Tray Ayres, of Gainesville, Georgia, left nothing on the track as he sealed up his 2019 season with his second SCCA National Runoffs® Championship title on Sunday, his first in Prototype 2. It was a perfect dance around the 18-turn, 3.27-mile VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) circuit for Ayres in the No. 77 Ayres Racing Van Diemen RF00 Mazda as he made the 15-lap race look effortless.
Lucian Pancea, of San Antonio, Texas, crossed the stripe in second, nearly four seconds behind Ayres, as Gregg Gyann, of Western Springs, Illinois, finished third.
“I am feeling pretty good after winning that race,” said Ayres. “There was some tight racing out there today and that doesn’t happen very often in this class. That was really fun. The track for me was a bit cooler than we expected for the set up, so the car was a bit of a handful especially early on. Being new to this class, we had a lot of long nights with a lot of work to get us here. Our goal was to get on the podium this weekend and I am happy to be at the top.”
While Ayres stole the show, he had plenty of action happening in his mirrors. On the opening lap, turn one collected three cars, including 2019 GT-Lite National Champion Peter Shadowen. After an extended cleanup, the fight was on at the restart. Robert Iverson pulled an early lead before Tim Day Jr. used the draft off Ayres’ to take second, but Ayres repaid the favor the following lap to retake second. Ayres chased down lap-leader Iverson, overtaking on the inside of turn two for the lead.
Incidental contact between Iversen and Day entering Oak Tree shunted Iverson’s Ligier JS 49 Honda into the grass. Iverson continued, but his podium pursuit ended.
Nursing a damaged wing from the early race, turn one melee, Pancea entered the podium fight in third. Shifting focus from leader Ayres to trying to fight off Pancea, Day dropped wheels off in Hog Pen on the penultimate lap and the unforgiving turn sucked him right into the grass. Day continued,v but the misstep ended his fight for podium position.
Shaking Day, Pancea patiently finished the last two laps in his No. 98 GDRE/Tail Arik/Summit Racing/Avon Stor WF1 Suzuki as not to suffer the same fate as the drivers in front of him. He finished the race in second, his third Runoffs podium of his career.
“I started fifth and it was important for me to get a good start, and then I got hit from behind twice before even getting into turn one,” explained Pancea. “I made it through turn one sideways and after that I thought to myself, I need to keep this clean. Our rear wing was all bent up and it really affected our race today, but we kept it together to pull off a second-place finish.”
Gyann’s day was all about patience. Dropping down to fifth after the restart, Gyann set back and watched the leaders battle. When they lost the war, Gyann, was there to take their place. Gyan’s No. 83 Argus Magnetics/Gycor International Stor WF1 Suzuki was the fastest P2 car on the track today, and on his way to his third National Runoffs podium, he set a new track record with a fast time of 1:50.258 seconds.
“I was trying to keep my patience as much as possible on the racetrack and it turned out to be a really fun race,” said Gyann. “We were bunched up for a couple laps, and that’s probably the longest I’ve been bunched up together in this class. The car was fast, but the leaders were too far gone for me to challenge because the track just wasn’t as grippy as I would have liked it to be, but it was a great race and I’m ready to do it again.”
Day salvaged his round for a fourth-place finish with Mike Reupert of, Hubertus, Wisconsin, rounding out the top five.
Pancea earned the Sunoco Hard Charger, improving three positions from fifth on the grid to finish second.
Provisional results for Sunday’s Prototype 2 finale at the 56th SCCA National Championship Runoffs from VIRginia International Raceway, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps completed.
1, (2), Tray Ayres, Gainesville, GA, Van Diemen RF00 Mazda, 15.
2, (5), Lucian Pancea, San Antonio, TX, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 15.
3, (4), Greg Gyann, Western Springs, IL, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 15.
4, (3), Tim Day Jr, Scottsdale, AZ, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 15.
5, (7), Mike Reupert, Hubertus, WI, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 15.
6, (1), Robert Iversen, Gulf Breeze, FL, Ligier JS 49 Honda, 15.
7, (10), Thomas Kaufman, Cheriton, VA, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 15.
8, (9), Peter Shadowen, West Palm Beach, FL, West WX10 Suzuki, 15.
9, (11), Michael Moulton, Wilmington, NC, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 15.
10, (12), Richard Colburn, Northbrook, IL, Nostendo 1 Suzuki, 15.
11, (13), Charlie DiPasquale, Dayton, OH, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 14.
12, (14), Frank Clark, Culpeper, VA, Van Diemen ESR Mazda, 14.
13, (8), Naris Nilubol, Bethesda, MD, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 5.
14, (6), Bryan Yates, Clemmons, NC, West WX10 Kawasaki, 0.
Length of Race: 49 miles
Overall Time of Race: 30:16.396 (97.214 mph)
Margin of Victory: 3.812 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: 1:50.258 mph (106.768 mph)
Lap Leaders: #4 laps 1-5; #77 laps 6-15
Sunoco Hard Charger: #98 Lucian Pancea