Safety First: Trans-Am Series Director of Competition Kevin Bayless has endorsed a pair of new safety devices for the 2001 Season. The HANS Device, manufactured by Hubbard/Downing Inc., stabilizes a driver's head and neck in case of a side or rear impact. Leighton Reese was the only Trans-Am Series driver to utilize the HANS Device during the 2000 season.
Another product is produced by Safecraft Fire Protection Systems. The Safecraft Fire Protection System is impregnated with a dry chemical powder that encases the fuel cell. Should a car suffer damage that ruptures the fuel cell, a cloud of the dry chemical is dispersed around the chamber to reduce the possibility of fire. The panels are thin walled and adhere to the fuel cell via a peel and stick procedure.
"The Trans-Am Series is committed to maintining the highest possible level of safety for our competitors," said Bayless. "As such, we are always reviewing new safety products and technologies. Several of the Trans-Am drivers have followed Leighton's lead and already ordered the HANS device for 2001. The HANS device, which will be mandatory on the Formula One circuit and CART oval races in 2001, and the fuel cell fire suppression panels are two relatively new products which we believe add another level of protection for our competitors."
Leighton Reese and Epic Racing have announced that Reese will drive one of Epic Racing's Ford Mustangs in the 2001 Trans-Am season. Banner Engineering, the Minnesota-based producers of the industry's most complete integrated line of photoelectric sensors and fiber optics, is returning with Reese as the primary sponsor, and Phillips 66 Trop Artic Motor Oils will also return as associate sponsor for the coming season.
"Harry Schwartz is an excellent businessman," said Reese. "He is very good at the team management and marketing aspects of the sport. He is trying to build something special with Epic Racing and I am proud to be a part of that."
Epic Racing is headquartered in San Diego and also maintains a race shop in Knoxville, Tenn. Gary Johnson and Steve Pelke campaigned Epic Ford Mustangs during the 2000 BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series. Jack Willes finished out the 2000 season in Johnson's car at Las Vegas and San Diego.
Reese picked up his first Trans-Am Series win at the Grand Prix of Texas in early September. His team also won the MOMODesign Watches award for earning the most championship points in the second half of the season, and Reese finished 4th (his highest finish ever) in the Drivers' Championship.
Paul Fix II, who made his only appearance of the 2000 BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series at Road America, has announced that he plans to run a full schedule in 2001. Fix will compete in the #77 Classic Tube Ford Mustang Cobra.
Fix's wife, Lauren Fix, hit the road this fall with the Winter Readiness and Safety Tour. The tour made appearances in 10 cities across the United States. She also made an appearance on both the Today Show and MSNBC in late November. The automotive marketing teams chose Fix for her knowledge of automotive technology. Fix's mission was to convince drivers to do the Four C's: Check, Change, Carry and Clean as they prepared for winter driving.
The Fix's son, Paul Fix III, won his first class go kart championship this season as a 6-year-old. Fix III ran a Mike Wilson 4Kart with a Honda 5.5 engine and won the final seven races of the season at Batavia International Motorsports Park.
Steve Beck (Minneapolis) has announced that he will enter the Trans-Am Series during the 2001 Season. Beck plans on spending the first part of the season testing. He will most likely make his Trans-Am Series debut at either Sears Point (July 21) or Road America (August 18). Beck plans on running the entire 2002 season in a new car. Beck has extensive experience in SCCA Club Racing in a Van Diemen Formula Continental (FF2000). He has had numerous top-five finishes at the National level.
The Trans-Am Series and the Panoz/Sanchez Group (PSG) recently announced that it has signed a $220,000 contingency sponsorship agreement with Chevrolet for the 2001 season and beyond. Chevrolet is the first manufacturer to sign on for a contingency awards program for next season. This represents the largest contingency posting in Trans-Am Series history.
Chevrolet will post a $20,000 cash bonus in each race, a total of $220,000 for the year, for a new-style Corvette and $10,000 for an old-style Corvette or Camaro victory in any Trans-Am Series race contested during the 2001 season. The combination of the Chevrolet bonus and the new Trans-Am purse of $37,500 for qualifying on the pole and winning the race could provide the winner with the largest payday in Series history (a nearly $60,000 payout). This represents a nearly 300 percent increase over the winner's purse during the 2000 season.
Chevrolet won its 16th Manufacturers' Championship during the 2000 season. Chevrolet holds an overwhelming lead in All-Time Series wins with 149 victories to Ford's 98 wins. This past season saw both a Camaro (Kenny Wilden's #40 YO Ranch Chevrolet Camaro at Laguna Seca) and a Corvette (Johnny Miller's #64 Automationdirect.com UPS Hitachi Chevrolet Corvette at San Diego) visit the winner's circle. In addition, Willy T. Ribbs won the Johnson Controls Triple Challenge in the #16 Simple Green Chevrolet Camaro with outstanding finishes at Long Beach, Detroit and Las Vegas.
2001 Trans-Am Series Schedule:
March 16, Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring (with ALMS);
April 8, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (with CART);
May 20, Mosport Park (Feature);
June 16, Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit (with CART);
June 30, Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland (with CART);
July 21, Sears Point (with ALMS); Aug. 5, Portland (with ALMS);
Aug. 18, Motorola 220 Weekend at Road America (with CART);
Sept. 9, Laguna Seca (with ALMS);
Oct. 6, Texaco Grand Prix of Houston (with CART);
TBA, San Diego Grand Prix (Feature).