New Camaros Turn Heads in Trans-Am Series TA2 Class
While there has certainly been a wide variety of machinery used throughout the 45-year history of the Trans-Am Series, most followers tend to equate American muscle cars with the series.
That’s definitely the case in the 2011 SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series, with the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang being the weapons of choice for a majority of the competitors in the top class of the series, which is simply known as Trans-Am or “TA” for short. However, a new American muscle car has begun turning a lot of heads this season in the Trans-Am 2 (or “TA2”) class, the Chevrolet Camaro.
A pair of Texans -- Gregg Rodgers, from Southlake, and Bob Stretch, from Arlington -- have driven Camaros to TA2 victories this season. Rodgers won the TA class in the first two races of the season at Sebring International Raceway and Miller Motorsports Park in his white No. 40 PinnacleAutosports.com/Eagles Canyon Raceway/Petfinder.com Camaro, while Stretch has taken the TA2 win in the past two events at Virginia International Raceway and Mosport International Raceway in his black No. 98 Wheels America Camaro.
But while both drivers have been using the same type of car in the same class, that’s almost where the similarities stop. In fact, you could say the differences are “black and white.”
“Our car is quite different,” says Stretch. “(Rodgers) converted an older chassis to fit his body. We went a different route by buying a new chassis that was already designed for the body. I think our way was a little bit more cost effective, but there are a lot of these cars out there. There are a lot of old ASA (American Speed Association) cars and the car count could be very high because of the number of cars out there. There are a number of components that we run in this series that are widely available, so it makes it so that you can put one of these cars together relatively easy.
“Our chassis are very different, but we run the same components. We run the same rear end, the same motor, the same transmission. These cars are very adjustable. You can change pick-up points. You can change control arms. You can change all sorts of stuff to change the geometry on the car. Both of us can do that. Really, the difference between our two cars is that he has a much older chassis and I’ve got a brand-new chassis. I’m convinced with the right amount of work, our car should be very well equalized.”
So we’ve gotten a glimpse into the differences between the two TA2 Camaros, courtesy of Stretch, but let’s back up a minute.
What are the differences between TA cars and TA2 cars?
“A typical TA2 car runs a more spec-type engine,” Rodgers explains. “A common industry term is a ‘crate engine.’ They’re not truly a crate motor, but they are in the 400 to 470 horsepower range. They run on a 10-inch (wide) tire rather than a 14-inch slick. The cost of entry for a new TA2 car costs maybe $80,000 and maybe $5,000 a weekend to campaign. A new Trans-Am car is going to run you probably $250,000 and cost you probably three times to campaign, at a minimum.
“The TA2 car is based on circle track technology and components, so the components are less custom and more readily available off the shelf, which is a cost savings. Bodywork is a fourth of the cost, at most a fourth of the cost. Speeds are less. Most TA2 cars are probably putting out around 400 to 420 horsepower. A typical Trans-Am car is probably 700 to 750 at the ground.
“These are purpose-built racecars. They’re safer and they’re a lot less money to repair. To buy any type of car, whether it is a club racer or a pro racing car, for less than $100,000 is just unheard of.”
Rodgers and Stretch agree that the cost of going racing in TA2 certainly makes racing in the series attractive. But they both also agree that there’s a much bigger draw that has brought them into the Trans-Am Series, and more specifically, Camaros in the Trans-Am Series. In fact, both see their cars and the TA2 class as a key component for the future direction of Trans-Am.
“To me, it was the throw back to Trans-Am when Trans-Am first came around,” Rodgers says. “I grew up around Trans-Am cars. It was the (AMC) Javelins, the Camaros, the Mustangs, as well as mixed-class racing.
“The Camaro is just a throwback car. They run 15-inch wheels and it just has that ‘look.’ The fans love it because that’s where it started and that’s where a lot of people think it needs to get back to. Doing the Camaro was what I felt was the best way to get the ball rolling.”
“Primarily, the cars are fantastically fun to drive,” Stretch adds. “The way the cars drive, the way they handle and the technical side of the car is very attractive. There are enough things to do to the car that prepping the car properly and making minor changes has a pretty big effect on these cars.
“You’re on the brakes a lot more in these cars than you would be in a regular sedan, and you’re on the throttle a lot more. There are more opportunities on the track to improve, to make the car better and to make the driver better. We can do all of that without spending an enormous amount of money.”