RJ Lopez and Gar Robinson will start in the front of their respective Trans Am races on Saturday, as the Trans Am Series launches its 50th anniversary season at Sebring International Raceway. Class leaders Lopez, polesitter for the TA class, and Robinson, for TA2, were joined by Randy Kinsland, Steve Kent Jr., and Mark Boden, who grabbed pole positions in their respective classes as well.
Lopez, in the No. 06 Optica Lopez/Republica Brewing Chevrolet Corvette, survived a razor thin qualifying battle with 2015 Championship runner-up Paul Fix, driver of the No. 50 StopFlex.com/TheCarCoach.com Chevrolet Corvette, with only two-thousandths of a second separating the two drivers. Lopez and Fix turned 2:02.657 and 2:02.659 laps, respectively, to lead the 21-car TA field.
Defending TA class Champion Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette, was close behind with a 2:02.719 time of her own, still strong enough for third on the grid.
Trans Am veterans Cliff Ebben, in the No. 36 McMahon Group/ Stumpf Ford, and John Baucom, in the No. 86 Baucom/RoadRaceParts.com Ford Mustang, rounded out the top five in the session with times of 2:03.363 and 2:03.398, respectively.
Gar Robinson, driver of the No. 74 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, once more showcased the skillset that saw him capture the 2015 TA2 Championship, turning a pole-setting 2:08.358 lap around the Florida road course on only his second lap of the session. The time now stands as a new qualifying record for the TA2 class at Sebring, shattering the previous record by well over a second.
Robinson edged out Dillon Machavern, driver of the No. 24 Heritage Motorsports Ford Mustang, for the top spot. Machavern will start alongside Robinson for tomorrow’s race having edged out Tommy Archer, who will start third in the No. 54 Koolmat/Kolar Chevrolet Camaro, with a time of 2:08.809 to Archer’s 2:08.859.
Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang, will start fourth after turning a 2:09.093, while Adam Andretti, in the No. 44 ECC Anchor Bolt & Screw Dodge Challenger, will start fifth after turning a 2:09.104 lap.
In TA3, rookie Randy Kinsland, driver of the No. 11 Crossroads Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, set the class pole with a time of 2:13.635, also setting the class qualifying record. Kinsland will begin the race with Randy Mueller, who turned a 2:14.555 in the No. 0 Epic Motorsports BMW M3. Lee Saunders, in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper ACRCX, was third after turning a 2:14.636. Saunders, a 2015 Trans Am Champion, is yet to lose a race at Sebring, with two victories in two attempts, and is within striking distance to replicate the feat. Michael Camus, in the No. 06 Epic Motorsports BMW M3, and Jason Berkeley, in the No. 67 BMW Management Chevrolet Corvette, were fourth and fifth in TA3 with times of 2:15.558 and 2:17.414.
Veteran Steve Kent, Jr., in the No. 00 XLR8DieselTrucks Ford Mustang, set the fast time for TA4 with a time of 2:17.349, beating out rookie Brian Kleeman, who turned a 2:17.483 in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang, for the class’ top spot.
Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 TREMEC/SKF Chevrolet Camaro, was third quick in TA3 with a time of 2:19.405 and was followed by Tristan Herbert, in the No. 33 Tilton Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, and Mike Geldart, in the No. 43 Racing4Education/RacersEdge Ford Mustang, who rounded out the top five with times of 2:20.664 and 2:21.202, respectively.
In TA5, rookie Mark Boden, in the No. 47 Fall-Line/Calypso Porsche 997, captured the pole in his, and the TA5 class’, Series debut with a time of 2:13.691. He was joined in the top three by teammate, and fellow debutant, Tim Kezman, in the No. 14 Fall-Line/Calypso Porsche 997, who turned a 2:14.034. Conor Flynn, also making his first Trans Am appearance, was third in the class with a time of 2:15.302.
Trans Am will hold two races tomorrow, with 77 cars expected to take the green flag. The TA2 class will hold an 11:00 a.m. ET race, while TA, TA3, TA4 and TA5 will take to the iconic road course at 4:50 p.m.; as the Trans Am Series holds Round 1 of the 2016 Trans Am Championship.
Trans Am is joined in celebrating its 50th Anniversary this weekend by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, and Historic Trans Am with the likes of Trans Am legends Bob Tullius, George Follmer, Lyn St. James, Willy T. Ribbs, David Hobbs, Tom Yeager, Ron Fellows and Jack Baldwin all looking on.