualifying session due to traffic, but fought other issues during the 90-lap race.

“Here we go again,” said Drissi. “Ave and the team figured out how to make their car work on the long run. We were just as fast as Ave. We stayed with him at the start. I’m dumbfounded right now and so should the team be, but this RSR team is going to figure it out. I was so careful today. I did everything by the book and that car; all of a sudden it was just like a light switch went off. I had no front grip, no grip at all. Even on the straightaways, I almost spun out.

“It’s all in the setup. We’ve got the same tires, our motor is good, the car is good, but why are the tires going away? It’s happened to us every single race that we’ve finished. We won one (the season opener at New Jersey Motorsports Park) and they obviously figured it out after that one. We are good enough, the car is good enough, the driver is good enough, the team is good enough, the engine is good enough, it’s just something in the setup. We’re going to figure it out and we’re going to try something different.”

Nevertheless, it was Drissi’s best result since finishing second in Round 5 at Lime Rock Park in July and was his fourth podium result of the year. He remains third in the Trans-Am driver standings with 834 points, 55 points back of Lopez.

Third place went to Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. Gregg came out on top following a great battle for fourth place early in the race with his teammate and team owner, Jim Derhaag, and then managed to track down and pass Lopez for third in the closing laps. It was the second third-place result of the season for Gregg.

“It felt good to get another podium,” Gregg said. “I’m real happy with how the season is going. Luck is going my way this season with the team and the car. At first I thought this track didn’t suit me well, but once I got used to it, I got around just fine. The car was strong and didn’t fade and same with me. At the end, that proved to be my advantage.”

After an off-course excursion and contact with a tree brought his qualifying session to an early end on Saturday, Lopez, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and his team had their hands full getting the No. 6 Disco 106/ECR Engines/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette repaired and ready for the race.

They managed to do just that and Lopez ran most of the race in third place before brake issues reared their ugly head, forcing him to slow his pace and allowing Gregg to get past for third. Lopez wound up fourth, missing the podium for just the second time this season.

Derhaag, of Shakopee, Minn., wound up fifth in the No. 40 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. It was the 151st start of Derhaag’s Trans-Am driving career but his first in the cockpit since 1997. Derhaag also gave the command to start engines at the beginning of the race.

The SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series has a quick turnaround for Round 9 of the 10-race season, which will be next weekend (September 11-12) at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va.

BRAINERD, Minn. – Results from Sunday’s 36-lap, 90-mile SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Round 8 race at Brainerd at Brainerd International Raceway, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).

1. (7) Tony Ave, Maiden, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette, 36.

2. (1) Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, Calif., Jaguar XKR, 36, -1:05.060.

3. (4) Simon Gregg, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Chevrolet Corvette, 36, -1:26.687.

4. (8) RJ Lopez, Santa Domingo Dominican Republic, Chevrolet Corvette, 36, -1:39.973.

5. (3) Jim Derhaag, Shakopee, Minn., Chevrolet Corvette, 35, -1 lap.

6. (2) Bobby Sak, Kalamazoo, Mich., Chevrolet Corvette, 33, -3 laps.

7. (5) Buddy Cisar, Bellevue, Neb., Chevrolet Camaro, 33, -3 laps.

8. (6) Thomas Fuehrer, Chaska, Minn., Ford Mustang, 0.

Time of race: 56 minutes, 36.266 seconds.

Average speed: 95.398 mph

Margin of victory: 1 Minute and 05.060 Seconds

Lap leaders: Laps 1-36, #4 Tony Ave

Fastest race lap: #4 Tony Ave, 1:30.055 (99.939 mph)

Fastest qualifier: #5 Tomy Drissi, 1:28.198 (102.043 mph)

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