With only four rounds remaining in the Trans Am Series season presented by Pirelli, it’s a make or break time for many of the competitors and teams vying for their chance to win the 2021 titles. For the first time in history series and track, Watkins Glen International will set the stage for a 100 mile double all-class Trans Am event with over 40 TA, TA2, XtremeGT and SuperGT cars scheduled for the Watkins Glen SpeedTour event on September 10-12 .
The heavyweights of the Trans Am
It’s been an eight week long summer break for the TA class. Although their Pirelli tires have had time to cool down, the battle for the league title is still heated. While 10 of the 20 drivers entered in the TA Championship are still mathematically viable, three drivers have been leading their category throughout the season.
Chris Dyson leads the TA standings with 201 points, securing four wins and a pole position in the last seven laps. Driving the # 20 Ford Mustang CBD ALTWELL, Dyson started his fourth Trans Am season with a win at Sebring and followed it with three straight wins at Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio and Road America, before Ernie Francis Jr. does break his streak at Brainerd. Dyson finished third on the Minnesota road course, returning from a roundabout route to finish third overall.
This weekend will mark a special milestone for Dyson, as he celebrates his 20th anniversary of professional racing on the same track where the New York native’s career began.
“Watkins Glen has always meant a lot to me,” said Dyson. “This is the track where my racing dreams really started to take shape. I remember being here in 1987 and seeing my dad win the big IMSA GTP event here, and Dyson Racing was very successful as a team here in the 90s and 2000s. I did too. most of my first regional and national races here. I won the Watkins Glen Six Hours overall with James Weaver in my rookie season and it was a dream come true. It’s still a great track in just about any car. The Trans Am cars in particular are an absolute pleasure to race on this circuit. And that’s technically my ‘home’ track, being in New York and only a few hours away from home. We are ready to race this weekend and have done everything we can to ensure a good result.
The remaining three races were won by Boris Said (Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta), Tomy Drissi (WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca) and Francis Jr. (Brainerd), all entered for Watkins Glen.
Drissi’s consistent driving throughout the season led to one of his best overall performances in his career. Driving the # 8 Chevrolet Camaro Lucas Oil Slick Mist, Drissi collected extra points in four of the seven rounds securing the Motul pole position. Unlike Dyson, Drissi won at Watkins Glen, taking the checkered pole position over Said in 2018. The “Rockin ‘Moroccan” is behind Dyson by 20 points in the campaign for his second national championship.
Seven-time champion Francis Jr. has had a very quiet season (for him) so far. Juggling three full-time racing series this year (Trans Am, FR Americas and SRX), the 23-year-old started to look more like the driver Trans Am fans are used to seeing after his victory from behind. at Brainerd. . Prior to his triumphant victory, Francis Jr.’s last podiums came at the start of the season at Sebring and Road Atlanta where he placed second in both rounds. The # 98 Future Star / Breathless Racing driver also secured pole position at Sebring and Lime Rock.
Francis Jr. set a new track record for Watkins Glen (1: 45.201-seconds) on the series’ last visit to the upstate New York circuit in 2019, breaking Said’s previous record set in 2018. La same year, Francis Jr. went on to take pole position to win the championship later in the season. Francis Jr. also holds the all-time record for most career poles in Trans Am at 49 (a record formerly held by Tommy Kendall at 46). This weekend, Francis Jr. could become the first Trans Am driver in history to reach 50 pole starts.
“Looking ahead, we feel optimistic,” said Francis Jr. “This is a track we have already won on and we think we have a good chance of getting back to the top of the championship standings. Goals for the next four rounds are the same as they always have been: regular finishes up front and keeping the car clean. We can’t wait to see where it all goes at the end of the season!
Road Atlanta winner Said (# 2 WeaverRacingTechnique / SRI Dodge Challenger) will also be featured this weekend, looking to steal valuable championship points from rivals Trans Am. Two-time TA champion Amy Ruman won the race. win at Watkins Glen in 2016 and will seek her first class win of the season this weekend in the No. 23 Chevrolet Corvette McNicholsCo / CornertechCNCSolut. Charlotte Motor Speedway winner Oscar Teran (# 27 Ford Mustang Oscar Teran) will also be back in the lineup, driving the same Breathless Racing-prepared Ford Mustang he dominated on the famous Roval.
After a successful Trans Am debut at Road America, 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and 2011 IMSA American Le Mans Series champion Guy Smith will return to the cockpit of the # 21 Ford Mustang Amamos La Vida Tequila for CD Racing .
Tight TA2 competition continues
Nine out of 65 drivers can still contend for a TA2 title, respectively, although four, Rafa Matos, Mike Skeen, Thomas Merrill and Connor Mosack, have moved away from the field.
