Trans Am champions in review: Carl Rydquist, SGT West champion

Images by Seth DeDoes

Trans Am champions in review: Carl Rydquist, SGT West champion

Trans Am

Trans Am champions in review: Carl Rydquist, SGT West champion


Carl Rydquist brings a wealth of experience and a unique machine to the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli West Coast Championship. Competing in just his second Trans Am season, the resident of Pleasanton, Calif., is coming off his second-consecutive SGT-class title in the West Coast series. Rydquist won all four races he started in 2020, driving the unique No. 4 / Tel-Mac / Mendeola / Factory Five GTM.

The latter is an American-built supercar using engine and running gear from a Corvette C5. Kits start at $24,990, and include the proprietary chassis and bodywork.

“It’s a full-on American car designed in Massachusetts, with a Detroit V8 and a transaxle from San Diego-based Mendeola, assembled by the Prototype Development Group in Stockton, Calif.” Rydquist explained.

A native of Sweden, Rydquist competed for nearly two decades prior to his first taste of Trans Am, winning races in Europe before racking up a pair of U.S. Touring Car Championships and a NASA endurance racing title. An event in the former series last year introduced him to Trans Am.

“We were having an event at the same weekend as Trans Am at Sonoma,” Rydquist recalled. “One of my endurance teammates came over and asked us to check out Trans Am, saying they would really like us to run. We had a really busy schedule, and we didn’t have any Pirelli tires. But Trans Am went through our car and we cleared tech, so we went to a local tire shop, and 40 minutes later, we had the right-size tires and were ready for racing.

“We started from the back of the field and then we went out and finished fourth overall [winning in SGT],” continued Rydquist. “That was awesome.”

He then took the car to the season finale at Circuit of The Americas, winning the race and capturing the championship.

For 2020, Rydquist opened the year with four consecutive triumphs, winning three poles, capturing the opener at Thunderhill along with all the three rounds at Sonoma.

Three wins at Sonoma Raceway en route to a second-consecutive SGT-class title.

“We were planning to run the finale at Laguna also,” he said. “We were going to do the West Coast race on Saturday and then also do the National race on Sunday. Unfortunately, the California shelter-in-place orders changed our plans. We felt we were ready, and I wanted to go out and race against all of the National cars.”

While the pandemic forced Rydquist to miss his first opportunity racing at Trans Am’s National level, the shutdown allowed him to showcase his talents against series’ drivers at all levels in the inaugural Trans Am by Pirelli Esports Championship. (Watch Rydquist et all in the virtual Bridgehampton race.)

“That (series) was really awesome, especially at a time when there was no real racing going on,” Rydquist said. “It was a wonderful experience, getting so many drivers together across all the classes. The competition was insanely good, and it was incredible to see the really high level of racing skill in Trans Am.

“It was also a call to action for racers out here in California,” Rydquist continued. “There are a lot of teams out here that I think would have a great time in Trans Am. Once I got everything sorted out [in the Esports series], I had a pretty good run and a few podiums, but, unfortunately, didn’t win one.”

Rydquist earned the respect of his peers at the penultimate round of the Esports season, when he found himself going head-to-head against championship leaders Tyler Kicera and Josh Hurley.

“Bridgehampton takes every driver skill there is, it is such a challenging track,” said Rydquist following a third-place finish at the defunct Long Island circuit that was resurrected for the Esports competition. “I wanted a win and was caught between Kicera and Hurley. When I ran a fraction too wide onto the main straight, I decided to let Tyler go rather than be ruthless. Today was good. I am still improving and pushing for great.”

For 2021, Rydquist is looking forward to starting in the West Coast series and working his way into National competition – with a few more endurance events thrown in as well.

The Trans Am West Coast Championship returns in 2021 for its fifth season with its largest schedule yet – seven events, with six of the seven running in conjunction with the SVRA SpeedTour, highlighted by two combined-event weekends with the National Series and the addition of an all-new venue: The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Wash..

The West Coast season kicks off in California with back-to-back weekends at Sonoma (April 24-25) and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (May 1-2).

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