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The Trans-Am Series is an automobile racing series which was created in 1966 by Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) President John Bishop. Originally known as the Trans-American Sedan Championship it has evolved over time from its original format as a manufacturers championship for modified racing sedans to its current form as a drivers championship open to GT style cars.
The series was formed at the dawn of the pony car era and was derived from the SCCA's A & B Sedan amateur Club Racing classes, based upon commercially produced cars which had been modified for racing competition. Originally the series was open to FIA Group 2 Touring Cars and it featured two classes, Over 2.0 Liter and Under 2.0 Liter, with both classes running together. The series was best known for competition among American V8 coupes such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Plymouth Barracuda, Mercury Cougar, AMC Javelin, Pontiac Firebird, and Dodge Challenger in the 1960s and early 1970s. Marques such as Porsche (until its 911 was reclassed as a "sports car" and not a "sedan"), Alfa Romeo, BMW, Datsun, Mini Cooper, Saab, and Volkswagen competed in the series' Under 2.0 Liter category.
- 1 History
- 2 Current racing classes
- 3 Other series based on Trans-Am concept
- 4 Champions
- 5 Tributes
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
At first, the Trans-Am cars were modified versions of their road version. The competition was divided into two classes- an "Under 2-Liter" class (predominantly European sedans) and the "Over 2 Liter" class, 111 inch wheel base or less and displacement limited to 5.0 liters (primarily American pony cars).
The first race was in 1966 at Sebring International Raceway. The overall win went to Jochen Rindt driving an Alfa Romeo GTA (an Under 2-Liter entry), with Bob Tullius (driving a Dodge Dart) taking second overall and first in the Over 2-Liter class.
Allan Moffat in a 1600 cc Lotus Cortina won the third race at Bryar. Ford of Britain had full factory effort with the Alan Mann Lotus Cortinas. In 1966 the Over 2-Liter manufacturers' champion was Ford and the Under 2 Liter manufacturers' champion was Alfa Romeo, with Horst Kwech and Gaston Andrey's GTA scoring 39 of the 57 manufacturers' points for Alfa.
In 1967 Porsche lobbied the SCCA to reclassify the 911 as a sedan. Then dominated the Under 2-Liter field winning the manufacturers' championship over Alfa Romeo. In Over 2-Liter, Ford edged out Mercury to win the manufacturers' championship.
Golden era (1968–1972)
Penske Racing campaigned Chevrolet Camaro Z28s through 1969, then Roger Penske signed with American Motors to race the Javelin in 1970 and 1971. Mark Donohue would chalk up 20 race victories between 1967 and 1970.
In 1970, all of the American pony car manufacturers were represented with a factory team and top driving talent: Chevrolet had the Chaparral Team Camaro Z28 driven by Jim Hall, Ed Leslie, and Vic Elford. Ford's factory team was run by Bud Moore Engineering with Parnelli Jones and George Follmer the drivers. Plymouth hired All American Racers to run their team, with drivers Dan Gurney and Swede Savage. Dodge used Ray Caldwell's Autodynamics team; Sam Posey and occasionally Tony Adamowicz drove. Jerry Titus ran the Pontiac Team Firebird Trans Am. Penske Racing ran the effort for AMC Javelin, with drivers Mark Donohue and Peter Revson. In 1971 all the American manufacturers pulled their sponsorship from the series except for AMC.
As evidence of the original modified production car concept, a fan favorite in the 1971 Trans Am series was the "Grey Ghost", a '64 Pontiac Tempest, prepared by Pontiac Special Projects Engineering Manager Herb Adams and a group of his young proteges (Tom Nell/Jeff Young-Engines, Joe Brady/Harry Quackenboss-Chassis, Ted Lambaris-Body, Tom Goad-Logistics). The boxy six-year-old Tempest had once been Adams' wife's daily driver, with over 80,000 miles (130,000 km) on the odometer when it was turned into an A Sedan racer. It proved to be surprisingly fast, at a time when even a one-year-old car was considered out of step with the competition. It was entered in the opening round of the 1971 Trans-Am Championship. Unable to qualify, the car was allowed to start from the back of the pack. With Bob Tullius behind the wheel, it mowed through the field, and was running second behind eventual winner Mark Donohue's factory-supported Penske Racing AMC Javelin when the engine expired.
1971 the "U2" class was renamed the Two-Five challenge, as the engine displacement limit was increased to 2.5 liters. 1971 was very exciting as Horst Kwech in a Herb Wetanson Alfa-Romeo GTV and John Morton in Pete Brock's BRE Datsun 510 fought it out for the title. After a hard fought season with much off-track puffing, Datsun won. When these two marques dropped out, interest in the series waned and the SCCA cancelled the series.
