Cliff Ebben secures first Trans Am victory of 2017 at Sebring

CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW FULL GALLERYSEBRING, Fla.  [March 5, 2017] – On his 65th birthday, Cliff Ebben secured his sixth career Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli victory today at Sebring International Raceway, becoming the first TA class winner of the 2017 Trans Am.  Ebben was joined in the celebrations by TA3 class winner Mark Boden and TA4 class winner Brian Kleeman; the victories were Boden’s career fourth and Kleeman’s career first.  

Ebben, in the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/ McMahon Group Ford Mustang, began the day in fourth position in the 22-car field, behind the likes of RJ Lopez, Vinnie Allegretta and pole sitter Ernie Francis, Jr.  Ebben would maintain his speed over the first 16 laps of the race, remaining consistent as the top three dropped back one-by-one with mechanical issues.  Ernie Francis, Jr., would lead those 16 laps building up a lead that spanned over a 12 seconds, before suffering an oil line burst—Francis would shut down the car to avoid damaging the motor.   

Ebben would inherit the lead after overtaking Allegretta for second position, a lead he would not relinquish for the remainder of the 100.3-mile, 27-lap race.   The victory, his sixth in 54 starts, is Ebben’s first at Sebring, and in doing so also becomes the first driver of a Ford Mustang to win the TA class at Sebring since Boris Said in 2001.  

“It was a pretty straightforward race for me,” said Ebben. “We just kept moving up as the leaders started to drop out, and I inherited the lead! You are better to be lucky than good they say. I would like to thank my car owner Denny and Jan Lamers, Greg, Monty and all the guys on the team, my wife Mary, Competition Specialists, McMahon & Associates and Les Stumpf Ford.”

Finishing second in the TA class was Tomy Drissi, in the No. 8 Ghost in The Shell Chevrolet Corvette, finishing on the podium in his 100th career Trans Am start.   Drissi began the race in eighth position before dropping back to ninth on the second lap, from there on he would work his way up through the field before joining David Pintaric, in the No. 57 Kryderacing Cadillac CTS-V, in an 18-lap battle as they worked their way up through the field, eventually ending in a fight for second position on the very last lap.  Ultimately, Drissi won that battle, securing a second place finish—his 20th career top-three finish.  

Drissi’s car had suffered heavy damage during the second practice session of the weekend, but the Ave crew worked throughout the day to restore the No. 8 in time for the TA class qualifying session only five hours later.   For their efforts Tony Ave Racing was named the Crew of the Race and Drissi’s Crew Chief Gregory Smyre was awarded the Traq Gear Crew Chief of the Weekend.  

David Pintaric would finish third after starting 19th, completing his battle up through the TA field.  However, the No. 57 was found to have an illegal  wing after the race, as a result Pintaric was excluded from the results.   

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Exploring Speed and Light

Reprinted from Portfolio Magazine

It’s a million dollars of high technology wrapped in carbon fiber screaming through a forest in northern Georgia. As the sun sets, the driver negotiates a turn dropping from 185mph to 90mph and back up to 185mph… all in a matter of seconds.

Far from the homogenized world of stock car oval racing, this is sports car endurance racing. It is one of the last forms of motor racing where car manufacturers and their engineers push the envelope unfettered by artificial limits imposed by organizers attempting to manage “the show.” This is where technology combines with team management and driver skill to push back against gravity in an endeavor of man and machine toget to the finish first.

My job? Tell the story in photos. Capture the absurdity of the challenge. The blood, sweat and tears spent striving for the top step of the podium. It’s everything ABC’s Wide World of Sports said in their thematic… “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.”

What I like about photographing endurance sports car racing is the challenge of presenting a story that intrigues those who love the sport… the fans, and the uninitiated alike.

I imagine the strained excited voice of a fan who has just spent three days at the 12 Hours of Sebring or the 24 Hours of Daytona and how he would struggle to verbally describe to his friends what he had just experienced… how amazing… how incredible… and knowing he would fail to state his case with words and words alone.

No. Words don’t describe this. You have to see it to believe it. That’s my job.

Photographing endurance sports cars not only requires some pretty specific camera equipment, it requires a broad understanding of story telling through the lens. And not unlike legendary guitar players like Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn, you need to manhandle and leverage your gear to deliver your point of view. And even then, you’ve only penned one part of the composition.

These are typically three-day events. And behind each and every car, there are three or more drivers sharing the 10, 12 or 24-hour duties behind the wheel. There are engineers, mechanics, designers, fabricators… human beings… all working in harmony to harness the potential of this four-wheeled beast. If it’s anything, it’s managed chaos.

It’s all about finding and managing the limits of the unlimited. It’s about assessing every aspect of the process… every link in the chain… everything and anything that might lead to imperfect. Because winning requires perfection… until someone does it better.

For me, I like the atmosphere and the human spirit. I like the faces. Obviously, the cars and their struggle with gravity’s limits are an endless source of visual excitement. But so are the people…. on both sides of the protective barrier.

When you’re at the track, you imagine what a dog’s sense of smell is like going 50mph with its head hanging out the car window. You don’t know where to look first. It’s all happening. Everything and everyone has a role… a purpose and a mission. Consider this. When you go to an NBA or NFL event, two teams take to the field. When you go to a race, 30+ teams take to the field. They’re all there… it’s the equivalent of an entire season playing out before your eyes in one single event.

And it’s not just about race day. From the moment a team’s transporter rolls into the track, the clock starts ticking. In fact, all team transporters must be parked and in place before unloading can begin. Everything… everything is time certain. It’s the same for everyone.

It’s a unique form of photography. Sure, you start out with a shot list. You start out with a strategy of where you’d like to shoot… what you’d like to get done. Unfortunately, you’re not in control. It all rolls out in front of you and you have to play the cards you’re dealt. You’re chasing light and sometimes working against darkness. You’re fighting to get a unique angle, you’re working against time…. and you’re carrying 30lbs of gear while trekking through the woods… sometimes in the rain. Did I mention the course is three miles long?

Creativity requires friction. To make something different you need forces pushing back. You need work your way into spaces. Fight your way past the mundane and look for opportunities as they present themselves. Chances are, whatever you have planned is not going to happen. You need your head on a swivel. You need to look where everyone else is going… and go the other way. The opportunities are endless.

John Thawley

For most my work I shoot with Canon gear… three camera bodies and an array of lenses including a 16-35mm, 24-105mm, 70-200mm a 50mm prime and a 500mm prime. I also use a Leica M Series Rangefinder with a 35mm, 50mm and 90mm prime Leica lenses, a DXO One attached to my iPhone 6S+ and vintage Polaroid cameras. Each camera and each lens has a purpose… and each helps define the point of view I’m attempting to bring to the shot.


Test Drive: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe

Cadillac made a bold move over ten years ago when they introduced the first CTS-V model to take on the Europeans that dominated the high-performance sport sedan segment. The recipe for that first CTS-V was pretty simple – stuff the V8 engine from the C5 Corvette into the engine bay, tighten up the suspension and bolt on bigger brakes. That first CTS-V was very fast, but it failed to bring all of its elements together in a cohesive package. Thankfully, Cadillac has remained committed to improving their V-Series models over the last decade, and racing them has contributed significantly to their evolution. Cadillac still sells the CTS-V today, but has also dropped in a new model with the smaller, lighter and less expensive ATS-V.

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