Qualifying was tight in all three Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli classes at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta Saturday afternoon, as more than 40 cars took part preparing for Sunday’s two Trans Am 100 feature races.
Sebring winner Lawrence Loshak claimed the Trans Am class pole position, his second of the season, with Misha Goikhberg in TA2 and Aaron Pierce in Super GT seizing the same honors.
“I am ecstatic to get another pole position and earn an extra three points toward the championship,” said Loshak, who started on pole in the Trans Am season opener at Sebring earlier this month. “We had a tough day yesterday with two abbreviated testing sessions due to mechanical issues and red flags. Then our transponder didn’t work in official practice so we didn’t record times for qualifying order today, forcing me to start last. It jumbled our strategy a bit but we overcame all the the obstacles to take first.
“We have an incredibly fast car for the race tomorrow,” Loshak added, “and we are looking to repeat Sebring with another win.”
With under five minutes left in the 15m qualifying session, Loshak took the pole away from his Burtin Racing teammate Tomy Drissi by just under two tenths of a second. Drissi (photo above) topped the charts in both the official practice and most of qualifying, and held on to second to make it an all Burtin Racing Chevrolet Camaro front row for the second time this season, the Atlanta-area-based team looking to continue its fast start.
“I overdrove the car a bit to try to make up those tenths and take back the [pole], but I couldn’t beat Lawrence’s time, said Drissi. “However, I am happy that it was my teammate who got it and it’s an honor for Burtin Racing to hold the front row again. Our goal is one-two in the Trans Am championship.”
Road Atlanta 2018 race winner Chris Dyson finished two thousandths of a second behind Drissi, turning the third quickest time in TA qualifying in the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang with a fast lap time of 1m20.728s. Previous Trans Am champions Ernie Francis Jr. and three-time Road Atlanta winner Amy Ruman rounded out the top-five.
The pole marked the second of his TA2 career for Goikhberg driving the No. 10 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro. The Canadian driver led a tight TA2 qualifying that saw five drivers — Goikhberg, Thomas Miller, defending champion Rafa Matos, series veteran Marc Miller and Dillon Machavern — all within a second of each other on the scenic 2.54, 12-turn road course.
“We had some mechanical issues and a flat tire in Sebring, so it’s good to give the team a boost [and show] we can run up front,” explained Goikhberg. “This weekend we’ve been chasing some little issues, but my team and my teammate [Ethan Wilson got] everything sorted out just before qualifying.
“I am happy that we were able to get fast time in a few number of laps to save tires for the race. From this point on, we have to make minor adjustments to the car to have good pace tomorrow,” Goikhberg added.
In only his second visit to Road Atlanta, SGT-class polewinner Aaron Pierce also got up to speed quickly. Pierce, who has spent most of his racing career wheeling sprint cars and midgets around short-track ovals, adapted to the SGT car early, securing the pole within the first few laps of the session.
“I am usually going in circles so it usually takes me a day or so get acquainted with a [road course] when we get to one,” said Pierce. “We threw a set of fresh Pirellis on the car for practice today and everything just clicked. I set fast time pretty early in qualifying so I pulled in to cool the tires and went back out briefly, but ultimately just parked it so we could save tires for tomorrow’s race.”
Though Pierce locked up a front row start almost immediately, his SGT competitors were not far behind with Mark Boden, Lee Saunders, Tom Herb and Brian Kleeman all within eight tenths of a second of Pierce’s fastest lap.
“Our biggest thing for tomorrow is just to finish,” Pierce said later. “We’ve been fast everywhere we go but we have a hard time just finishing. If we can survive the entire race, then they’ll have a hard time beating us.
“My mindset is to set a pace, and if my competitors want to burn their tires off to race, they can go ahead and do that. I’ve studied from the infield for the past two years and the key to winning seems to just keep the same pace the whole time and watch the others fall behind as their tires start to wear. So that’s my strategy going into tomorrow.”
The TA and SGT classes kick-off Round 2 of the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli Sunday at 8:15 a.m. ET followed by TA2 at 2:00 p.m. ET. Both feature races will be 39 laps or 70m, whichever comes first.
Fans will have the opportunity to meet the drivers, get autographs and snap photos by their favorite Trans Am Presented by Pirelli car during the Fan Walk on Pit Lane from 1:00 to 1:50 p.m. ET.