Anything can happen in a TA2 race, and the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli drivers proved that adage, delivering a thrilling round on the streets of Belle Isle during the series’ 21st appearance at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
A sensational race that featured four different leaders in 36 laps resulted in two Chevrolets claiming the top two steps of the podium at the end of the TA2 powered by AEM Muscle Car Challenge on Saturday.
After the front-row starters found trouble, it was the underdogs in practice and qualifying that came through for the big results to open the Trans Am Detroit weekend. Following a breathtaking inside pass, fifth-qualifier Misha Goikhberg held on to the lead in the No. 10 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro to take his first Trans Am win of the 2019 season.
In his 99th Trans Am start, Tony Ave wheeled the No. 25 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro to a strong second-place finish, with championship contender Dillon Machavern in the No. 77 Liqui-Moly Prefix Ford Mustang finishing third.
“My car was consistent and easy to drive, so I stepped on it,” said Goikhberg. “I managed the gap and played it safe in traffic, and I’m so happy to bring it home for my team owners Blaise and Penny (Csida). It’s special to see their passion for going racing. We’re looking forward to tomorrow, to see how we stack up against all the faster cars!”
Muscle Car Challenge story opened with 2018 winner Tony Buffomante (No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang) on pole with reigning TA2 champion and 2018 Motor City Dash winner Rafa Matos (No. 88 Lear Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro) next to him in second.
As the green flag dropped, the lead pair immediately built a gap, Matos grabbing the lead on Lap 2 but Buffomante paying back the favor on the next go-round.
Starting Lap 4, the two past Detroit winners squeezed side-by-side into Turn 5, a battle that Matos lost, forced to pit with a flat tire.
Which left Buffomante with a commanding, building more than a three second gap over P2 until an uncharacteristic spin in Turn 1 dropped the Mike Cope Racing Mustang back to fifth.
In his first TA2 race of the season, veteran driver Ave led the middle segments of the Muscle Car Challenge, battling for position with his BC Race Cars teammate Goikhberg until the latter stuck the nose of his Camaro inside Ave’s similar machine to squeeze his way into the race lead on Lap 18.
“It’s so hard to win these races, so to bring it home 1-2 for Blaise and Penny is so special,” said multiple Trans Am champion Ave. “The racing is so difficult. If you can beat these kids in these cars, you can win in anything!
“We had an incident in practice and the guys changed the nose of the car; then we picked up a vibration in qualifying,” Ave explained. “But the car came in as the race progressed. When I got to the lead, I thought I might finally be able to win this thing, since the faster cars had issues. But then the car got loose, Misha was quick, and there were too many laps left to keep him back there.”
Goikhberg’s and Ave’s runs not only gave BC Race Cars its first Trans Am win but also its first ever 1-2 finish.
“My wife Penny and I are so elated,” said Blaise Csida, the owner BC Race Cars. “We’ve been involved with Trans Am for about 15 years and to take our first win – and make it a 1-2 finish in Detroit … I have tears in my eyes.
“And it’s been a real team effort this weekend. We couldn’t get the cars underneath us in practice, but Tony led us down a setup path that worked really well. They are both amazing drivers and we’re so proud to have them driving with us. This is our first time racing in Detroit and it’s such a big weekend, with all the fans here. It is fantastic that Trans Am races here in Detroit along with IndyCar and IMSA. It’s such a great event.”
Starting in seventh place, Machavern methodically weaved through the 2.35-mile street course with ease until he caught up with his Stevens-Miller Racing teammate and hometown favorite Marc Miller. Miller tried to fend off Machavern, defending the position for several laps. But th Mustang was able to edge the Dodge Challenger in the corners, Machavern racing on to a podium finish while Miller, the TA2 championship points leader, had to settle for fourth.
“Tony and Misha put on a really good fight, and I had a good battle with my teammate (Marc Miller), so we’re happy to get a podium in Detroit,” said Machavern. “We missed the first practice, so we were learning the track in the second session. Then we lost a fuel pump during qualifying and didn’t get a good lap in, so it felt like qualifying laps throughout the race today in order to cut through the field. But we knew we had a good car going into the race, taking the spots I could.
“It’s so fun to race here,” Machavern continued. “The dynamic of the circuit changes so much because it’s not usually a race track. It can get a bit hairy as you kiss the wall every once in a while, but it’s a blast. I did my fastest lap at the end which is a real testament to how well made these Pirelli tires are.”
Following his early-race setback with a cut tire that forced a slow lap and trip to pit lane, Matos charged from last to finish eighth. The recovery earned him the Cool Shirt Cool Move of the race.
The TA2 powered by AEM doubleheader concludes Sunday with a 75-minute (or 43 laps, whichever comes first) feature starting at 11:45 a.m. EDT. For live timing, full results and event photos visit GoTransAm.com.