INTERVIEW: Trans Am president on protocols for return to racing

Image by Chris Clark

INTERVIEW: Trans Am president on protocols for return to racing

Trans Am

INTERVIEW: Trans Am president on protocols for return to racing


The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will return to racing June 26-28 with the Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. The two-race event will be the first for the series since its season opener in February at Sebring.

In the following Q&A, Trans Am Racing Company President John Clagett explains how the landscape of Trans Am racing will look post COVID-19 outbreak.

What has gone into the preparation to be ready to race again?

Clagett: The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association and the Trans Am Racing Company are working closely with Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course management, who in turn is working with the state of Ohio health experts and government officials to ensure best practices and has a plan in place to minimize the risks associated with the virus as much as we possibly can.

Will fans be allowed at Mid-Ohio?

Clagett: As of today, the event will be held without spectators. Last Friday, Mid-Ohio announced that it is working closely with the state government in an attempt to allow fans to return to Mid-Ohio from the track below.

We certainly understand everyone’s position as they work through what is best for the event as well as everyone involved. Trans Am prides itself on being a fan-friendly sport that is really accessible. We feel really fortunate that we’ve invested so much time and effort into building the Trans Am by Pirelli App so folks can stream the races in real time (click here to download). Now, we can still provide some of that in-person experience at Mid-Ohio no matter if fans are permitted through the gates or not. That extends to our event programs, which instead of being printed will be electronic and can be downloaded at no charge on the Trans Am Racing App no matter where you are.

Since fans will not be allowed, what is the streaming schedule? Why should fans download the app rather than watch the stream on YouTube?

Clagett: Our new Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App is unique to motorsports in North America. Fans can access up to six different camera angles, following one particular driver through the field. With the use of the Sporfie feature within the app, fans can also become an armchair director of sorts, making their own clips and highlights that they can post directly to social media. They can also watch replays, follow live timing and scoring, read the most up-to-date news, access videos and of course live stream all from one place.

GreenLight TV will start the live stream five minutes before each race and the stream will last through the podium celebrations.

How is Trans Am working to maintain social distancing?

Clagett: There are several measures being implemented, from registration to post-race celebrations. That includes everything from making technical inspection based on appointments that are much more spread out, to changing how we will manage our drivers meetings to expanding how much space each car occupies on the grid, to having “no contact” trophy presentations with water and trophies placed on cars or picked up from tables rather than handed out. We’ve also cancelled autograph sessions and fan walks for the rest of the season. Which of course you hate to do, because those were hits with the fans, but right now, that is just what needs to happen for us to be able to be as safe as we can be.

What other measures are being taken to protect participants?

Clagett: Our goal is to have attendance at our events be safer than going to the grocery store. We’ve had some really cool stories since the pandemic started about our teams, sponsors, and manufacturers contributing to the effort in some way-be that manufacturing medical supplies for COVID-19 patients, producing face shields for front line workers or building plastic barriers for medical and transit workers.

And now it is no different as everyone is working in the same direction for this to be a safe event. So for example, two of our drivers Kerry Hitt and David Pintaric are providing our series race officials with face masks and face shields. Big Machine Vodka has provided us with hand sanitizer to place stations around the track, at registration and in hospitality.

We will also be implementing a lot of the same procedures that have been established in other parts of our lives, from taking everyone’s temperature before coming into the track to using big boom mics for driver interviews on the livestream post-race. We’ll have really rigorous cleaning procedures for everything from registration (which we’ve worked to eliminate as many of those in-person transactions as we can and make them more digitally based), to having all our staff wearing gloves and masks. Our team will also carry a notepad and pen so they can communicate with teams via writing in noisy environments while maintaining social distance.

Will Trans Am change the number of team crew members allowed on the track for pit stops?

Clagett: We will not limit pit stop personnel beyond the rulebook. Per the official rules, there are only four crew members allowed over the wall.

What happens if there is an illness during the event?

Clagett: In case of illness during the event, that person will be isolated in a designated location at each event. We will then work with track medical or ambulance personnel to obtain medical assistance. Then we will proceed to sanitize the area the person was working in and sanitize the area the person was isolated in, once they have been treated. The people who that person came in contact with will continue to be monitored following the event.

Will there be changes in procedures from Mid-Ohio to the next event?

So many things change in our environment on a daily basis. Every track we race at has their own requirements on what can and can’t be done depending on the state they are in and the phase of reopening they’ve been approved for. Providing accurate and current information is challenging and we are all going to need some flexibility in the next few months. Our new normal appears to be a very fluid one.

The 2020 Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli national schedule will include 10 events that will extend June through December with the season finale hosted at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca December 4-6.

Streaming schedule:

Saturday, June 27 TA/XGT/SGT/GT stream starts at 12:50 p.m. Eastern

Sunday, June 28 TA2 powered by AEM stream starts at 1:20 p.m. Eastern

Mid-Ohio schedule

Mid-Ohio entry list