Event Program: 2024 Sonoma SpeedTour

The Coveted Kastner Cup

A Tribute to R.W. Kas Kastner (8/30/1928 – 4/11/2021)
By Shawn Frank

The Kastner Cup is an all-Triumph (or Triumph powered) stand-alone race held annually at a different track in North America, honoring the accomplishments of R.W. Kas Kastner and his contribution to Triumph and racing history. This year’s Kastner Cup is held during the SVRA Sonoma SpeedTour April 18 – 21, 2024 in Sonoma, California. The Kastner Cup is expected to include historic international racecars, national title-winning vintage racecars, famous drivers, and iconic characters in the racing world.

R.W. Kas Kastner was an author of many manuals, instructing how to tune and prepare Triumph cars for racing. He developed many performance parts and had a knack for pushing more horsepower out of a Triumph engine than anyone ever could have imagined. The Triumph factory didn’t believe he squeezed over 150hp out of a TR4 engine, claiming it must be the “California Air” until Kastner sent them one of his engines that sang to a tune of 152hp on Triumph’s own factory dynamometer.

Kastner’s first race was in 1953, behind the wheel of a home-built MG Special on the streets of Aspen, Colorado. He placed second and won his class. His first race in a Triumph was in 1954 at Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In 1956, he went to work for Cal Sales, the Triumph distributor for the western United States, as a mechanic.  He moved up to become a service and parts supervisor, managing 70 employees.

Kastner continued to race and won multiple titles and championships.  He became the SCCA National Licensing Chairman and was a chief instructor for CSCC at Riverside Raceway. In 1963, he also won SCCA’s annual award for Best Technical Article.

In 1963, Kas Kastner prepared three stock TR4s for the 12 Hours of Sebring, bringing home first, second, and fourth places in the 2.5 GT Class.  When Kastner asked for compensation for preparing the cars, but the president of Triumph refused.  Frustrated, Kastner called Carroll Shelby, who offered him a job and a raise.  Ultimately Triumph matched Shelby’s offer and had Kastner to establish and run the US Triumph Competition Department. Kastner stayed with Triumph and established Bob Tullius as his principal driver. Kastner and Tullius were a winning team,  securing SCCA E-Production then winning D-Production twice.  The same year, Kastner prepared three TR4s for the Shell 4000 Rally, and brought home the GT Team prize.

In 1966, Kastner returned to Sebring with four TR4s, and finished first, second, and third in the 2.5 GT Class. The same year, a new TR4A was released, with independent rear suspension (IRS).  The SCCA did not homologate the TR4A, but allowed it to run in the D-Modified class.  Kastner made a special “Super Stock” TR4A that boasted alloy wheels, fiberglass panels, lowered the weight to 1700lbs and had a 160hp engine. It won the 1966 D-Modified National Championship.


 That is just a small history of Kas Kastner’s accomplishments with Triumphs. He was involved with many projects, including the Macau Spitfire and more famously, the TR250K with renowned designer Peter Brock. Kastner continued in the racing world with Triumph until 1970. Shortly after, he formed Kastner Brophy Racing, with partner John Brophy who was a media personality and advertising executive. They both raced their own cars and later fielded the 245hp Vitesse Candybox in the Trans-Am series. Later, Kastner Brophy Racing’s Jimmy Dittemore ran a Lola winning the Seafair 200 in 1971.

In 1973, Kastner became vice president and general manager of Roy Woods Racing campaigning in the Cam-Am, Formula 5000 series and three Indy 500 races. About the same time, Kastner took home a National Championship title in sailboat racing, winning the 13 ft Cyclone and 30 ft Keel Boat class as well as several fleet and district championships. 

R.W. Kastner started Arkay Incorporated, making full turbo kits for a wide variety of cars. NASA used Arkay parts in their aircraft turbocharged rotary engine studies. Shelby and Kastner were involved in the Shelby ME 2.2 Turbo which did not reach production. He sold Arkay Inc in 1985.

He went on to change the Nissan name forever. He oversaw their off-road truck program, amateur racing program, showroom-stock racing program, and the wavering GTP program. Nissan wanted to scrap GTP, run by the Electromotive Team. Kastner and the team made significant changes to the chassis, gearbox, and a new all-aluminum engine block developed by Electromotive. Nissan bought Electromotive outright, forming Nissan Performance Technology Incorporated (NPTI) with Kastner as the vice president. Team Nissan GTP, with over 225 employees under Kastner, won the Driver’s championship four years in a row, the Manufacturer’s championship three years in a row, and in 1988, won eight consecutive GTP events. Shortly after, Nissan disbanded the GTP program and focused on IMSA efforts and Kastner officially retired from racing.

In 2016, Kastner received the Harry Webster award for his contributions to Triumph and was inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame in 2017.

Years after retirement, Kastner was encouraged by his wife, Peggy Kastner to get involved in vintage racing where he was Grand Marshal at several vintage races, including the Kastner Cup races up to 2020. A few members of the un-organization called The Friends of Triumph decided to create The Kastner Cup race series and it is still going strong, in 2024.

The Friends of Triumph make up a majority of the field for the Kastner Cup races. I’ve had the pleasure of keeping in contact with many of the Friends of Triumph, the small band of worldwide Triumph racers that meet every year to honor the late Kas Kastner by racing the wheels off their Triumphs. No money nor points are offered, their reward is not just the opportunity to take the Kastner Cup home, but to share camaraderie and bragging rights with fellow Triumph racers. 

The truth is, they all want to feel like they are racecar drivers for the US Triumph Competition Department in which Kas Kastner would be the boss. Surely, they fantasize about holding the Marlboro Cup in front of a huge crowd gathered for a victory celebration and getting an approving nod from the Triumph magnate, Mr Kastner.

Well, that is what this weekend is about. Honoring and reliving moments of glory when Triumph was KING! When the Triumph trophy cases were full, and the factory teams ruled. Kas Kastner was the guy that everyone wanted to work for because he breathed horsepower and championships and ate Toyotas and Porsches for breakfast.