Three years ago the SCCA’s Trans-Am series was on the crest of a wave with all the big four motor manufacturers represented in one way or another by factory blessed teams. Trans-Am was really big time racing with top names like Mark Donohue, Sam Posey, A. J. Foyt, Vic Elford, Peter Revson and others all in there tussling for the top positions. It was almost like the European World Manufacturers Sports car championship of the old days with all the big factories battling for prestige. But naturally costs escalated, those that did not win became dis-illusioned and now the championship for those American pony cars is only a shadow of its former self.
Last month the first round of this season-long competition was run at the little 1.53 mile Lime Rock circuit in Connecticut near to New York. It comes as no surprise to learn that the victor was the tough and talented all round driver George Follmer, driving one of the AMC Javelins from the Roy Woods American Racing Associates team. Woods has acquired the two ex-works backed Penske Racing prepared cars and looks like taking all before him this year, for the Javelins were the most successful last and Donohue managed to pull off the championship despite his other commitments. This year the Javelins are being sponsored by American Motors dealers.
George Follmer apart, British readers have probably never heard of the rest of the competitors. Second at Lime Rock was Warren Agor, who was one of the leading independent drivers last season. For this year the former Roger Penske employee is running a 1971 Chevrolet Camaro.
One team that could give George Follmer some trouble if they receive sponsorship to continue throughout the year will be running ex-factory Ford Mustangs for Tony DeLorenzo and Jerry Thompson. Last year they were front runners and at Lime Rock DeLorenzo finished third.
In many ways it is sad that the Trans-Am series which has even had a car named after it—the Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am—is no longer a major series but perhaps once the season is under way new cars and better known drivers will join in.
McRae Wins First Round
Most of the SCCA road racing championships do not get under way until May and just as the Trans-Am competition started last month so did the L. & M. Continental Championship for Formula 5000. Unlike Trans-Am this competition looks set for its best year yet.
The first round was at the exciting Laguna Seca track in California and it produced a great wits for New Zealander Graham McRae, who with his Leda LT27 has already picked up the Tasman Series and won several of the early rounds of the British Rothmans F5000 series. McRae won both parts of the two-part event just pipping the new Hogan Racing Lola T300 of reigning champion David Hobbs in the first part after a slow start. However Hobbs failed to complete the opening lap of the second heat and this enabled McRae to pull out a decisive overall and second heat victory. Second place was in contention however with last year’s runner-up Sam Posey in a new Surteo TS11 coming from a lot of pressure from Brett Lunger in the second Hogan Racing Lola, Last year Lunger finished third in the Championship and this year is fitting in a crowded programme of racing which includes Formula Two its Europe—his best result to date here being a 6th at the Nurburgring. However Lunger knows the big cars and really gave Posey some trouble but finally had to be content with third place after fuel feed problems slowed him.