Trans/AM – The Tale of the Fellows Tire

Fellows leading the SCCA Trans/AM Race at CTMP, May 17, 2014

Trans/AM – The Tale of the Fellows Tire

Colene Evans-Allen

Port Perry, ON – May 18, 2014
Photo:  Brooke Legacy, In The Pits Media

It was a sentimental public relations marketing play created by opportunity and the alignment of statistics.  It reignited interest in the Trans/AM Series by Canadians and had all the earmarks of a fantastic public relations coup for SCCA Pro Racing.  If things went as hoped, it would be one of the best strategic marketing ploys in quite a while.  If things didn’t go to plan, it would have been a disappointment and amounted to not much.  It was a gamble, and a right rear tire nearly spoiled the carefully planned event.

Once Ron Fellows signed a deal to drive in the Victoria Day Speedfest Trans/AM race for Jim Derhaag, SCCA Pro Racing had a golden opportunity.  They calculated the number of starts by Fellows in the Series at 99 officially, meaning that by starting the race yesterday, Fellows made his 100th career start in Trans/AM.  With 19 career wins in the series, Fellows stood to make it 20, giving him an unbelievable 20% win rate for starts.  Adding to the value of the proposition, Fellows is now a co-owner of the race track that he won his first Trans/AM race at and is considered to be the favourite son of the track and its fans.

It was the perfect public relations mix.  The belief was that the rest of the Trans/AM field would see nothing but the back of Fellows’ car the entire race.  The fact that he took the Pole for the race only supported that belief amongst race fans.

In the world of road course race car drivers, there are very few drivers that can jump into any kind of closed wheel car and race any kind of format from short sprint races to long endurance races with the kind of skill, ability, and experience that Ron Fellows has.  When he went into semi-retirement, most Canadians were regretting that the chances of seeing Fellows race on home soil again were slim.  In particular, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Fellows shines just a little brighter as a driver than he does elsewhere.  It’s his home track, the track he grew up racing on, and Fellows knows every nook, cranny, bump, and bend of the track like the back of his hand.

On the start of yesterday’s race, Ron Fellows got a fantastic start and pulled away from teammate Simon Gregg.  As the race progressed, Fellows pulled out a gap on the competition.  There were three full course cautions during the race, and although Amy Ruman managed to harass Fellows a bit on each restart, she was unable to keep up or maintain the same pace as Fellows.  It was looking like a flag to flag domination of the race for Fellows.  Then, something happened.

It wasn’t noticeable during the race expect for a slightly slower pace in the last few laps from Fellows.  Ruman began to catch up as Fellows slowed.  The right rear tire on Fellows car had begun to give up grip.  Fellows himself likely didn’t know exactly why, but he would have known that the tire wasn’t working as it should have.  This is the moment when all those years of endurance road racing paid huge dividends, as the ability to get the car to perform while being easy on the equipment meant the difference between winning and losing.

On the last lap of the race with Amy Ruman catching up and that elusive 20th win just in sight, Fellows had a serious problem.  The right rear tire of his race car had completely failed.  It was flat and beginning to tear itself apart.  Using every bit of skill as a driver that he had, Ron Fellows managed to bring that car home in first place, making motorsport history in the process.

Since mid-2011 Ron Fellows has owned the land that Canadian Tire Motorsport Park sits on.  Yesterday, May 17th, Ron Fellows also proved that at age 55 and semi-retired, he still owns the track too.