LAKEVILLE, CT (28 May 2022)- The rain did not spoil the fun at Lime Rock Park on Saturday as the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli hosted its first race of the weekend with its highly competitive TA2 class.
The second day of the Trans Am Memorial Day Classic also saw multiple qualifying groups Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) competition, as well as two separate qualifying sessions for the Skip Barber Racing runners.
International GT also hosted two sprint races as well as an hour-long enduro to close out the day.
Wet Conditions Play Part in Trans Am TA2 Podium Results
A drenched Lime Rock Park created tricky conditions in Saturday’s Trans Am Memorial Day Classic TA2 feature.
With a tire strategy that played to his favor, Thomas Merrill mastered the wet, slippery Classic Lime Rock circuit on Pirelli rains to claim the overall race win in the No. 26 Bridgehaul Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang by nearly 21-seconds over second-place finisher Evan Slater.
“It was a long race, almost the longest race of my career, at least it felt like it,” said Merrill, who will make his Le Mans 24 Hour debut next month. “We started on rain tires, and by the time we started the race it was a dry track. Early on, our focus was to try and keep the tires on the race car and hope for rain, which we got. When it fell, we knew we had the race covered. It wasn’t easy because we burned up those rain tires over the course of the dry race. We are thankful for the rain, and we are thankful for the Lime Rock Park fans for sticking it out!”
The 100-mile sprint started out in mixed conditions, with several drivers, including Merrill, starting on wets. But as the record-breaking field of 34 cars circled the track, it began to dry quickly and pit lane became a popular destination for teams looking to move to slicks including pole-starter Mike Skeen.
Though his tires were ailing, Merrill made the decision to stay out on rains. About mid-way through the 66-lap race, heavy rains returned, producing a very slick Lime Rock circuit for the Trans Am drivers- the exact conditions that Merrill had hoped for.
After a full-course caution threw more curves in the strategies, the tire tactics saw Slater shuttle into the top five as the 16-year-old pressed two-time TA2 champion Cameron Lawrence and Tyler Kicera for podium position. Sometimes going three-wide through the uphill, Slater finally edged himself into second with six laps left, leaving Lawrence and Kicrea dicing for third.
With clear sailing despite the conditions for Merril, Slater scored second as Lawrence took his second podium of the year ahead of Kicera, who nabbed fourth while Rhett Barkue rounded out the top five.
“The race was great and I had a lot of fun,” Slater said. “I am super thankful for Cube 3 Architecture and Stevens Miller Racing for making this podium possible. We were down a few cylinders, so that made the race a little spicy. The weather was interesting and that definitely played into our hand.”
2021 Lime Rock Park winner Matos finished eigth with Skeen falling from pole to 14th.
Saturday’s podium ceremonies concluded with a special award presentation recognizing Doug Peterson’s 100th Trans Am race.
Erhlich Family Sweeps International GT Opening Race
In a pair of Porsche Cayman GT4 MRs, twin brothers Max and Zach Erhlich battled each other for the top step in the first round of International GT (IGT) . The 16-year-olds worked in tandem to finish first and second in their IGT 3.8 class debut. Zach, the youngest twin, finished first in class (fifth overall) with Max, who started pole-position for the class, crossing the stripe in second (sixth overall).
“Every time my brother and I race together we are always competitive with each other,” Zach said. “It was an amazing race, especially since I got to do it with my entire family.”
Their uncle, John Reisman, gapped the field in an Interlaken Inn-branded Porsche GT3 Cup 4.0 class car by more than half a second to secure the overall win. While their father, Justin Erhilich, also earned a class victory, driving a 3.8 Porsche Cayman S.
“I had a pretty shaky start off the pole,” said Max. “I lost a couple of positions but was able to make those up to focus on battling my brother. He still got the win but we had a great time out there racing today.”
Mark Mathys (GT4.1), Steve Katz (GT3.6) and Wally Owens (EXH) also claimed class victories.
IGT concluded its race weekend on Saturday afternoon, staging its sprint finale ahead of the one-hour Enduro. Mathys claimed the overall win for Round 2, and finished first overall in the Enduro.
Lasting a full hour without a co-driver, Lime Rock Drivers Club Member John Koster secured the IGT CAY3.8 class win. His time with Lime Rock driver instructor Simon Kirby gave him the confidence to master variable track conditions.
“I love the Lime Rock Drivers Club,” Koster explained. “I started coming for the Autocross days and eventually worked my way to lapping days. That wasn’t enough for me, I decided I needed to compete.
“The extra laps and time spent with driver coaches have really helped develop my racecraft,” continued Koster. “Simon (Kirby) likes driving in the rain, and he coached me for days like today. The practice I got being part of the Lime Rock Drivers Club, helped me achieve this victory today.”
Skip Barber Racing Qualifying
Elvis Rankin topped the results in both Skip Barber Racing qualifying sessions on Saturday. Rankin set his fastest lap in the dry morning session with a 1:02.814-second flyer.
The two qualifying sessions set the grid for the pair of homecoming races on Monday.
Due to weather, only three Trans Am TA/XGT/SGT/GT cars tested in the morning. Officials canceled practice in the afternoon. Without much time to shakedown, the group will take the track early on Monday for qualifying (9:05 a.m. ET) with the 100-mile feature slated to start at 11:55 a.m.
Trans Am TA2 Results:
SVRA/IGT Results: Race (race-monitor.com)
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