After taking five pole positions in the 2009 SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series, Tony Ave was at it again in qualifying for this afternoon's 2010 season opener at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but he got the pole by the slimmest of margins over 2009 Trans-Am champion Tomy Drissi.
Ave, of Maiden, N.C., established the Trans-Am track record at New Jersey Motorsports Park's Thunderbolt Raceway with a best lap of 1:18.426 (103.282 mph) in the No. 4 Tony Ave Racing/Pro Motor Engines Chevrolet Corvette. He turned his quick lap midway through the 30-minute session, giving him an advantage of six-tenths of a second over Drissi at the time.
Ave then brought his Corvette onto pit road for the remainder of the session. With five minutes remaining in the session, however, Drissi turned in a lap at 1:18.482 (103.208 mph) in the No. 5 Marmaduke - June 4 Jaguar XKR, missing Ave's top time by just .056 seconds. Drissi would get no closer in the remaining minutes, giving Ave his third consecutive pole dating back to last season. He heads into the race this afternoon looking for his first Trans-Am win.
"It's tight," Ave said. "We were pretty far ahead until he went back out. I just elected to sit it out and not run any more, no matter what he did. I was lucky that we got the pole. I think we could have gone a bit quicker if we went back out, but our car is pretty loose. We need to work on that a little bit today."
Drissi, of Hollywood, Calif. will start second and goes in search of his third career Trans-Am victory this afternoon.
"There are two guys that are really pushing each other," said Drissi of his qualifying battle. "He did his lap a couple laps sooner than I did, and he's known to do that. I think I've got to improve on doing the lap quicker, when they're still new on the tire. It shows that we've got a really good racecar, though.
"Qualifying is one or two laps. The race is an hour. Since we've been here, we haven't been working on a car that does one lap. It does an hour. I'm sure Ave has been doing the same thing. I'm sure (RJ) Lopez is doing the same thing and Daniel (Ramoutarsingh) and everybody else. It'll be hopefully a good race."
Lopez, of Bal Harbour, Fla., will start third in the No. 6 WabashPower.com/Mobil 1/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette at 1:19.575 (101.791 mph). He will make his sixth Trans-Am start this afternoon and is in good position to improve upon his previous best result of eighth, which he scored last year at Mid-Ohio.
"The session went okay," said Lopez after qualifying. "The car really didn't respond like I thought it would. It was a little loose getting out there, probably because of the temperature on the track right now. Either way, we're happy to be in third. I think we have a good setup for the race. I wish I was a little closer to the front two. I think I'm about a second off, but I think we're really set up for the race, so 10 laps in, we should be the car to beat."
Starting fourth will be Drissi's RSR teammate, Ramoutarsingh, of Trinidad, in the No. 8 TRINICO Steel & Wire Products Jaguar XKR at 1:21.001 (99.999 mph). Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., rounded out the top five in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette at 1:21.192 (99.764 mph).