Through the decades, names like Scott Pruett to Tommy Kendall to Greg Picket have been synonymous with Trans Am competition. But with the launch of a new initiative, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will introduce a new path to professional road racing in 2021 that could see a new generation of racers adding their names to that roster of all-time greats.
Partnering with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), Trans Am will launch a crossover program called the Trans Am Pro/Am Challenge, which will introduce SCCA drivers looking to take their next step, to the North American stage of Trans Am.
Making an easy path for teams to crossover to Trans Am is the primary focus of the new Pro/Am Challenge, with the 2021 schedule and rules package providing flexibility for teams and drivers to chase both their Pro/Am Challenge and their SCCA Road Racing goals in the same year.
“We have been working with SCCA for some time now to foster a program that would be an exciting crossover opportunity for a lot of racers, so we are glad to get the sign off to be able to move forward with this,” said Trans Am Race Company President John Clagett. “Since the beginning of Trans Am, countless drivers have crossed back and forth between SCCA and Trans Am to make up their annual race schedule. Even today, many Trans Am regulars are also seen in the paddock at SCCA events. Some teams run more, or fewer, Trans Am races depending on if they decide to pursue the SCCA National Championship Runoffs or the Trans Am Championship for that year. Now with the Pro/Am Challenge, teams and drivers can do both.”
Any driver planning to compete in the Runoffs will be allowed to use two Trans Am races as part of their Runoffs prerequisites, which is yet another attractive aspect of the SCCA/Trans Am crossover package.
“Trans Am is a significant part of the SCCA’s rich motorsports’ history and the partnership between Parella, SCCA Pro Racing and TARC has fueled much growth in that brand across the past several years,” said SCCA President Mike Cobb. “Many Trans Am drivers compete in SCCA Road Racing events as well, so the ‘Pro Path’ to the Runoffs is a natural, that gives drivers more options to race while earning the opportunity to compete in the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.”
Charlotte Motor Speedway (March 18-21) and Sonoma Raceway (April 23-25) have been designated as the Trans Am Pro/Am Challenge feature events. Racers who are vying for the Pro/Am Challenge Championship will pick four more races of their choosing (any National or West Coast Trans Am event) thus creating a six-race championship season.
The Charlotte and Sonoma races are part of Trans Am’s one-tow, double-race weekend efforts to create as much opportunity to race at great tracks for a reasonable budget. Following Charlotte, teams will travel to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta (March 25-28). On the national West Coast swing, teams will tow from Sonoma to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (April 30-May 2).
The Charlotte and Sonoma races will feature the same two-day format that the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli West Coast Championship events utilize for practice, qualifying and one race for all five classes.
“While Laguna and Road Atlanta are not required races for the Pro/Am Challenge, they are very strategic — the races are early in the season and the tracks are great venues,” Clagett continued. “SCCA road racers don’t race frequently at Sonoma, so it is an amazing opportunity for SCCA drivers who have not had the opportunity to race at one of the great circuits in the United States.”
The new Trans Am Pro/Am Cup Challenge will allow SCCA drivers to compete in Trans Am using the same basic 2021 SCCA road racing trim for their cars, making the transition back and forth between the SCCA Road Racing program and Trans Am seamless.
The Pro/Am Challenge will be open to all five Trans Am classes. The primary SCCA classes that fit into one of the Trans Am classes are; GT1, GT2, GTX, T1, T2, T3 and STO. The various cars will be balanced into the correct Trans Am class with minor weight and restrictor changes.
Equivalent cars from other amateur clubs will also be welcomed to come race with Trans Am. All cars will be fueled by Sunoco and utilize Pirelli tires.
In an attempt to make the crossover to Trans Am even easier, entry fees will be reduced for Pro/Am Challenge competitors.
“We anticipate this to be another long-term growth program for Trans Am to develop drivers from the grassroots level,” Clagett said. “It’s also a really great opportunity for racers who might not have thought about Trans Am before.
Several drivers throughout history have transitioned from SCCA club racers to Trans Am stardom. One of the most notable crossover drivers was SCCA Hall of Fame driver Paul Newman, who won four SCCA national titles, became a SCCA championship car owner and recipient of the President’s Cup, SCCA’s top honor. Newman then went on to win multiple Trans Am races, in addition to racing in the 24 hours of Daytona and taking second (first in his class) at Le Mans.
Mark Donohue, two-time unofficial champion during Trans Am’s “glory years,” won the 1961 SCCA National title before moving to professional competition. Other drivers who competed in SCCA competition before moving up to the Trans Am ranks were Scott Sharp (three-time National Champion and two Trans Am titles), Dorsey Schroeder (1989 Trans Am Champion), and Ave (multiple SCCA National Championships, 2010-2011 Trans Am titles), among others.
“As a driver who got his start in SCCA Club racing, as well as a manufacturer that supplies new cars to both TA and GT-1 teams, in addition to being a team owner and driver in both disciplines, I can attest to the fact that a crossover program between SCCA Road Racing and Trans Am is an excellent idea,” said Tony Ave. “With the strength we are seeing at races like the June Sprints and the Runoffs in GT-1, the timing is right as well. I really appreciate the efforts John Clagett and Tony Parella are making to help build the TA class, and I will be supporting it both with full time TA entries as well as at least one Pro/Am entry in 2021. My thanks goes out to series management for their relentless efforts to grow the Trans Am Series.”
The Trans Am Pro/Am Challenge will replace the current Trans Am Northern and Southern Cups. A Trans Am Pro/Am Challenge contingency sponsorship for the SCCA Runoffs and marketing package will be announced in the upcoming weeks.