The Trans-American Sedan Championship’s glory days inspired a group of mostly Queensland enthusiasts to create their own tribute series. With a fleet of cars on the build, the hitherto low-key class will seemingly take a big stride forward in 2012. While the booming Touring Car Masters category pays homage to Australia’s touring car past, another retro-flavoured class is dipping its lid to the halcyon days of the United States’ tin-top road racing.
The Australian Trans-Am Championship’s fourth season began at the re-born Lakeside Park circuit in Brisbane in late March, for what organisers hope will be a breakthrough year.
The first three seasons saw mostly single-digit grids of pony cars contest the AASA-sanctioned (an alternative body to CAMS) Queensland-based series. However, a bunch of ‘new’ cars are nearing completion which promises to see grids expand into the mid teens by the seventh and final round in November at Queensland Raceway, the only other circuit on the 2012 schedule.
By this time next year the fledgling ATAC hopes to have a series sponsor in place and an interstate round on its schedule. That’s according to the club’s president Grant Wilson, one of the class’s competitors and founding fathers.
“We want 18 or 20 cars,” says Wilson, “mostly looking like those cars that raced in the era. There’s a pretty big market for that. One that will hopefully draw sponsors.
“We got about 30 cars on our books that have been running or are in the process of being built. “By the second race meeting of the year [in 2012], we’ll have a fair few new cars on track,” the long-time Group N competitor says. Among the new machines hitting the track are some tribute cars, including Wilson’s own salute to Kevin Bartlett’s Nine Sports Camaro.
“We’ve got a Sidchrome Mustang being built and [fellow Trans-Am stalwart] Ian Woodward has a Pontiac Firebird on the build, a replica of a Jerry Titus car. There’s a Mercury Cougar coming, and a replica of a ’68 Penske Camaro. I myself have a got an original ’68 car that raced in the States. It’s got a proper SCCA log book. I’m pulling that car apart now [to ready for competition]. There’s also another ’69 Mustang that going to be on track, a replica of Parnelli Jones’ car.”
Plans for the class were hatched five years ago when Wilson got chatting to a bloke not unfamiliar with Trans-Am machinery, Bob Jane, and to his long-time racing right-hand man Miles Johnson. “It was at Bathurst and we agreed that we needed to get something going,” Wilson explains. “It took me about 18 months to come up with a set of rules and talk to guys to get some cars on the track. We started just at Queensland Raceway at the [AASA] Top Gear meetings and branched out from there.”

Mustangs and Camaros have tended to dominate entry lists, albeit spiced by a Javelin and a Dodge Dart. The key to growth in numbers and variety is cost containment and providing a level playing field for teams with modest budgets. Easier said then done, of course, as a litany of failed racing categories can attest. Wilson, however, believes ATAC is on the right track.
“We trying to keep costs to within a moderate budget so the average racer can come and race in it without spending a fortune,” he says. “We’ve tried to make it that if someone rocked up with $30-50,000 they can have quite a reasonable car.” That’s not to say costs are pegged at that level across the field, as one or two machines owe their owners $100,000.
“They’re not cheap cars, but we have division one and division two cars. The division two cars can win the series too.” Organisers believe that the key to a competitive field and cost containment is a set of regulations (see sidebar) which play particular attention to engine restrictions. “We’ve really limited the engines,” Wilson continues. “We are pretty strict on that. “For instance, there’s no point spending $50,000 on an engine as it won’t make the car go any quicker than, say, a $25,000 engine. The heads are the limiting factor, as there’s no porting allowed. They can’t be touched. There’s only two intake manifolds that competitors can run. They [also] have to remain untouched. The same with the standard off-the-shelf carbies. Stroking is not permitted. “We are a club, so we put all our money back into things like reducing entry fees, [providing] tyres, etc.
We are hoping to get to a stage where we have a core group of 15-20 guys who race all of the time.” Cars run on a Hoosier control tyre. Surprisingly, it’s not a slick, but a track day tyre, which helps promote tail-out racing. Wilson says it’s not uncommon for ATAC competitors to be approached at meetings by fans from interstate. “A lot of the racing fans are over the V8 Supercar thing. They are really sick of it, as the cars all look the same.
At Lakeside we had people come and see us from NSW. The cars are so loose. There’s a big drawcard there.” The first tentative steps towards expansion have already been taken.
As AMC reported last edition, six ATAC cars raced at New Zealand’s Festival of Motor Racing in January against cars from NZ’s Historic Muscle Cars class. “I couldn’t believe the reaction to our old cars at Hampton Downs. “We are already looking to go to New Zealand again. The Americans are talking about sending out some Trans-Am cars to race with us. “We want to go national. We are talking about going to race at Calder Park for an event there for Bob Jane.” The grand plans will come to nought if bigger fields don’t materialise in the near future, which means 2012 is a pivotal year for the class.

 

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