Beginning in the 1970s, Trans-Am cars would also be seen running in the IMSA GT Championship.
Rules changed over the years. Trans-Am became a tube frame silhouette racing car class instead of production-based. In 1976, Trans-Am returned to the two category format, classifying FIA Group 4 and 5 cars as "Category II".
The GT era, big money, turbos and cost escalation (1980–1988)
In 1980, the SCCA developed a weight-to-displacement ratio for handicapping cars. Five-liter, 2600-pound vehicles dominated the field. Soon, tube-frame cars, often based upon commercially available and relatively inexpensive short-track stock car chassis, would begin to appear, eventually becoming the standard for Trans-Am competitors. Turbocharged, small-displacement-engined cars would also appear and proliferate as the decade wore on.
In 1983 Neil DeAtley assembed a two-car team of Camaros for the Trans-Am series. DeAtley's major sponsor was Budweiser, which marked the association of truly major sponsor to the series. David Hobbs and Willy T. Ribbs dominated the 1983 season, with Ribbs winning five races and Hobbs winning four. Hobbs took the championship with his more consistent finishes, while Ribbs was named Trans-Am Rookie of the Year.
For the 1984 season, Mercury took the manufacturers' title with Ribbs as their lead driver for Roush Racing. For the next six years Roush entries would dominate the series, winning 46 of the 83 races. Back with Roush again for the 1985 season, Ribbs scored seven victories and became the leading money winner in Trans-Am series history, yet finished second in points, as teammate Wally Dallenbach, Jr. used his consistently higher finishes to take the championship.
1986 was wildly competitive as the turbocharged, small-displacement-engined cars would become more powerful and go from field fillers to race winners. The Roush Racing Mercury Capri V8s and Merkur XR4Ti turbo 4s went head to head against Camaro V8s, and the turbocharged Buick Somerset, when actor/race driver Paul Newman took round 8 in his Nissan 300ZX Turbo. Dallenbach would again take the championship, this time in a Protofab Camaro.
The Roush Merkurs of Scott Pruett and Pete Halsmer dominated the 1987 season, winning all but one race, with Elliott Forbes-Robinson taking that win in his Porsche 944 Turbo. Pruett would take home the championship.
In 1988, after years of rallying, Audi would enter the series with the 200 turbo quattro via the services of Bob Tullius' Group 44 Racing. Running Audi's Quattro system, the cars piloted by Hurley Haywood with both Walter Röhrl and Hans Joachim Stuck sharing duties steamrolled the opposition, taking eight out of thirteen wins. As Audi would defect to IMSA by the end of the season, the SCCA would change the regulation to a two-wheel drive only and banning cars with non American engines from taking part.
Modern era (1989–2006)
1989 marked a major change in the Trans-Am Series, as throughout much of the nineties Trans-Am would evolve into an American manufacturer-based series, with aftermarket V8s stuffed into any American branded car. This would last until the rise of Jaguar at the turn of the millennium.
In the 1990s Tommy Kendall, in a Chevrolet and then a Ford, was the driver to beat—he would take 4 driver's championships in this decade (3 of them in a Mustang). Chevrolet was also prominent in this time period, with 6 driver's championships among 5 different drivers in their cars. Only Scott Sharp would win two championships for Chevrolet in the 1990s.
Paul Gentilozzi, now the winningest driver in Trans Am (with 31 wins), rose to the fore beginning in 1998 with his first championship in Trans-Am. He would win four more championships, driving a Chevrolet, a Ford, and a Jaguar. These latter years also saw more marques enter the field, with exotics such as the Panoz Esperante, Qvale Mangusta and Jaguar XKR. Later in the 2004 season, a Rocketsports Racing Jaguar XKR raced with a production-based 4.5-liter 650 hp (485 kW) DOHC AJ-V8.
Due to a lack of participants and interest, the series all but ceased operations after the 2005 season. However the SCCA continued to own the name and permitted Heartland Park Topeka to run two races in September and October 2006 using Trans-Am rules and the Trans-Am name. Fields were shored up by a makeshift assortment of SCCA GT-1 class amateur racers in town for the National Championship Runoffs later that week.
It was announced on December 11, 2008 that Trans Am would be returning in 2009, with former champion Greg Pickett sponsoring the series with the Muscle Milk brand, using the SCCA's GT-1 category rules. The first race was held March 22, 2009. The revived series utilized the same vehicle rules as SCCA's amateur GT-1 class, providing top GT-1 competitors a professional series to progress to. Driving a Jaguar, Tomy Drissi was the first champion upon the series' return. It would be Jaguar's 'last hurrah' in the Trans Am series. Tony Ave dominated in 2010 and 2011, taking six wins each season to win back to back titles, and beginning the current period of Chevrolet dominance.
