The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) introduced the Trans Am series in 1966.
The championship was created during the introduction of Detroit’s ‘American Pony Car’ period.
The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro proved to be very popular with consumers and the best way for
manufacturers to demonstrate their potential was ‘To race on Sunday and sell on Monday.’
In 1966, vehicle classification and rules were based on the SCCA’s A and B Sedan amateur classes. A Sedan was called the Over 2.0-Liter category. The cars competing in the group were limited to a 5.0-liter engine and provided a platform to showcase the new ‘Pony Cars.’ The Under 2.0-Liter category included vehicles from BMW, Alfa Romero, British Leyland and Porsche.
The Trans Am series and its regulations have evolved over time. The championship has undergone changes to the race formats, vehicle eligibility and rules governing the cars.
In 1998, the Sports Car Club of America celebrated the thirty-third year of the Trans Am Championship.
Trans Am rules require that vehicles be constructed with a purpose-built tube frame chassis. The top chassis builders include Riley & Scott, Roush, Weaver, Selix-Weaver, Hoerr, Rocketsports and Pratt & Miller Engineering. The bodies are made of composites, such as carbon fiber, Kevlar and fiberglass. The rules stipulate that the cars should maintain the recognizable external features of the manufacturer's model while providing flares necessary to keep the tires inside the bodywork. SCCA Pro Racing uses body templates to ensure the shape of cars is within designated tolerances. Cars are required to use the stock windshield or an approved alternative, which has to be mounted in the original location and at the original angle. The rules also dictate the use of the stock taillights, which are often the only production parts on the vehicles. The popular models are the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang; however, other vehicles eligible for the series include the Chevrolet Corvette, Pontiac Grand Prix and Oldsmobile Cutlass. Car styles cannot be more than five years old. All cars are required to use an American-based engine. The rules allow a 358 cubic inch 9:1 V8 engine with a car weight of 2700-lbs or a 355 cubic inch tipping the scales at 2775-lbs. Another option is a V6 with a 275 cubic inch engine weighing 2500-lbs. But the most popular choice is a 311 cubic inch motor. All options must be fitted with a 4150 Holley carburetor.
The championship had a partnership with BFGoodrich and used the manufacturer's g-Force T/A spec tire.
The thirteen race season began on April 5 at Long Beach, California and ended on October 4 at Houston, Texas.
Mid-Ohio was round five of the thirteen race season. The series was healthy - Mid-Ohio drew forty-entries with thirty-seven competitors taking the Starter's flag.
|Paul Gentilozzi started his No. 3 AutoLink Chevrolet Corvette on the pole - after rain washed out Saturday qualifying. The starting lineup at Mid-Ohio was determined by the Drivers' Championship point standings. In Order - the remainder of the top-5 consisted of Johnny Miller, and rookies – Chris Neville, Ross Thompson and Bruce Qvale.|
|The first lap through the 'Carousel' and Gentilozzi leads Johnny Miller (Camaro), Chris Neville (Camaro), Ross Thompson (Mustang Cobra) and Brian Simo (Mustang Cobra). Gentilozzi entered Mid-Ohio as the favourite having won four of the first five-rounds. However, in fourteen previous Mid-Ohio starts he had never won. But this was not to be the case in 1998 as he beat his teammate, Bill Saunders, by 0.065-seconds.|
|Brian Simo held the third position for the final 20-laps of the race despite facing constant pressure from Stu Hayner, John Miller and Bruce Qvale. Later in the season Simo won the Pikes Peak International Raceway event and finished second to Gentilozzi in the Driver’s Championship.|
|The event’s full course yellow occurred on lap-14 after, Ohio driver, Dan Furey went off course at the 'Keyhole' and hit the tire wall. At the same time, Paul Alderman’s Mustang stalled and required a tow. Furey attempted a couple of laps but retired to finish thirty-fifth. Alderman was able to return to the race but finished well down the order.|
|Series rookie and former SCCA National Champion Bruce Qvale started fifth but dropped back to twelfth early in the race. Qvale drove a steady race and after dicing with Michael Lewis, Max Lagod, Leighton Reese and Ross Thompson was able to move up to fifth at the checkered flag.|
