LAKEVILLE, Connecticut – The rain didn’t spoil the fun at Lime Rock Park on Saturday as the Trans Am series presented by Pirelli hosted its first race of the weekend in the highly competitive TA2 class.
Day two of the Trans Am Memorial Day Classic also saw several qualifying groups for the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) competition, as well as two separate qualifying sessions for Skip Barber Racing racers.
The International GT (IGT) hosted two hour-long sprint and Enduro races to close out the day.
Wet conditions play a role in Trans Am TA2 podium results
The sunken Lime Rock Park created difficult conditions for the Trans Am Memorial Day Classic TA2 feature.
With tire strategy working for him, Thomas Merrill mastered the wet and slippery Lime Rock on Pirelli rain to take the overall win in the 26 Bridgehaul Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang.
Merrill led by nearly 21 seconds over second-placed Evan Slater.
“It was a long race, almost the longest race of my career, at least I felt like it,” said Merrill, who will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut next month. “We started with the rain tires, and by the time we started the race it was a dry track. At first, our focus was on trying to keep the tires in the race car and hoping for rain, which we got. When it fell we knew we had covered the race. It wasn’t Easy because we burned those rain tires over the course of a dry race. We’re thankful for the rain, and we’re thankful to Lime Rock Park fans for keeping them out!”
The 100-mile race started in mixed conditions, with several drivers, including Merrill, starting on the wet.
However, as the record-breaking 34-car field began to dry up quickly and the pit lane became a popular destination for teams looking to take to the spots, including starter Mike Skene.
Even though his tires were sick, Merrill made the decision to stay with the rain tires.
About halfway through the 66-lap race, the torrential rain returned, making for a very smooth Lime Rock for the Trans Am drivers — the exact conditions Merrill had been hoping for.
Casting a full-track warning with more curves in strategies, tire tactics saw Slater into the top five as the 16-year-old put pressure on two-time TA2 champion Cameron Lawrence and Tyler Kesera on the podium.
Slater advanced a wide triple by climbing, eventually climbing to second with six laps remaining, leaving Lawrence and Kickeria in third.
With a clear sail despite Merrill’s conditions, Slater scored second as Lawrence took his second podium of the year. Kisera finished fourth, while Rhett Barkow rounded out the top five.
“The race was great and I had a lot of fun,” said Slater. “I am so grateful to Cube 3 Architecture and Stevens Miller Racing for making this podium possible. We were on a few cylinders, which made the race a bit hot. The weather was fun and that definitely played into our hands.”
The Ehrlich family sweeps the GT World Opening Race
In a pair of Porsche Cayman GT4 MRs, twin brothers Max and Zach Ehrlich battled for the highest step in the first round of the IGT. The 16-year-olds worked hand-in-hand to take first and second places on their debut in the IGT 3.8 class.
Zach, the youngest of the twins, took first place in the class and fifth overall. Max, who started center stage in the class, crossed the bar for second in sixth overall.
“Every time my brother and I race together, we always compete with each other,” Zack said. “It was a great race, especially since I got in with my whole family.”
Their uncle, Jon Raisman, stormed the field in an Interlaken Inn-branded Porsche GT3 Cup 4.0 by more than half a second to claim the overall win.
Their father, Justin Erhelich, also took a big win, driving a 3.8 Porsche Cayman S.
“It was a very shaky start off the lead,” Max said. “I lost two places but was able to make up for it to focus on fighting my brother. He took the win but we had a great time racing today.”
Mark Mattis, Steve Katz, and Wally Owens also have class wins.
IGT wrapped up the race this weekend on Saturday afternoon, beginning the final race one hour before Enduro.
Mattis took the overall win for the second round, and finished first in the Enduro.
Lime Rock Drivers Club member John Koster, who went for an hour without a co-driver, went on to win the IGT CAY3.8 class. His time with Lime Rock driver coach, Simon Kirby, gave him the confidence to master the changing circuit conditions.
“I love Lime Rock Drivers Club,” Coster explained. “I started coming for the Autocross days and eventually made my way to the lap days. It wasn’t enough for me, I decided I needed to compete.
“The extra laps and time spent with my driver coaches helped develop my vehicle,” Coster continued, “Simon (Kirby) loves to drive in the rain, and he has trained me for days like today. The training I got from being a part of Lime Rock Drivers Club helped me to Achieve that victory today.”
Skip the Barber Racing Tops qualifiers
Elvis Rankin led the results in both Skip Barber Racing qualifying sessions on Saturday and set his fastest lap in the dry morning session by 1:02.
Two qualifying sessions set the grid for the homecoming races on Monday.