In 2011, in an effort to increase grid sizes which typically numbered in the single digits in 2010, the Trans-Am Series introduced two additional classes of competition in addition to the 2010 spec which race as "TA1". The new TA2 class consists of SCCA GT2 and GTA class cars while the new TA3 class consists of SCCA GT3 class cars.
Although she was not the first woman to compete in Trans Am (Janet Guthrie, 1978), in 2011, Amy Ruman became the first one in series history to win a race, accomplishing the feat in the season finale at Road Atlanta. In 2015, she became the series' first female champion, winning an impressive 8 out of 12 races that season. In 2016, Trans Am's 50th anniversary season, she won her second consecutive TA championship in a Chevrolet Corvette.
A new era (2012)
On Sept 29th 2011, SCCA announced that the Trans Am Race Company, LLC will assume management of the Trans Am Series from SCCA Pro Racing, beginning with the 2012 season. Through a 5 year agreement, the Trans Am Race Company (TARC) will assume full marketing rights to the series and will be responsible for Trans Am Series public relations and promotions. SCCA Pro Racing will continue to sanction Trans Am events and provide contracted event operations services to the series. SCCA Pro Racing President Tom Campbell, cites not having the resources to support growing the series as one of the reason for the transition. In January of 2017, an unprecedented 25 year agreement was signed, renewing their partnership and ensuring that Trans Am racing will continue for a long, long time.
The Trans Am Race Company is now owned by a group of Trans-Am team owners and competitors. The President of the Trans Am Race Company is John Clagett. Clagett had a 22-year affiliation with SCCA Pro Racing and the Trans Am Series, most recently as Executive Director of Trans Am in 2005 when Champ Car operated and sanctioned the series.
Trans Am partnered with GoRacingTV.com to provide a new form of video coverage for the 2012 season. The partnership provided global coverage of the series. Trans Am coverage was also provided by MavTV.
The series was at this time divided into three classes: TA, TA2 and TA3 American Muscle / International. Starting in 2016, TA4 (Camaro / Mustang / Challenger) and TA5 (Porche Carrera Cup) were added, TA3, TA4, and TA5 replacing the previously existing TA3 American Muscle and TA3 International classes. TA5 was discontinued after 2016, and Porches now race in TA3. The Trans Am racing series has experienced record growth over the past two seasons, and there have been record numbers of entrants at every race in 2015. In concert with the series' success, the television package has expanded to a total of 10 races (seven of the 12 events, three with coverage of two races, broken out as TA/TA3 and TA2) carried on CBS Sports Network.
In 2017, Pirelli became the exclusive tire supplier for Trans Am (replacing Hoosier), and all classes use Pirelli P Zero radial ply racing tires. All Trans Am series races go on even if it rains, in which case the teams switch to softer, treaded Pirelli P Zero rain Tires.
Current racing classes
TA cars are domestically produced high-performance Grand Touring race cars with tube-frame chassis and fiberglass bodies. As of 2017, they are powered by carbureted, naturally aspirated 366 cubic inch V8 engines running on leaded gasoline and producing roughly 875 horsepower. All other classes use unleaded gasoline. As of 2013, the majority of entries carry Chevrolet Corvette bodywork, but there are several Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros in the class, as well as a couple of Cadillac CTS-Vs and one Dodge Challenger. As of 2017, the TA class has the second highest number of participants.
TA2 class specifies a tube-frame chassis built by Howe Racing with Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger bodies. Currently, both fuel-injected and carbureted V8's are allowed, but eventually fuel-injected engines will be required. Some TA2 Engines must use restrictor plates, as maximum allowable power is limited to 490 HP and 447 lb-ft of torque. The costs of shock absorbers, brake calipers & pads, and wheels are controlled, and no titanium or carbon fiber components are allowed, other than the driver's seat. Since 2013, TA2 continues to be Trans-Am's most popular class among competitors.
The production based TA3 cars (from American 'muscle cars' to European exotics) must adhere to SCCA GT2-class rules and be of a number of different specified domestic or foreign makes, models, and year of manufacture. Unlike TA4 cars, they are "...allowed to compete at a higher level of preparation." Until 2016 this class was known at TA3 International. Currently, TA3 has the third highest number of participants.
Introduced in 2016, TA4 cars are based on NASA American Iron Racing rules and must be a modern production-based Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, or Dodge Challenger. Until 2016 this class was known at TA3 American Muscle. This class complies more with the "classic" Trans-Am standards of the glory era, and currently has the fewest number of participants as of 2017.
The cars in the TA5 class, also introduced in 2016, used Tire racing slicks from Hoosier, the official tire supplier at the time. The class was intended for Porsche Carrera Cup cars but was discontinued at the end of the season and beginning in 2017, it's former participants compete in TA3.
