When the Trans Am series vanished a couple of years ago, some of us with long memories wished the SCCA had tried harder to save the series. Sadly, it had been in a decline for years and had become a bit of a joke. The marketing was non existent (at least here in Ontario) as were the fans. The cars had evolved into nothing more than overblown SCCA GT1 cars. So much so that at any given race, the bottom third of the field was made up of local guys in 20 year old GTO cars with modern floppy bodies installed. Yes, the cars were fast and loud but they had little relevance to the modern day fan nor to the manufacturers.
This was not the first time that the SCCA has had problems trying to keep a series together. Over the years, pretty much every type of sports car and endurance racing in North America has had some sort of involvement that has ended up with a canceled series or an organizational split. Witness the popularity of the NASA organization. Tired of the old school, exclusionary nonsense that accompanied the SCCA scene, NASA was born and has become the example of how a racing organization should be run. We’ll have more on NASA in a future post.
In the early days of Trans Am, the formula was basically 2 showroom stock classes. Big ones and little ones, built on a more or less stock chassis. Of course the format left lots of room for experimentation which has led to some of the greatest racing ingenuity stories of all time. The big cars were V8 powered machines like Mustang, Camaro, Challenger and the Javelin/AMX, while the small bore class was home to the 510, 2002, Alfa GTV and the like. Of course, the manufacturers were involved because they saw the truth in “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”. Over the years, the cars grew away from production bodied cars and became faster and faster. While exciting to watch, they had lost their relevance to fans who enjoyed seeing the superstars of racing compete in cars just like the one they drove to work. Eventually, the superstars left. Along with the superstars, so did the fans and with the fans went the sponsors.
With the entire economy in a struggle and the traditional domestic auto market teetering on the edge of the bowl, now is absolutely the time to resurrect the Trans Am.
The timing is perfect to put guys like Paul Tracy, Tony Stewart, Montoya and even Villeneuve in to showroom based cars. Mustang, Camaro, Challenger: all are back (or still) in showrooms. Bring on BMW’s 1 series and Nissan’s 370Z for a bit of nostalgic spice to the group. Run the cars in a showroom stock configuration again so the fans can relate. Think those drivers above won’t add enough excitement? How about bringing in guys like Michael Andretti, Little Al, David Donohue to add in a bit more historic star power? If memory serves, I think Unser may have driven the tubie cars at some point in the Eighties. The time couldn’t be better for auto manufacturers to be involved in a series like this. Indeed they could once again benefit from Win on Sunday….
Instead, the SCCA has re-launched the series with the tube frame cars and a group of Trans Am loyalists filling out the field. I’m sorry, but while the diehard race fan will enjoy a few laps of GT1 club racers chasing each other around it will do little to draw the masses. At least they have included a few historic tracks with Mosport, Road Atlanta and The Glen on the schedule.
A huge opportunity missed!
SCCA Press Release including schedule after the break. Photo of the Donohue/Revson driven Penske Javelin courtesy of photographer Lou Galanos. The photo was actually taken at the 24 hours of Daytona in 1970. You can find more of Lou’s work at his Flickr page.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 11, 2009) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ After a two-year hiatus since its last Champion was crowned, SCCAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Trans-AmÃ‚Â® Series will return in 2009, with a planned eight-race schedule for the series which held its first race in 1966.
Five of the eight races were announced today at the Performance Racing Industry show, in Orlando, Fla., as well as the seriesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ title sponsor for 2009Ã¢â‚¬â€Muscle MilkÃ‚Â®.
A joint venture between Sports Car Club of America, Inc. and subsidiary SCCA Pro Racing, the 2009 Muscle MilkÃ‚Â® SCCAÃ‚Â® Trans-AmÃ‚Â® Series will consist of six events in conjunction with some of the biggest SCCA Club Racing events across the country, creating powerhouse SCCA weekends, and two key professional events. Technical rules will be based on the SCCA Club Racing GT-1 class.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is a dedicated group of Trans-Am loyalists who have been working to make this happen since our last licensing agreement to operate the series expired in 2005,Ã¢â‚¬Â SCCA President & CEO Jim Julow said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The re-birth of Trans-Am begins in 2009 with a grassroots-based series that has the potential to grow in the coming years into a full professional racing series.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“On behalf of SCCA and SCCA Pro Racing, I would like to thank Jim Derhaag for his tireless efforts to help put some of the critical pieces together and Muscle Milk for coming on board as title sponsor to make the series a reality.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The series will begin its 42nd Championship season March 21-22 at Road Atlanta as part of the Atlanta Region SCCAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s season-opening National race. The series has previously visited Road Atlanta 12 times from 1973 through 2002, with race winners including former series Champions Peter Gregg, Pete Halsmer, Dorsey Schroeder, Tommy Kendall, Scott Pruett and Boris Said.
