Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., holds the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am qualifying lap record at Virginia International Raceway and in early practice last weekend he showed why. Driving the #4 Lamers Racing Corvette, he was more than 3.5 seconds faster than RJ Lopez, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, who recorded the second fastest practice time.
Ave set the qualifying record at VIR in 2009, posting a 1:46.996 lap, at 110.022 mph average speed on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course. Yet, he has yet to bring home a victory from the scenic venue in Alton, VA. Ave finished second in his last three Trans-Am races, in 2010, 2009 and 2002.
Hoping to break his previous record, Ave encountered some issues on track that prevented his doing so. He explained, “We got a good lap right away. My second lap, Amy [Ruman] spun in front of me and I had to slow down. So, we lost a bit of time there. I was doing the next one and RJ had his problem. I was disappointed we did not go faster, but obviously we were fast enough.”
Ave, the current series points leader, took the pole position, with RJ Lopez to start beside him for the 31-lap, 101.370-mile race.
From the green flag, Ave led the field but was plagued by a mechanical problem. ““We picked up a vibration after the first caution. It was shaking badly under deceleration. I didn’t think it was going to finish.”
Despite the problem that Ave believed was in the rear axle, the car managed to keep itself together and bring home a 25-second lead over Daniel Ramoutarsingh, of La Romain, Trinidad, in the 18 Trinrico Steel & Wire Products Jaguar XKR. Ramoutarsingh took second place on the final lap of the race when Doug Harrington, of Kemah, TX, spun out on the back half of the track. Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, also gained a spot following Harrington’s incident. Gregg started and finished third in the #59 Derhaag Motorsports Corvette.
Ave continues to lead the Trans-Am Drivers’ Point Championship with 386 points, followed by Gregg (301 points) and RJ Lopez (295), of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series next heads to Mosport International Raceway for Round Four on May 20-22.