Miami -- The Trans-Am Series, ready to embark on the richest season in its 36-year history, announced an 11-race 2001 Season Schedule.
The schedule features five dates running in conjunction with CART and four with the American Le Mans Series. It also features, after a six-year absence, a return to a pair of venues where Trans-Am has enjoyed a rich history, Portland and Sears Point.
"We're excited about the schedule that we have put together for the 2001 season," said Ralph Sanchez, president of the Panoz/Sanchez Group. "The 2001 Trans-Am Series will be bigger and better than it has ever been in its history. This schedule will showcase Trans-Am at some of the premier venues in North America. With several new teams expected to join the Series as well as new body styles and new models, Trans-Am fans around the country really have something to look forward to."
The 2001 season debuts March 16 at Sebring International Raceway. The Trans-Am Series is making its second straight appearance as part of the Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring weekend, having played to a record-setting crowd in 2000. Sebring is often considered the home of Trans-Am, having hosted the first-ever Trans-Am race in March, 1966.
The season continues on April 8 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where over 300,000 fans packed the downtown area for BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series/CART FedEx Championship Series racing this past spring. This will be the 10th appearance by Trans-Am at America's premier Grand Prix circuit.
"We're delighted to host the second round of the Trans-Am Series in 2001," said Jim Michaelian, chief operating officer of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. "It compliments our race weekend package very well. It's the final event of the weekend and our fans have come to really appreciate the Trans-Am Series. The new champion being a Southern California product (Brian Simo) makes the 2001 race even more attractive."
Round three will see the only appearance north of the border on May 20 at Mosport Park east of Toronto as part of the Victoria Day Holiday Weekend. The race over the 2.4-mile, 10-turn road course will be the 22nd appearance for the Series at Canada's premier racing facility.
On June 16, the Trans-Am Series will once again be the Saturday afternoon feature at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. The race in the Motor City will be contested over the 2.3-mile, 14-turn street circuit on Belle Isle. This will be the Trans-Am's 17th straight Detroit appearance, dating back to the Formula I weekends on the original street course circling the Renaissance Center.
The next stop will be at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland on June 30 for Trans-Am's 11th appearance as the Saturday feature. The 2.1-mile, 10-turn Burke Lake Front Airport circuit features a challenging hairpin that always makes for an exciting start. Combine a large crowd, a wide open airport circuit and a beautiful Lake Erie backdrop and the stage is set for another exciting weekend.
"We are looking forward to another great year of Trans-Am racing in Detroit and Cleveland," commented IMG Motorsports vice president Denny Young. "These races are highlights for both weekends and we're committed to continuing in both cities for many years to come."
The Trans-Am Series then heads west for its next two races. The first stop is Sears Point Raceway on July 21 in the beautiful California Wine Country north of San Francisco. Two weeks later on Aug. 5, it's off to the scenic Pacific Northwest and a 20th appearance at Portland International Raceway. The Trans-Am Series last raced at both venues in 1995.
On Aug. 18, the Trans-Am Series will make its 33rd consecutive appearance at Road America. The 4-mile, 14-turn road course is reminiscent of a European road course. Just three weeks later, Laguna Seca Raceway will host Trans-Am Series racing for the second consecutive year. The race, to be held on the scenic 2.2-mile, 11-turn road course outside Monterey, Calif., will be run in conjunction with the American Le Mans Series on Sept. 9.
"The Trans-Am Series, with its new organization and sponsor support by BFGoodrich Tires, created an exciting race at Laguna Seca Raceway," said general manager John Stornetta. "After a 13-year absence our fans were anticipating and experienced a great race. We look forward to having the series back again next year."
On Oct. 6, for the fourth consecutive year, the Trans-Am Series will be the Saturday feature of the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. The 1.5-mile, 10-turn street course features both Enron Field (home of the Houston Astros) and the George R. Brown Convention Center as spectacular backdrops.
The Trans-Am Series will return to San Diego to headline the Second Annual San Diego Grand Prix. Promoter Ray Rubio will confirm a date when the new site of the Grand Prix has been selected. The 2000 event was held at the Naval Training Center, but the area is set for redevelopment.