Rafa Matos prevailed in a back-and-forth battle with Sebring-winner Mike Skeen to capture the pole for Sunday’s Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli TA2 powered by AEM race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Matos (Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro) lapped the challenging 15-turn, 2.4-mile circuit in 1m25.585s to earn his 10th career Trans Am pole, the session run in late-afternoon sunshine after rain plagued most of the earlier activities.
“I am very happy with our qualifying strategy today,” said Matos, who finished third in the 2020 season-opener at Sebring International Raceway back in March. “I was able to put a great lap together while on the sweet spot of the tires early in the session. I was surprised by the gap, so we took the chance of sitting in the pits to see what was going to happen. Our one lap was good enough to get the pole position.
“This weekend is a bit of a redemption (for) missing out on the win after being so close here last year,” Matos continued. “We are sitting in the best place right now for the long race tomorrow. With tire management and being smart, I feel very confident going into it.”
Skeen stood atop the charts twice in the early going before settling for second with a lap of 1m25.801s in the Liqui Moly / Turn 14 Camaro prepped by Stevens-Miller Racing. The North Carolina driver won at Sebring from the pole and leads the points championship.
“We made a good go at qualifying and felt like we had gotten the most out of the car,” Skeen said. “It was a good lap for what we had, so we pulled in with five minutes left in the session to save the tires. We will have a strong race tomorrow.
“Being back in a physical race car is excellent,” he added. “We all live for this sport and the feelings we get when we drive the car; so being back together is a wonderful experience. The competition level is very high, so it is always a good challenge. Tomorrow is race day, and my goal is to push as hard as I can to hopefully make something happen.”
Thomas Merrill was third with his quick time of 1m25.977s in the Diehl-Merrill Racing / HP Tuners / Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang.
“We have a glass half-full,” Merrill said. “We wanted to do much better but have been chasing an electrical gremlin in the engine all weekend. We haven’t been able to find it yet, but, to qualify third, speaks to the quality of this racing chassis. The entire Merrill Racing crew did a wonderful job. I wouldn’t mind some rain tomorrow so it shakes things up.
“I am so happy to be back — it’s a wonderful feeling trading in the simulator for my real race car! The Trans Am car is the (most) fun car I have ever had the pleasure to drive, so it’s great to be back in it.”
Merrill will be joined on the second row by Scott Lagasse (M1 Racecars / B2D Neyer Motorsports Camaro) while two-time TA2 champion Cameron Lawrence (3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang) will line up fifth.
Sunday’s 45-lap, 100-mile race is scheduled to start at 1:45 p.m. EDT with live coverage on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App (download info HERE) beginning five minutes prior to the race start.
Streams will begin five minutes before the start of each race on Saturday and Sunday.