Trans Am Takes 61-Car Entry to Sebring

Ernie Francis at Sebring last year
Ernie Francis at Sebring last year

The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will open its 2019 campaign this weekend at the same circuit where it debuted in 1966, returning to the legendary Sebring International Raceway to kick off the year.

With over 60 cars fielded by a deep roster of talented drivers backed by strong teams, the 2019 Trans Am season is expected to see the series continue to move from strength to strength. Four classes- TA, TA2 powered by AEM, SuperGT and GT, will do battle in a pair of races on Sebring’s notoriously tough 3.74-mile circuit on Sunday.

The entry list features drivers from 22 states hailing from as far afield as Brazil, Argentina, Panama, and Canada. The 2019 season will see Trans Am race in 12 events in 11 states on an all-star roster of North American tracks.

Defending Sebring winner Ernie Francis Jr. leads the TA class in the No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang as he bids for a third consecutive Trans Am title. In addition to back-to-back TA crowns in 2018 and 2019, he won Trans Am titles in GT in 2014 and SuperGT in 2015 and 2016.

“Sebring was a pretty good race for us last year and really put us on the right path with the championship," said the 21-year-old South Floridian, the leading winner in Trans Am history. “It is a home track for me and I feel like I know every inch of the place. I enjoy racing in the TA class. The power that you have, there is no traction control, no ABS, but there is so much power that it is really exhilarating. There is nothing like it."

Despite his familiarity with and record at Sebring, Francis has been preparing as though it is his first time.

“I’ve been at the shop [in Dania] every day, preparing the car and watching video to be ready," Francis said. “We have one goal, to win another championship."

Among the drivers challenging Francis in the 17-car TA entry are former Sebring winners Kenny Bupp (2016), two-time Trans Am champion Amy Ruman (2015) and R.J. Lopez (2011), among other race winning contenders including Chris Dyson, Tomy Drissi and Simon Gregg. Having raced in TA2 powered by AEM, Jordan Bupp will be making his TA class debut this weekend. The Ft. Lauderdale resident will look to add to his family’s record of success at Sebring, with his father Kenny having won at the track in 2016.

Defending TA2 powered by AEM champion Rafa Matos will be looking to avenge his Sebring outing from last year. The driver of the No. 88 Camaro started from the Sebring pole, but lost the lead to Marc Miller with only two laps remaining and was forced to settle for second. While he didn’t let the setback keep him from a charge at the title, he is hoping to make it to Sebring’s top step of the podium this time around.

“It was really gratifying to win the championship last year and especially to do it with my friend and teammate Doug (Peterson), who has been such an important part of my racing career," said Matos. “There are a lot of strong drivers in TA2 and I think this class is going to be even closer competition this year. I’m looking forward to it. The cars are fun to race—you really have to muscle them around because there is a lot of power, but no driver aids so you are working all the time behind the wheel. It takes a lot of technique to have everything right with the shifting, braking, and getting the power down."

Peterson, who will drive the No. 87 Ford Mustang, is a two-time TA winner at Sebring (2013-14).

The roster of contenders in TA2 powered by AEM continues to get more crowded, with Miller confirming his return in the No. 40 Prefix/Stevens-Miller Racing Dodge Challenger, while Tony Buffomante and Ethan Wilson will both look to be strong factors in the championship once again.

With a new name and well-established technical package, the SuperGT and GT classes that will share the track with the top TA class are expected to see continued growth in 2019.

All five of the top championship finishers in the SuperGT class are expected to return in 2019, with four of those five entered for the Sebring round. Mark Boden is seeking his fourth career and third-consecutive SGT victory at Sebring in the No. 46 Beverage Flavors International Porsche 991 GT3 Cup. Tom Herb, Dave Ricci and Milton Grant also return to challenge for top honors in the former TA3 class.

The GT class will see Maserati doing battle with Aston Martin with Jeff Courtney, Steven Davidson, and Fernando Seferlis all entered in the production-based category for Sunday’s sprint.

The Trans Am Series will join the SVRA Sebring Vintage Classic and International GT Series in a thrilling weekend mixing great race cars from the past and present.

Each of the four Trans Am classes will have testing sessions on Friday to open on-track activities. Saturday begins with practice at 11:30 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying for each of the classes beginning at 4:55 p.m. The Sebring Vintage Classic also offers racing for all SVRA race groups, highlighted by an MG Marque Reunion.

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