2000 marked the 35th season of the Sports Car Club of America’s Trans-Am Series. Ralph Sanchez and Don Panoz acquired the rights to the series. BFGoodrich Tires was the title sponsor. The twelve-race season opened in March at Sebring, Florida, and ended in November at San Diego, California.

Paul Gentilozzi has competed in the Sports Car Club of America’s Trans-Am series since 1987 and has driven many different makes. Gentilozzi won the championship in 1998 by piloting a Chevrolet Corvette and using a Ford Mustang to secure the 1999 title. In 2000, he was looking for his third consecutive crown.

It was time for another change in 2000, and Gentilozzi would race a Jaguar XKR with backing from Johnson Controls and Homelink. Joining Gentilozzi for this year’s campaign was rookie Jeff Altenburg. Altenburg was a newcomer to the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series, but he had experience at other levels of the sport.

The current BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series is the Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette domain. New for this year were the Qvale Mangusta and Jaguar. However, this is not Jaguar’s first foray into the series. In 1976, the successful Group 44 team, under the direction of Bob Tullius, entered a Jaguar XJS in a Trans-Am and IMSA event. Plans for 1977 included an entire season of the Trans-Am series to secure the Category I class. Tullius won the driver’s championship but not the manufacturer’s title; however, that situation was rectified in 1978. The XJS was parked for two-years in favour of the Triumph TR8. The Jaguar returned in 1981 with Tullius winning two races and finishing second in points.
Another Jaguar XJS appeared during the 1987 Trans-Am season. In round ten at Mosport, local racer John Graham arranged to have the Roger Mac Jaguar shipped from England to Canada to compete in the Bendix Trans-Am Championship. Graham tested the No. 48 Jaguar XJS sponsored by Wardair but didn’t feel comfortable racing the car. As a result, Mac handled the driving duties of the 5.3-liter fuel-injected V12 vehicle. Mac was thirteenth fastest in the twenty-six car field during the qualifying session. He crossed the finish line in the nineteenth position, five laps behind the race-winning Mercury Merkur XR4Ti of Scott Pruett.
Gentilozzi’s Jaguar XKR was built by Rocketsports, a company he owned. The Trans-Am-prepared XKR was a far cry from the street-going version. The BFGoodrich Tires series cars are required to use a chrome-moly steel tubeframe chassis. The XKR was designed and constructed by Rocketsports. The engine displacement and the induction system determine the minimum weight of series cars. The Trans-Am Jaguar must not weigh less than 2,675 pounds. The production XKR has a curb weight of 4,021 pounds.
Sitting on top of the tube frame chassis is carbon fiber / Kevlar / honeycomb composite bodywork. The Sports Car of America introduced a new spec wing this year. The Rocketsport’s Jaguar is 190 inches long and 80 inches wide, with a height of 46.5 inches. The front suspension is an independent double wishbone while the rear is a live axle, three-link adjustable with a Watts link. All four corners use Penske adjustable shock absorbers. Stopping the XKR are Brembo brakes. As per the series rule, the Jaguar uses BFGoodrich g-Force T/A radials mounted on BBS modular alloy wheels: Front 12 X 16 inches and Rear 13 X 16 inches.
The Jaguar XKR is powered by a 311 cu. in. V8 Ford engine with an 840 cfm Holley four-barrel carburetor. This single-camshaft pushrod motor with two valves per cylinder produces 650 horsepower at 8,200 rpm and 450 ft-lbs of torque at 5,500 rpm. By comparison, the road-going XKR uses a supercharged 4.0 liter double-overhead-camshaft V8 engine with an output of 370 horsepower. A Hewland ST five-speed transmission is bolted to the motor to transfer the power to the rear wheels. Trans-Am cars are equipped with a thirty-two-gallon ATL fuel cell.
The first event of the 2000 BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series was held at Sebring International Raceway. Paul Gentilozzi, in the No. 1 Johnson Controls / Homelink Jaguar XKR, qualified second fastest but dropped down the lap chart during the race. Incidents on the final lap allowed him to finish fourth. Gentilozzi’s teammate, Jeff Altenburg, drove the No. 5 Steele Racing Enterprises Jaguar and started in seventh place. After twenty-seven laps, Altenburg was in third place and collected a podium in his debut.
The next round was held at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Gentilozzi qualified on the pole. He led the race until lap 17 when he ran through debris on the track and had to pit for two new tires. Gentilozzi charged to the front and finished second by a margin of 0.689 seconds. Altenburg qualified eighth; however, an accident on lap 11 resulted in a thirty-first-place finish. Next on the calendar was Long Beach. Gentilozzi started on the outside of the front and led early, only to fall to a fourteenth-place finish after encountering value train issues. Altenburg retired on lap 28 after qualifying eighth.
The next event was north of the border at Mosport International Raceway. After two disappointing race weekends, Altenburg collected his second podium of the year with a runner-up result. Gentilozzi qualified on the pole for the second time this season and led the race until lap 29, when he spun. An incident in the final corner promoted him to a seventh-place finish. Race five of the 2000 BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series took place in Detroit. The defending champion would grab his first victory of the year after qualifying on the pole. Altenburg started in the thirteenth position and advanced to a seventh-place finish.
Next, the series traveled to the Cleveland Burke Lake Front Airport. Gentilozzi continued his domination, taking the No. 1 Johnson Controls / Homelink Jaguar XKR flag-to-flag for the win. The team’s rookie also had a good race. Altenburg qualified tenth and finished fifth. With race seven at Road America, the teams entered the second half of the season. Genitilozzi was second fastest in the qualifying session. He chased Johnny Miller until lap 6 when Miller retired with an oil pump problem. A red-flag period shortened the race, but Gentilozzi scored his third victory of 2000 and second consecutive at Road America. Finishing behind Gentilozzi was Altenburg, who earned his third rostrum of the season.
The following two races were conducted in Texas; the first was at Texas Motor Speedway. For the second consecutive race, Altenburg finished on the podium. He qualified in the twelfth spot but advanced nine positions to finish third. Gentilozzi qualified on the front row for the eighth time in his season. However, the points leader dropped out of the contest on lap 11 with a burnt piston. It was on to Houston where Gentilozzi started on the outside of the front row. He battled with Brian Simo for the lead, and when the two made contact, Gentilozzi got a flat tire. He raced back for the win but was penalized for a pit road violation and classified in sixth place. Altenburg finished thirteenth.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was the site of round ten. Gentilozzi qualified fifth fastest and was dicing with Brian Simo when there was contact between the two. Simo fell out of contention, but Gentilozzi continued and finished third. With two races remaining, Gentilozzi led Simo by thirty points. Altenburg started seventh at Laguna Seca and finished eighth. The penultimate round was at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After a poor qualifying effort, Gentilozzi started ninth. It went from bad to worse after contact with the wall caused severe front-end damage, which resulted in a thirtieth-place finish. It was a good race for Altenburg, who finished fifth after starting twelfth.
Paul Gentilozzi entered the finale at San Diego sixteen markers ahead of Brian Simo for the 2000 BFGoodrich Tires Series Drivers’ Series Championship. Gentilozzi had led the title chase since his victory in round seven at Road America. During the qualifying session, he recorded the fourth fastest time, while his main rival for the crown, Simo, started on the pole. When he broke an oil pump shaft, Gentilozzi’s race would end on lap 20. Simo crossed the finish line in third place and won the title by twelve points. Jeff Altenburg also had problems and finished eighteenth; however, this was enough to secure the Rookie of the Year award.