|For the third time in 1998 Johnny Miller started on the front. After heavy rain had forced the cancellation of qualifying series officials decided to set the grid by the current point standings - Miller was second. In the first 20-laps, Miller fell back to fifth behind – Gentilozzi, Bill Saunders, Brian Simo and Stu Hayner. But a late race spin by Hayner allowed him to finish fourth and maintain his second place in the championship.|
|In his third Trans Am start, Lou Gigliotti won the rainy round-three at Lime Rock. As the grid was determined by points he would start in twelfth. Gigliotti advanced to eighth in the early going but fell back to fourteenth mid-race. He moved up the order during the last half of the race and finished sixth as the result of Stu Hayner’s late race spin.|
|In 1998, at least, ten drivers were vying for the Rookie of the Year honours - one of these drivers was Ross Thompson. Thompson, a professional driving instructor, started fourth in the i-Dream Software Ford Mustang Cobra and finished eleventh. He had two podium results during the season and finished second to Chris Neville in the final Rookie standings.|
|Leighton Reese driving a Pontiac Grand Prix had an eventful race. He started seventh but finished twenty-fifth. Mid race he ran in a group that included Michael Lewis, Max Lagod, Ross Thompson and Bruce Qvale. Reese and Qvale made contact which damaged Reese’s power steering pulley. He was able to continue but on lap-41, he made contact with Mark Pielsticker sending both cars into the gravel trap at the 'Keyhole'.|
|Stu Hayner finished second in the season opener at Long Beach and did not return to the series until Mid-Ohio. With qualifying washed out and a starting grid set by driver standings Hayner was stuck in the eighteenth position. On the first lap, he moved up six positions and continued to make progress. With 2-laps remaining Hayner was sixth but a spin dropped him to a sixteenth place finish.|
|Another SCCA National Champion entered in the event was Michael Lewis. Lewis competed at both the professional and amateur level. In 1995, he won the SCCA amateur GT1 title. In the professional ranks, Lewis won the 1997 Trans Am 'Rookie of the Year' and 'Rising Star' awards. At the Mid-Ohio event, he started tenth but retired on lap-34 when the left-front spindle broke.|
|Trans Am engines were naturally aspirated production based V8s with two or four-valves per cylinder. Aluminum engine blocks were permitted but with a weight penalty. The use of turbocharging and supercharging was prohibited. Teams were required to declare their engine choice and use it for the entire event. An engine change after qualifying would result in a grid penalty for those starting in the top-10. This is the Ford engine in Rick Lee’s Mustang.|
|1||1||Paul Gentilozzi||Chevrolet Corvette||45|
|2||8||Bill Saunders||Chevrolet Corvette||45|
|3||6||Brian Simo||Ford Mustang Cobra||45|
|4||2||John W. Miller IV||Chevrolet Camaro||45|
|5||5||Bruce Qvale||Ford Mustang Cobra||45|
|6||12||Lou Gigliotti||Ford Mustang Cobra||45|
|7||16||Bob Ruman||Chevrolet Camaro||45|
|8||11||Randy Ruhlman||Ford Mustang Cobra||45|
|9||15||Peter Shea||Ford Mustang Cobra||45|
|10||3||Chris Neville||Chevrolet Camaro||45|
|11||4||Ross Thompson||Ford Mustang Cobra||45|
|12||33||Bill Gray||Chevrolet Camaro||45|
|13||23||Craig Shafer||Chevrolet Camaro||45|
|14||14||Brian De Vries||Chevrolet Camaro||45|
|15||36||Kerry Alexander||Chevrolet Camaro||45|
|16||18||Stu Hayner||Chevrolet Camaro||45|
|17||13||Bruce Barkelew||Ford Mustang Cobra||44|
|18||22||John Halbing||Oldsmobile Cutlass||44|
|19||19||Rick Lee||Ford Mustang Cobra||44|
|20||26||Claude Poirier||Chevrolet Camaro||44|
|21||39||Dick Greer||Oldsmobile Cutlass||44|
|22||24||Simon Gregg||Ford Mustang Cobra||44|
|23||35||Ned Yeaton||Chevrolet Camaro||44|
|24||9||Max Lagod||Chevrolet Camaro||44|
|25||7||Leighton Reese||Pontiac Grand Prix||43|
|26||37||Ed Hinchcliff||Ford Mustang Cobra||43|
|27||27||Glenn 'Coach' Andrew||Pontiac Grand Prix||41|
|28||38||John Restemeyer||Chevrolet Camaro||41|
|29||28||Mark Pielsticker||Chevrolet Camaro||40|
|30||10||Michael Lewis||Ford Mustang Cobra||34|
|31||21||Rick Dittman||Chevrolet Camaro||33|
|32||25||Don Meluzio||Chevrolet Camaro||33|
|33||32||Bruce Nesbitt||Ford Mustang Cobra||27|
|34||31||Paul Alderman||Ford Mustang Cobra||27|
|35||34||Dan Furey||Chevrolet Corvette||12|
|36||20||Don Sak||Oldsmobile Cutlass||10|
|37||17||Frank Cioppettini||Chevrolet Camaro||6|
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