After an unwelcome four-month break triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will finally return to live race action this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
With nearly 48 cars and five classes (TA, TA2 powered by AEM, Xtreme GT, Super GT and GT) set to compete in the Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio races on Saturday and Sunday, the series hopes to regain the momentum from its successful February 29-March 1 season opener at Sebring.
Many of the series regulars kept busy with the Trans Am by Pirelli Esports Championship during the break in action, but all are ready to get back to real-world racing, notably Ernie Francis Jr. (No. 98 One South Florida Wealth Advisors Ford Mustang) — especially at Mid-Ohio where the reigning TA champion holds a six-year Trans Am win streak.
“The entire team is excited to get back on the track,” said Francis Jr. who is coming off a win in the Sebring opener. “The last two months have been difficult for everyone and we are all glad that society is starting to open back up. I’ve just been sitting here, staring at my race car, getting ready to get back behind the wheel again.
“We are delighted that our new sponsor, One South Florida Wealth Advisors, is aboard and is also looking forward to Mid-Ohio.”
Even with his record of success on the undulating natural-terrain circuit, Francis Jr. will have to overcome a deep field of competitors to make a return to victory lane.
Amy Ruman finished on the podium at Sebring in the No. 23 McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette, and has been eyeing the Mid-Ohio race date for a long time. The 2015 TA champion has a lot of history on the 2.4-mile, 15-turn course: An Ohio native, Ruman lives only about an hour away from the track that she calls home, and is determined to do well in front of her hometown crowd that will be cheering her on from their couches this weekend instead of in the stands.
“I’m so happy and excited to finally get back to racing, I know I’m not the only one,” Ruman said. “The Sebring race seems so long ago — I feel like we’re starting a whole new TA season. Hopefully we can continue our podium momentum here at my home track Mid-Ohio.
“My crew took advantage of the off time and made some changes to the No. 23 McNichols / Cornertech Chevrolet Corvette,” Ruman added, “so I’m confident we will have a good car for the upcoming race weekend. Things will definitely be different at the track. I’m extremely disappointed there will be no spectators and a hometown crowd to race in front of, but right now safety is key for all of us.”
Mike Skeen, winner of the TA2-class Sebring opener, will return to racing under the Stevens-Miller Racing banner, looking to defend his points lead.
“Coming away from the season opener with a victory is always good, but that certainly puts a target on our No. 77 Liqui Moly / Turn 14 Distribution / Howe Racing Chevrolet Camaro for the rest of the field,” said Skeen. “The Stevens-Miller guys did everything right for me at Sebring and I expect nothing less at Mid-Ohio. I’d love to keep the momentum going with a solid run. We are pretty much restarting the year, so we need to set the pace for the rest of the championship run!
“Given all the incredible events in our country and around the world, it will be great to get back to racing,” Skeen continued. “It will be good to offer the fans at home some great action even if they can’t come see us in person just yet. Trans Am’s new live streaming could not have come at a better time for the series or the fans.”
Ken Thwaits tops the class standings after securing a third-place finish at Sebring in XGT, the newest Trans Am class. Thwaits, who was monumental in launching the XGT class, took advantage of the downtime by taking his No. 5 Franklin Road Apparel Audi R8 GT3 Ultra out west to stay fresh behind the wheel.
“We’ve been keeping busy and kept the cars ticking over but there’s no substitute for competitive action; and frankly, I can’t wait to get started again,” Thwaits said. “We took advantage of an unexpected chance to take the car out to California and compete with some of the best GT3 cars in the country. The GT Celebration was a great opportunity to stay active and jump in the cars out west.”
SGT points leader Lee Saunders is on the hunt for his second win of the season, driving the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper. In GT, the podium will be left wide open as defending GT champion and current points leader Steven Davison will miss Round 2.
The weekend kicks off on Thursday, June 25, with a mixed-class test. Friday opens with an official practice with split qualifying sessions in the afternoon for TA/XGT/SGT/GT, followed by a late practice session for the TA2 group.
Saturday, TA/XGT/SGT/GT opens the day with a 100-mile (or 65-minute) feature starting at 1:25 p.m. EDT, followed by a 20-minute TA2 qualifying at 5:55 p.m. EDT. The weekend concludes on Sunday with the TA2 Powered by AEM 100-mile (or 65-minute) race at 1:45 p.m. EDT.
This weekend’s event on the Northern Ohio circuit will be streamed live on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App (download HERE).
Streams will begin five minutes before the start of each race on Saturday and Sunday.