Paul Gentilozzi and his team returned to the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series for the 2001 season. This year, he was joined by Johnny Miller, who finished seventh in last year’s point chase driving a Chevrolet Corvette.

In addition to Gentilozzi and Miller, another six Jaguar XKRs were entered in this year’s series.

After the disappointment of 2000, Gentilozzi returned, winning the Drivers’ title and Manufacturers’ championship for Jaguar. He finished on the podium in eight of eleven races, four of which were victories. Miller finished third in the final standings.

Count Date Venue Driver Car Start Finish
1 March 17 Sebring International Raceway Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 2 4
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 7 3
2 April 1 Charlotte Motor Speedway Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 1 2
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 8 31
3 April 16 Grand Prix of Long Beach Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 2 14
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 8 24
4 May 21 Mosport International Raceway Paul Gentilozzi Qvale Mangusta 1 7
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 5 2
5 June 17 Detroit Grand Prix Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 1 1
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 13 7
6 July 1 Grand Prix of Cleveland Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 1 1
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 10 4
7 August 19 Road America Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 2 1
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 8 2
8 September 3 Texas Motor Speedway Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 2 23
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 12 3
9 September 30 Grand Prix of Houston Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 2 6
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 12 13
10 October 15 Laguna Seca Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 5 3
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 7 8
11 October 29 Las Vegas Motor Speedway Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR 9 30
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR 12 5
12 November 5 San Diego Paul Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR x x
Jeff Altenburg Jaguar XKR x x

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