Other series based on Trans-Am concept
The Trans-Am Series has used a tube frame-based format, similar to the original IMSA GT Series, since the early 1980s, with heavy emphasis on GT cars. The SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge racing series, run by the Sports Car Club of America, and the International Motor Sports Association, respectively, utilize modified production-based cars, sports cars, and touring cars, similar in spirit to the original Trans-Am racers. With the rise of these series, Trans-Am saw decreased attention from the media. However, Speedvision did occasionally cover Trans-Am races until the series' demise in 2006.
Trans-Am Manufacturers Championship points are awarded in all classes for 1st through 6th places, 9-6-4-3-2-1, with only the highest finishing example of a make receiving points. Beginning in 1972 SCCA instituted a Trans-Am Drivers Championship based on overall finishing position for 1st through 10th places, 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-3-2-1. Beginning in 1990 the top 25 finishers were awarded points, 30-27-25-23-21-19-18-17-16-15-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-1.
Class wins by manufacturer
Retrospective drivers' champions
Race historians have rated the overall finishers in the early Trans-Am years by the driver points scheme in place from 1972 until 1989 to crown unofficial overall Drivers Champions for 1966–1971. This listing first appeared in Albert R. Bochroch’s 1986 book Trans-Am Racing 1966–1985.
|1966|| Horst Kwech
|Alfa Romeo GTA||Bill Knauz|
|1967||Jerry Titus||Ford Mustang||Shelby American|
|1968||Mark Donohue||Chevrolet Camaro||Penske Racing|
|1969||Mark Donohue||Chevrolet Camaro||Penske Racing|
|1970||Parnelli Jones||Ford Mustang||Bud Moore Engineering|
|1971||Mark Donohue||AMC Javelin||Penske Racing|
- The Trans Am Series is a regular group at historic automobile racing events, particularly the 1966–72 years. In 2010, the Monterey Historic Automobile Races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California tributed the under 2000cc group. On occasion, the Monterey Historics and its former sister event at Sonoma Raceway, also in California, have tributed 1980s Trans Am cars, often referring to them as "IMSA GTO". In recent years the Sonoma event has referred to the group as "SCCA cars".
- A few teams in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, the series itself being reminiscent of the old Trans Am Series, have painted their vehicles to resemble the old Trans Am cars. In 2010 Multimatic Motorsports painted their Ford Mustangs to resemble those of Parnelli Jones and George Follmer. Also entered that year was a modern version of the Sunoco sponsored Chevrolet Camaro.
- The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was named after the series. According to SCCA archives, that brand has taken 7 wins in the 42-year-old series' 450+ events. The last win by a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was in 1984.
- Tommy Kendall currently drives a Dodge Challenger using tribute livery to Sam Posey's 1970 Challenger.
- List of Trans-Am Series marques
- Trans-Am production cars
- History of the Trans Am Series 1966-1995 DVD
- "Members Bios". Road Racing Drivers Club.
- Trans-Am Retrieved from homepage.mac.com/frank_de_jong on 14 August 2009
- Donnelly, Jim (August 1, 2007). "The Party's Over". Hemmings Motor News.
- "Herb Adams". Yearone.com. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
- "Grassrootsmotorsports.com". Grassrootsmotorsports.com. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
- SCCA Communications. "AUTO-RACING - SCCA Trans-Am Series Returns in 2009 - SPEEDtv.com". Auto-racing.speedtv.com. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
- SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series to Offer Multiple Classes of Racing in 2011, SCCA Pro Racing Trans Am Series, September 14, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- "Trans Am". Autoweek: 42. February 22, 2016.
- "TA5 Class". Trans-Am. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
- Trans-Am Drivers' and Manufacturers' Champions As archived at web.archive.org
- "1966 Trans-Am Box Scores". Sports Car Club of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- "1967 Trans-Am Box Scores". Sports Car Club of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- "1968 Trans-Am Box Scores". Sports Car Club of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- "1969 Trans-Am Box Scores". Sports Car Club of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- "1970 Trans-Am Box Scores". Sports Car Club of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- "1971 Trans-Am Box Scores". Sports Car Club of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- de Jong, Frank. "1971 Trans-Am Championship Table". Touring Car Racing History. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- "1972 Trans-Am Box Scores". Sports Car Club of America. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- Bochroch, Albert R. (November 1986). Trans-Am Racing, 1966-85: Detroit's Battle for Pony Car Supremacy. Motorbooks International. ISBN 978-0-87938-229-2.
- "No. 6 Sunoco Camaro takes pole and breaks track record! | 2011 2012 Camaro ZL1 SS LT Camaro forums, news, blog, reviews, wallpapers, pricing - Camaro5.com » Blog Archive". Camaro5.com. 2010-06-20. Retrieved 2012-05-23.