During the last round in the streets of Nashville, Matos left 18th following problems with the power steering in qualifying, Matos slowly made his way through the peloton on the difficult urban circuit. He managed to take the point before falling in the standings after his power steering problems returned with 20 laps to go in the race. Matos held on without power steering to finish seventh, gaining enough points to keep the championship lead over defending champion Skeen (226 to 208).
After a tumultuous result in Nashville, Matos is aiming for a rebound at Watkins Glen, a track where he has had quite a bit of success behind the wheel of the Ford Mustang No. 88 3 Dimensional Services Group. The 2018 champion is looking for his third straight win at Watkins Glen. He crossed the checkered flag there in 2018 and 2019, setting a new record for TA2 on the last visit of the series (1: 51.197-seconds).
“Winning at the WGI the past two years has given me and all of Peterson Racing a big boost,” said Matos. “The WGI is a real road circuit with an incredible history, and doing three in a row would be a great achievement for us. The championship is coming to an end, but we still need to improve our game and our performance in every session, qualifying and race. The objective is obviously to try to increase our points lead, and I have the equipment and the team to do it.
In his first full season with Trans Am, Skeen took to the track to win the championship in 2020. This season, No.1 Chevrolet Camaro driver Liqui-Moly / Turn14Distribution notched the best qualifying record of the season. , starting from pole. in half of the turns (four of eight). The reigning champion has won two races from pole.
This weekend will be Skeen’s first appearance at the Glen in a Trans Am car, although he has ridden the course several times in other series including IMSA.
Merrill and Mosack are over 70 points (75 and 78) behind Matos, but there is still a chance for either of them to win the championship with 140 total points still at stake.
Merrill’s second full season in Trans Am got off to a good start, as HPTuners / MikeCopeRaceCars Ford Mustang rider moved from pole position to claim victory in Round 1 at Sebring. Since then, Merrill has faced mechanical gremlins among other incidents on the track that kept him from returning to the top step. He clinched two third places (Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca) and recovered to finish second after an incident damaged his No.81 car in Nashville. Merrill will sport a new number, # 26, for Watkins Glen, as his # 81 Ford Mustang is still under repair.
While Merrill is 75 points behind Matos, he has shown in the past that he is a top contender who makes every trip count.
Driving steadily all season, Mosack eventually made it to the podium in Nashville with a third place finish. Coached by Scott Lagasse Jr., Mosack is fourth in points (148) and is TeamSLR’s leading scorer in the No.28 Chevrolet Camaro NicTailor / IFS M1-SLR / Fields. While claiming the championship can be a stretch in his first full TA2 season, Mosack is quite capable of scoring wins and the points that come with Matos, Skeen and Merrill.
Other TA2 drivers to watch this weekend are teammates Doug Peterson (No. 87 3 Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro), who won at WGI in 2015, and Adam Andretti (No. 86 3 Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang). The pair have been working together since mid-season at Mid-Ohio to help Matos defend his championship lead and his position on track.
Returning after a three-year hiatus, 6th Gear Inc. Founder and President Robert Sabato (Ford Mustang # 43 6th Gear Garage Ford Mustang). Sabato won the IMSA prototype lites championship in 2011, having done a handful of TA2 races in the meantime leading up to this weekend’s outing.
XGT class to debut in WGI
The XGT class will make its debut this weekend on the Watkins Glen Grand Prix course. The last time Trans Am visited Watkins Glen was in 2019, before the new Trans Am class was created. Erich Joiner in the Porsche 991 GT3 R Good Boy Bob Coffee Roasters # 10 and Randy Hale in the Chevrolet Corvette No.31 Hale Propeller will face off, both trying to set the track record and make history as the first XGT winner at the Glen.
Natalie Decker returns to the lineup, putting pressure on SGT class rookie and points leader Justin Marks in an Audi R8 prepared by Ave Motorsports (Audi R8 # 29 NI29 Technologies LLC). In March, NASCAR driver Xfinity took second place at Charlotte Motor Speedway after starting from pole position. This will be Decker’s first attempt at the Glen.
“Racing with Ave Motorsports in the Trans Am series is amazing and I’m continually learning from the best,” Decker said. “This will be my first time at Watkins Glen and I prepared for the race through iRacing, watching videos and we did a test day at VIR (Virginia International Raceway).”
XGT / SGT / GT FULL CLASS RANKING
Trans Am riders have the opportunity to practice Thursday before the official practice begins Friday at 11:45 am EST. Drivers will qualify in their separate classes 15 minutes apart on Friday evening, starting at 5:15 p.m. EST with TA2, followed by TA, then production classes (XGT / SGT / GT). The first of two 100-mile races will take place on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. EST, and the weekend culminates Sunday with all the drivers taking the green at 11:35 a.m. EST. Ahead of Saturday’s race, the track will host a fan walk with drivers and Trans Am cars from 12:20 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. EST. For the full schedule click here.