Event Program: 2023 Trans Am SpeedFest at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Trans Am Flashback: Laguna Seca
The Trans Am SpeedFest will bring racing fans flashbacks to the late 1960s when Follmer, Gurney, Posey, Jones and Donohue dominated road courses, piloting Camaros, Mustangs, Javelins, Firebirds and Barracudas.
The first Trans-American Sedan Championship (Trans Am) race at Laguna Seca was held August 24, 1969. The 1969 field was stacked with talent. Parnelli Jones in a Bud Moore Mustang Boss 302 ran strong until a differential failure put him out on lap 44. Follmer, in the second Bud Moore entry, experienced a wheel failure that forced retirement on lap 92. Still going strong at the checkered were Mark Donohue, winning in the Penske-Hilton Camaro, followed by Ed Leslie in another Penske-Hilton Camaro, while Dan Gurney finished third in the Shelby Mustang Boss 302.
“When Trans-Am was in its heyday, we had the factories involved and good people working on them, building them, and driving them,” said George Follmer, two-time Trans-Am champion. “It was very competitive. You never knew who would win, because everyone was pretty even. It was hard, all of the teams wanted to win, so they found good people to drive them. It was a dogfight.”
Monterey was so popular that the 1970 Trans Am season kicked off at Laguna Seca in April. Parnelli Jones sprinted ahead in the Bud Moore Mustang Boss 302 to capture victory, finishing ahead of Donohue and Follmer.
In 1971, Trans Am returned, but not with the big bore V8s. The highly competitive under 2.0-liter cars came to Laguna. The championship-deciding race was hotly contested by Horst Kwech in the Alfa Romeo GTV and John Morton in the BRE Datsun 510. When the checkered waved, it was the Alfa that crossed the finish line first and seemingly captured the win and championship. Yet, suspicions immediately were raised as to how the Alfa could complete the 54-lap race without a single fuel stop. Hours later, scrutineers discovered the Alfa had a large and illegal fuel tank, ultimately awarding John Morton in the BRE Datsun with the win and 1971 National championship title.
Following Morton’s successful event title defense in 1972, Trans Am was hosted sporadically in Monterey. Winners in later years include Greg Pickett (1978 in TA2; 1980), Bob Tullis (1978 and 1979 in TA1), Peter Gregg (1979 in TA2), George Follmer (1981), Elliot Forbes-Robinson (1982), Kenny Wilden (2000), Justin Bell (2001), Tommy Kendall (2004), Ernie Francis Jr., TA & Thomas Merrill, TA2 (2019), Tomy Drissi, TA, Rafa Matos, TA2 (2021)
Joining “America’s Road Racing Series” at the Trans Am SpeedFest will be Historic Trans Am and historic race groups from the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, International GT and the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge.