For many reasons, the original Canadian American Challenge Cup (Can Am) series ended in 1974. To fill this vacancy, the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) premier series became the Formula 5000 Championship. The replacement series was short-lived and only lasted two seasons. By the end of 1976, race promoters were no longer interested in the Formula 5000 cars as they felt they were not attracting race fans. Also, a sponsor could not be found for the series. Finally, USAC, which co-sanctioned the events with the SCCA, was not going to return in 1977. As a result of these factors, SCCA decided to revive the Can Am but with rules that were not as liberal as the original series.

The new regulations allowed Formula 5000 cars to compete with sports racer bodies. Lola produced a conversion kit that transformed the Lola T-332 C to a full-bodied T-333 CS. Motors were limited to 5-liter stock block V8s or 3-liter racing engines. To fill the grids, under 2-liter sports racers were eligible to participate.

The new Can Am series debuted in 1977 at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant, Quebec, with seventeen cars starting the race. In all, nine events were contested during the season. Patrick Tambay won the championship in a Lola T-333 CS entered by Carl Haas.

The 1981 season opened in June with the first of two visits to Mosport Park. Then teams travelled to the United States for races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Watkins Glen International and Road America. After Road America, the series headed north of the border to compete at Edmonton, Trois-Rivieres and Mosport. The final three rounds of the year were held in October at Riverside International Raceway, Laguna Seca and Caesars Palace.

Round one of the 1981 Can Am Challenge series was held on June 14th at Mosport Park. Drivers would compete in a sixty-lap contest around the ten turn 2.459-mile road course.

The start of the opening round for the 1981 Can Am Challenges series. Leading the pack into corner one is the No. 6 Paul Newman Racing March 817 of the pole-sitter Teo Fabi. Behind Fabi is the third-place starter and his teammate in the No. 5 March 817 Al Unser. Just behind Unser is the other front row starter Geoff Brabham in the No. 3 Lola T-530. Trailing Brabham are Al Holbert, Danny Sullivan and Jeff Wood.
Italian Teo Fabi joined the Can Am Challenge series after a stint in European Formula Two and Three. Last year, Fabi raced a March 802 in Formula 2 for the ICI Roloil Racing Team and finished third in the final standings. This season, he was contracted to drive the No. 6 Paul Newman Racing March 817. Fabi had a fantastic debut. He qualified on the pole and, in a dominant performance, won his first Can Am event.
Geoff Brabham, son of the three-time Formula One World Champion Jack Brabham, joined the Can Am Challenge series in 1979 with Hogan Racing. Last season, Brabham signed with Racing Team VDS, where he finished third in the final standings. Brabham returned to VDS this year driving the No. 3 Lola T-530. He qualified on the outside of the front row at the season opener, and despite a poor start, he finished second.
Danny Sullivan made his first series start in 1980 with Garvin Brown Racing. The team initially campaigned an Intrepid GB1, but it proved unsuccessful. The Intrepid was replaced with a Lola T-530 in round six. Sullivan’s best result after switching cars was a runner-up result at Road Atlanta. He qualified fourth fastest in round one of the 1981 season opener and benefitted from Al Unser’s issues to finish third.
The No. 68 Elite Racing prepared Marguey CA80 was driven by Richard Guider. The Marguey used a March 782 chassis and was powered by a two-liter four-cylinder Hart 420R. Guider raced the car in five rounds last season and earned an under two-liter class victory at Laguna Seca. He started this year’s first race in the ninth position and finished seventh overall – six laps behind the leaders - and earned a category win.
Entering corner nine at Mosport Park are local racers Mike Freberg and Roman Pechmann. Freberg, a former Formula Ford competitor, drove the No. 36 Horst Kroll Racing Lola T-300. Pechmann raced the No. 58 Lola T-290. Freberg was gridded in the tenth position for the start and finished in the eighth spot. Pechmann, competing in the under two-liter category, captured a runner-up result in his class.
One of the more interesting cars entered in the Can Am Challenge series opener at Mosport Park was the No. 22 Burt & Hal’s Skoal Bandit sponsored McRae GM9. The driver and designer, Graham McRae, had a successful Formula 5000 career. McRae’s car was wingless and relied exclusively on ground effects for its aero package. Unfortunately, the car was fraught with issues and only completed only four laps in the race.
Racing the No. 54 Red Roof Inns Bobsy in the under two-liter class was series veteran S Peter Smith. Smith qualified twelfth overall and third in his category. He completed forty-nine of the sixty laps and was the last car to receive the checkered flag. However, Smith’s result earned him the final position on the under two-liter rostrum.

1-Teo FabiMarch 817Paul Newman Racing60-
2-Geoff BrabhamLola T-530VDS Racing Team60-
3-Danny SullivanLola T-530Garvin Brown Racing60-
4-Jeff WoodLola T-530Carl Haas Racing Team58-
5-Al HolbertCAC-2CRC Chemicals57-
6-Horst KrollLola T-332Kroll Racing54-
7U2LRichard GuiderMarguey CA80Elite Racing54-
8-Mike FrebergLola T-300Kroll Racing53-
9U2LRoman PechmannLola T-290Pechman Racing52-
10U2LS Peter SmithBobsy 2-LRed Roof Inns49-
11U2LJim TruemanCicale Ralt RT-2Red Roof Inns31Engine
12U2LJohn GrahamChevron B26Midland Racing26Accident
13U2LBill BlackledgeRalt RT-2Blackledge Racing16Accident
14-Al UnserMarch 817Paul Newman Racing12Brakes
15-Leonard JankeMarch 817Janke Auto10Electrical
16-John SorbelloLola T332Sorbello8Engine
17-Danny JohnsonSorbello GM5Johnson Competition4Oil pressure
18-Graham McRaeChevron B24Burt & Hal's Skoal Bandit4Shocks
19U2LBob RoyMcRae GM9COPES Plus0Fire

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