One month later, April 17-19, the series heads from the rolling hills of Georgia North to the rolling hills of Virginia, as part of North Carolina RegionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Oak Tree Double National weekend at VIRginia International Raceway. It is only the third time the historic series has visited the historic racetrack, joining 1966 and 2002.
The series treks north of the border May 15-17 to return to Mosport International Raceway for the 25th time as part of the Victoria Day Weekend with the SPEED World Challenge ChampionshipsÃ¢â‚¬â€reuniting SCCA Pro RacingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top series from the last 20 years. Pruett won the last series appearance at Mosport in 2003.
The seriesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ lone visit to the left coast is a big one, joining the Rose Cup Festival June 12-14 at Portland International Raceway. The huge, traditional event played host to many Trans-Am Classic races, the last being in 1995, won by Ron Fellows. From 1975-2005, the race circuit held 21 Trans-Am Series races.
One month later, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s back east to the Finger Lakes RegionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s National at historic Watkins Glen Raceway, July 11-12. From 1968-1998, The Glen held 25 Trans-Am Series races ranging from feature events to participants in the 6 Hours of the Glen to the opening act before the NASCAR Cup race.
Three additional races will be announced shortly.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re excited about the return of Trans-Am and are pleased to be able to give something back to the series that has provided so much excitement for race fans throughout the years,Ã¢â‚¬Â said 1978 series Champion Greg Pickett, founder of CytoSport Inc., the makers of Muscle Milk.
All events are expected to be approximately 90 miles in length with no pit stops. Races in conjunction with Club Racing events will have qualifying and race sessions separate from the regular GT-1 competition grouping, so drivers have the potential to run both the GT-1 Club Racing event and the Trans-Am Series event on the same weekend.
The Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series dates back to its first season in 1966. From 1966-1970, the series held a Championship to crown a ManufacturersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Champion. In 1971, a DriversÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Championship was formally adopted, with both DriversÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and ManufacturersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Championships being awarded through the 2005 season. The series was split into two classes from 1976-1979, crowning Champions in each division. In 2006, two additional races were held, although no ManufacturersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Champion was recognized.
Throughout the years, some of the greatest names in motorsports have participated in the Trans-Am Series. Backdating the DriversÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Championship to the inaugural season, 30 different drivers took titles, with multiple Championships being won by Paul Gentilozzi, Tommy Kendall, Mark Donohue, Scott Pruett, Wally Dallenbach Jr., George Follmer, Peter Gregg, Horst Kwech, Scott Sharp and Bob Tullius. Gentilozzi leads all drivers, with 31 career wins.
SCCA both owned and operated the Trans-Am Series, either internally or through its SCCA Pro Racing subsidiary, from 1966 through 2000. In 2001, SCCA began a series of outside licensing agreements for the series from 2001-2006. In its 41 seasons, the series held 446 separate races.
Regulations and Administration
Announcements regarding regulations and series administration will be made shortly, although technical regulations will be based on current GT-1 rules from the Club Racing General Competition Rules (GCR) with additional potential safety requirements.
Club Racing events will be operated primarily by the individual SCCA Regions, with alterations to the protest and appeals process to be similar to that of Pro Racing events, managed by the SCCA National Staff. A dedicated technical inspector will be at each Trans-Am Series event, regardless of Club or Pro Racing sanction.
A series Web site is being established at www.sccatrans-am.com. Future announcements will be placed there and at www.scca.com.
2009 MUSCLE MILK SCCA TRANS-AM SERIES SCHEDULE*
Date Venue With
March 21-22 Road Atlanta, Braselton, Ga. Atlanta National
April 17-19 VIRginia International Raceway, Alton, Va. North Carolina National
May 15-17 Mosport International Raceway, Canada SPEED World Challenge
June 12-14 Portland International Raceway, Portland, Ore. Oregon Region National
July 11-12 Watkins Glen Int’l, Watkins Glen, N.Y. Finger Lakes National