A new and modern version of one of the nation’s oldest road racing series returns to Sonoma Raceway this weekend for round four of the Trans Am West championships.
When it was created in 1966, the Trans Am series became the battleground where American car makers waged the “pony car wars” that pitted the thundering V8s of Mustangs, Camaros, AMC Javelins and Plymouth Barracudas against each other for bragging rights at the track on Sunday and in the sales floor on Monday.
The series that featured almost unlimited horsepower also featured nail-biting competition among iconic drivers with seemingly unlimited talent, such as Parnelli Jones, Mark Donahue and Al Holbert.
The SCCA Pro-sanctioned Trans Am West series channels that same heated competition but with four classes of cars that include both production models and purpose-built tube frame machines from domestic manufacturers as well as more exotic sports cars from Ferrari, Aston Martin, Audi and Porsche.
The drivers roster includes veterans such as Simon Gregg and Greg Pickett, who won his first Trans Am championship in 1978 and his most recent in the TA class in 2017, and newcomers Michele Abate and Cameron Parsons.
“We launched the West Coast championship in 2017 in response to feedback from our competitors and it’s growing more quickly than we were hoping it would,” said John Clagett, president of the Trans Am Company.
Pickett, who claimed the first of his 21 career Trans Am wins at Sonoma in 1968 and who won this race last year, started the season with a win but is looking to make up lost ground in the TA class after mechanical problems sidelined him for two races while Simon Gregg built a solid lead in that championship.
Among the 10 California drivers at Sonoma will be Roger Eagleton of Burlingame, who leads the GT standings in a Mustang.
“This is our third ever Trans Am weekend as a team and we are very focused on the West Coast championship,” Eagleton said. “The competition in the GT class is heating up and it will be challenging for us to continue to do well.”
Eagleton has logged a lot of track time at Sonoma Raceway and hopes his familiarity with the twisty, 12-turn layout will give him an advantage over the lightweight tube-frame TA and TA2 cars he will be racing against.
“We are in a much heavier and lower horsepower car compared to rest of field, but we know Sonoma really well,” he said. “It is a great track for us, and we hope we can make up for some of the power differences with the great braking and handling performance that is a signature of these Spec Mustangs.”
Practice sessions for the Trans Am West Coast championships are scheduled for Friday and qualifying is set for Saturday. The four-class field takes the green flag for its feature race at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday.
SCCA Hall of Fame Nomination Deadline Extended
The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has extended the deadline to submit nominations for its 2020 Hall of Fame to June 22. Any SCCA member can submit a nomination of a person they believe is worthy of recognition for the impact they have made on SCCA racing.
Nominations can be submitted to SCCAHoF@scca,com or mailed to SCCA Hall of Fame, 6620 SE Dwight Street, Topeka, KS 66619.
Blancpain GT Championships
Last weekend, co-drivers Miguel Molina of Spain and Toni Vilander of Finland drove their Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 488 GTS to a win and a second-place last weekend to retain their championship lead in the premiere World GT Challenge.
The two-car team of Sonoma-based K-PAX Racing claimed a second, two thirds and an 11th-place finish in the same class over two days of racing.
Among local teams, Kenny Murillo of Santa Rosa, with co-driver Christian Szymczak, won Sunday’s GT4 America SprintX main event after starting fifth.
“I was actually going back and forth about racing this weekend, but I knew it was going to be a great time, so I had to,” said Szymczak. “I’ve been racing with Murillo for years now and the team is great and gave us a great car.”
Spencer Pumpelly, driving a Porche Cayman for Petaluma-based The Racers Group, finished third both days in the GT4 America class.
Abreu Wins Peter Murphy Classic
Rico Abreu of St. Helena won the Peter Murphy Classic for winged sprint cars at the Thunderbowl race track in Tulare last Saturday night. Abreu inherited the top spot after race leader Bud Kaeding cut a tire and crashed into the fourth turn wall just a few feet from the checkered flag.