It started off 38 years ago at Sebring and was billed as the Trans-American Sedan Championship by the organizing, sanctioning body, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). The cars, divided into two categories (under and over 2.0 liter), were race-prepped but still very close to stock coupes and two-door sedans like Alfa Romeos, BMW '02s, Dodge Darts, Plymouth Barracudas, and Ford Mustangs.
Early driving stars included future F-1 pilots Jochen Rindt and Jacky Ickx and American drivers like A.J. Foyt, Richard Petty, and Jerry Titus. To many road-racing connoisseurs, the ultimate Trans-Am driver was Mark Donohue. He entered the series in 1967 driving blue-with-yellow-trim Camaros that were sponsored by Sunoco and owned and prepped by a former driver named Roger Penske. Between 1967 and 1971 (his final year in T/A competition), Donohue won three Driver's Championships, a record 29 overall victories, and 43 top-three finishes in 55 races.
Many older devotees still consider the 1970 season to be the heyday of the series and its ultimate year, with intense and heavy backing from American manufacturers. That vintage year saw Donohue (still driving for Roger Penske) and Peter Revson in AMC Javelins; Jim Hall (of Chaparral fame), Vic Elford, and Milt Minter in Camaros; Sam Posey in a Dodge Challenger; Parnelli Jones and George Follmer in Boss 302 Mustangs; and Dan Gurney and Swede Savage in Barracudas.
The series evolved over the years. In 1973, FIA Group 4 cars were allowed for the first time, and Porsche Carreras dominated. Two years later, the SCCA restructured the series again, allowing big-bore production-based American cars into the mix, and a Corvette took home all the marbles. Corvettes also won championships in 1978 and 1981, the first year tube-framed "profile" racers were allowed.
While various C3s and C4s were entered over the ensuing years, a Corvette didn't again dominate the Trans-Am series until 1998, with Paul Gentilozzi piloting a brand new C5. Corvettes haven't clinched another championship since, but C5s now make up a sizable and very competitive portion of the field in every running of what now carries the moniker "Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup."
Call it what you may, the Trans-Am is now the longest-running professional road-racing series in the United States. And on that note, let's take a look at Corvettes in action in the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup (whew!) race at this last April's Long Beach Grand Prix through the telephoto lenses of Dr. Greg Johnson.