The Trans-Am Series was created in 1966 by the SCCA as the Trans-American Sedan Championship. Originally derived from the SCCA's A Sedan (A/S) class, it later featured purpose-built tube-frame race cars competing on road courses. The series was known for competition of muscle cars like the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, Plymouth Barracuda, AMC Javelin and Dodge Challenger in the late 1960s and early 1970s, though marques from many different countries have competed in the series.
Another muscle car, the Pontiac Trans Am, was named for the series.
The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) is the sanctioning body for the series and holds the rights to the "Trans-Am" name. The series was most recently operated by the Champ Car World Series and ran the majority of its races in support of the parent open-wheel championship.
Due to a lack of participants and interest, the series ceased operations after the 2005 season. However the Sports Car Club of America (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.
The Beginnings (1966 - 1981)
At first, the Trans-Am vehicles were primarily modified versions of the road-going car. The competition was divided into two classes- an "Under 2 Liter" class (predominantly small European sedans) and the "Over 2 Liter" class (displacement limited to 5.0 liters, or 305 cu. in. ).
The first race was in 1966 at Sebring Raceway. The overall win went to Jochen Rindt driving an Alfa-Romeo (an Under 2 Liter entry), with Bob Tullius (driving a Dodge Dart) taking second overall, but first in the Over 2 Liter class. A separate race on the same weekend was marred by tragedy: driver Bob McLean is killed in one accident and an incident between Mario Andretti and Don Wester resulted in the death of four spectators.
The Golden Era (1968-1972)
The early years were largely dominated by Mark Donohue, driving for Roger Penske. Penske campaigned Chevy Camaros through 1969, when he signed with American Motors to race the Javelin in 1970 and 1971. Donohue would chalk up 20 race victories between 1967 and 1970 and three unofficial drivers's championships, the third achieved in 1971. The 1970 Trans Am series is regarded by most racing historians as the high water mark of American road racing. Every "pony car" manufacturer was represented with a factory team and top driving talent: Chevrolet had the Chaparral Chevy Camaro Z28 team with Jim Hall, Ed Leslie, and Vic Elford. Ford's Bud Moore Boss 302 Mustangs were driven by Parnelli Jones and George Follmer. For Plymouth, the All American Racing Cudas were handled by Dan Gurney and Swede Savage. Sam Posey drove Ray Caldwell's Autodynamics Challenger TA, Jerry Titus had the Pontiac TransAm, and Roger Penske's Sunoco AMC Javelin team starred Mark Donohue and Peter Revson.
Most of these cars have been preserved or restored and are still racing in vintage events today.
The Two-Five Challenge
In 1969 the "U2" class was renamed when the engine displacement limit was increased to 2.5 litres. Porsche 911s and Alfa Romeo GTVs were dominant, later joined by the Datsun 510. Successful drivers included Peter H. Gregg, Horst Kweck, Bob Sharp, and John Morton.
Rules evolved over the years, incorporating FIA touring and grand-touring classes as well as SCCA Club Racing classes. The different classes had restrictions placed on the allowed modifications in an effort to equalize competition between the different cars. In 1976, Trans-Am returned to the two category format, classifying FIA Group 4 and 5 cars as "Category II".
The Modern Era (1980 - 2004)
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 would begin to appear on the grid, eventually becoming the standard for Trans-Am competitors.
Roush Racing entered into Trans-Am competition in 1984. For the next six years Roush entries would dominate the series, winning 46 of the 83 races. This first decade also saw notable champions such as Wally Dallenbach, Jr. (1985 and 1986), Scott Pruett (1987), Hurley Haywood (1988), and Dorsey Schroeder (1989).
In 1988, after years of rallying, Audi would enter the series with the 200 turbo quattro via the services of Bob Tullius's Group 44 Racing. As usual the car ran their trademark Quattro system. However this did not run without controversy as the car, piloted by Haywood and with both Walter Röhrl and Hans Joachim Stuck sharing duties, steamrollered 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.
In the nineties Tommy Kendall was the driver to beat- he would take four driver's championships in this decade. Chevrolet was also prominent in this time period, with 6 drivers' champions in their cars.
Paul Gentilozzi rose to the fore beginning in 1998 with his first championship in Trans-Am. He would win four more championships, his latest in 2006, driving a Chevrolet, Ford, and 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 DOHC AJ-V8. A 2006 season seemed unlikely until late in the year when a short two race season was run with both races taking place at Heartland Park Topeka. 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.
With Ford's extremely popular sixties-style Mustang selling well and the return of the Camaro & Challenger in the near future the potential for a new Trans Am Series seems likely, but no plans have been announced as of February 2008. Other possibilities include the recent return of Lotus to the United States and the future import of the Skyline and the return of Alfa Romeo to the US.
Year Champion Driver Car
1966* Horst Kwech
Gaston Andrey Alfa Romeo GTA
1967* Jerry Titus Ford Mustang
1968* Mark Donohue Chevrolet Camaro
1969* Mark Donohue Chevrolet Camaro
1970* Parnelli Jones Ford Mustang
1971 Mark Donohue AMC Javelin
1972 George Follmer AMC Javelin
1973 Peter H. Gregg Porsche 911
1974 Peter H. Gregg Porsche 911
1975 John Greenwood Chevrolet Corvette
1976 Jocko Maggiacomo (Cat 1) AMC Javelin
George Follmer (Cat 2) Porsche 934
1977 Bob Tullius (Cat 1) Jaguar XJS
Ludwig Heimrath (Cat 2) Porsche 934
1978 Bob Tullius (Cat 1) Jaguar XJS
Greg Pickett (Cat 2) Chevrolet Corvette
1979 Gene Bothello (Cat 1) Chevrolet Corvette
John Paul, Sr. (Cat 2) Porsche 935
1980 John Bauer Porsche 911
1981 Eppie Wietzes Chevrolet Corvette
1982 Elliott Forbes-Robinson Pontiac Firebird
1983 David Hobbs Chevrolet Corvette
1984 Tom Gloy Mercury Capri
1985 Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Mercury Capri
1986 Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Merkur XR4Ti
1987 Scott Pruett Merkur XR4Ti
1988 Hurley Haywood Audi 100 Quattro
1989 Dorsey Schroeder Ford Mustang
1990 Tommy Kendall Chevrolet Beretta
1991 Scott Sharp Chevrolet Camaro
1992 Jack Baldwin Chevrolet Camaro
1993 Scott Sharp Chevrolet Camaro
1994 Scott Pruett Chevrolet Camaro
1995 Tommy Kendall Ford Mustang
1996 Tommy Kendall Ford Mustang
1997 Tommy Kendall Ford Mustang
1998 Paul Gentilozzi Chevrolet Camaro
1999 Paul Gentilozzi Ford Mustang
2000 Brian Simo Qvale Mangusta
2001 Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR
2002 Boris Said Panoz Esperante
2003 Scott Pruett Jaguar XKR
2004 Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR
2005 Klaus Graf Jaguar XKR
2006* Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR
note: 1966 through 1970 and 2006 championships were not official SCCA driver champions