Extremely close battles at the top of the Trans Am, Super GT and GT class qualifying sessions for the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli preview what should be an exciting FirstEnergy Mid-Ohio 100 Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The split-field qualifying session meant that the Trans Am class ran separately from the SGT and GT classes on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course, situated between Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio.
The TA class shot out of the gate with current championship leader Chris Dyson exchanging the top spot with last year’s Mid-Ohio winner — and second place in the title chase — Ernie Francis Jr. But the session was stopped before the midway point when third-place runner Doug Peterson landed his No. 3 Elavon/Burtin Racing Chevrolet Camaro into the sand in Turn 4. The green came back out with mere minutes remaining in the session as Dyson and Francis Jr. re-engaged the fight.
“It was pretty stressful out there,” said Francis Jr. “Chris Dyson was really close behind and putting down some pretty good laps. It was a close battle and we only got him by 5/100s of a second. It was fun and awesome, and I think the race tomorrow is going to be great.
“We’ve always been good here at Mid-Ohio: the track is very technical, and you don’t need a whole lot of horsepower to really get around this place, and that helped us out there. We’re going for the win tomorrow and maximizes our points so we can get on the road to this championship.”
When the checkered flag flew, Francis Jr. had placed his No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang into the pole position for the second time this season with a lap at 1m22.287s, a mere 0.054s ahead of Dyson and his No. 20 Thetford/Norcold Ford Mustang.
“The car has been fantastic all weekend,” said Dyson, winner of the previous two races at Lime Rock and Indianapolis. “I thought we would have a strong qualifying, but we lost this morning’s practice with a dr
iveline problem. We were little bit behind the eight-ball, but the guys worked hard to give me a good setup to contend for pole. We were able to match Ernie but for half a tenth. It shows how competitive the series is and I know we’ve got a good race car for tomorrow.”
The SGT and GT classes conducted their 20-minute qualifying session completely under green but with a similar duel for the pole, as Mark Boden in the No. 46 Beverage Flavors International Porsche 991 GT3 Cup and Ken Thwaits in the No. 35 WilwoodBrakes/FranklinRdApparel Audi R8 LMS swapped the position throughout the session. In the end, it was Boden taking his third pole of the season with a quick lap time of 1m26.560s.
“The Fall Line Porsche has been fast all weekend,” said Boden. “We made a few adjustments for qualifying and I was able to lay down a good lap on the third lap. It was happily uneventful! It should be a fun race; we’ve got four or five fast cars that will be up front.”
Ohio native Larry Funk in the No. 64 Business Advisory Services Ford Mustang is the single entry in the GT class, and set his fastest time on Lap 5 with a time of 1m33.588s.
The FirstEnergy Mid-Ohio 100 TA, SGT, GT feature takes the green flag Saturday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. For live timing and scoring, event photos and post-race recap videos visit GoTransAm.com. For live race updates follow @GoTransAm on Twitter.