The Trans Am Series is poised to return to the Laguna Seca circuit for the first time in 15 years, and with it reconvenes the Grand Touring racing series’ long history at the track, which stretches back to 1969. Trans Am—self-styled as ‘America’s Road Racing Series’—has undergone many changes of fortune since it started in 1966. Yet these days it is resurgent, and had around 60 cars competing across its four classes in the opening meetings of this season. And its next round, which takes place in a couple of weeks, is the Laguna Seca Trans Am SpeedFest event. Trans Am is a category that holds its long history in high regard and Laguna Seca’s return chimes with this, as sportscar fans of a certain vintage will recall memorable Trans Am battles at the California track, from the late 1960s and early 1970s in particular, involving some of US racing’s greatest car and driver names.
The Laguna Seca round, taking place on May 3 to 5, is round three of Trans Am’s 12-round 2019 season, and fans there will witness professional drivers competing in race-prepped Camaros, Mustangs, Challengers, Corvettes and Vipers in the TA1 and TA2 categories as well as other domestic and foreign makes in the GT and SuperGT classes. The Trans Am races will be also supported at the Laguna Seca event by no fewer than 12 historic race groups from the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, with cars that are prepared to the rules in which they were originally raced.
The first Trans Am visit to Laguna Seca was in 1969, just three years after the series was established. The inaugural ‘69 race was star-studded in both drivers and cars. The race was won by none other than Mark Donohue in a Penske-Hilton Camaro, followed by Ed Leslie in another Penske-Hilton Camaro, while the legendary Dan Gurney completed the podium in a Shelby Ford Mustang Boss 302. In addition, Parnelli Jones in a Bud Moore Ford Mustang Boss 302 was running strongly until a differential failure put him out at mid-distance, while George Follmer, in the second Bud Moore entry, had a wheel failure that forced him out late on.
“When Trans Am was in its heyday, we had the factories involved and good people working on them, building them, and driving them,” said Follmer who won the Trans Am championship in 1972 and ‘76. “It was very, very competitive. You never knew who would win, because everyone was pretty even. It was hard. All these teams wanted to win, so they found good people to drive them. It was pretty good in ’69, ’70. It was a dogfight.”