TA2 has hit Australia and soon, their 21st century Trans Am V8s could be everywhere…
by Heath McAlpine
Images: Dewi Jones
A NEW class of racing that has taken the US and Scandinavia by storm has just been introduced in Australia with category organisers expecting it to do the same in on our shores.
Queenslanders Craig Harris and Peter Robinson are the organisers of the TA2 category, which pits Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and soon Dodge Challenger-bodied spaceframe racecars against each other. TA2 has proven popular in Australia, with the first nine cars sold unseen – and a further eight are in transit from the Howe Racing Enterprises shop in Beaverton, Michigan.
The series originated after Robinson purchased a car and it impressed Harris so much that he thought a series for these types of cars was a good idea.
“Originally Peter Robinson brought one in and he was going to race it in the Queensland Sports Sedan and Invited Cars Series,” said Harris, “and I said to him that they were a magnificent car. They’re safe, strong, fast, I think we should start a series. It came from there, so I said, ‘let’s get this series together’.”
Harris is not surprised by their popularity, as the cars provide a low cost alternative control formula and it is up to the driver and team to make the right set up decisions and get the most out of the car.
“It’s a turnkey genuine racecar, it’s $120,000 with a spares package,” explained Harris.
“You’ve got a series that all the engines are exactly the same and they are sealed when they get into Australia. The gearboxes are exactly the same and they’re sealed as well when they arrive in Australia, and in our rules the
ECU’s a sealed unit, you can’t mess with that.
“The only things you can change on the car is suspension. You can change springs, but you can’t change shock absorbers – but you can change the valving and rollbars. There’s a series brake pad but in that there’s a soft-knit and a hard-knit compound, which means you can make a choice of those pads. You can change diff ratios; they have a quick-change diff in them, so you can change the diff ratio in about five minutes.”
Experienced racer Ian McAllister, who is now heading up TA2 in NSW, is excited about the potential of the series and is looking to run with Stock Cars Australia next year with rounds to be held at Winton, Wakefield Park and Sydney Motorsport Park. After dabbling in an Oz Truck for a while, McAllister was impressed by the quality workmanship and performance of the TA2 cars.
“They are beautifully made,” he said.
“Howe have been doing it a long time, so they know what they’re doing and the cages are sensational. They [the engines] only do 6500RPM but there still quite fast.
“You can gear them to do 270km/h with the best gears we get here; I suppose you could go to 300km/h if you geared correctly. I think it’s just a fantastic car, everything’s quite simple but everything in it is for a racecar, it’s strong and tough.”
All cars feature the same fuel-injected, 390Kw, Chevrolet LS3 motor, with a G-Force 4-speed gearbox, a quick-change diff and the same spaceframe chassis underneath. The category has employed its own engine builder to look after all competitors’ engines to maintain parity in the class.
“In two to three seasons you might have to send it out,” says Harris. “We have a series engine builder, who will look after all the engines, and we don’t tell you who it is.
“The engines come out of the car to Trans Am race headquarters, they go from there to the engine builder, they come back to us and we give them back to you. In the series we have enough spares; for example let’s say some major drama happens and you actually cut an engine in half, you throw a conrod through the side of the block, for $10,500 we’ll send you a brand new engine.”
McAllister is impressed by the longevity and wear on parts such as pads and tyres, while the costs for spares are quite low.
“I’ve been looking at my disc pads and I thought they would be worn by now,” says McAllister, “but honestly they have hardly worn and they have done five of our meetings now. So the brake wear is nothing.
“Now, we have just discovered things with the tyres, the pressures that we got off the guys in America, the tyres look like they’ll last three meetings and be competitive the whole way, and a set of tyres is only $1200. The wheels are only $120 each. The Americans get three or four seasons out of them, easy. The Americans do 100-mile (160km) races over there and we’re doing 10-lappers.”
A recent showing at the Muscle Car Masters meeting had both McAllister and Harris impressed by the level of interest in the cars and kept very busy for the weekend. The plan for the future of the series is to have 24 cars as part of a franchise system in each state. Eight of each type of body style would make up the 24-car field.
In Queensland the current numbers are four Mustangs and five Camaros, and there are a couple of Challengers and more Mustangs and Camaros are on the way. To add to the attractions for 2017 a couple of Americans have shown interest in racing down under.
“We went to the States mid-year, we went to the Mid-Ohio Trans Am TA2 race and we met with the head of Trans Am America and we’re in dialogue with them to discuss opportunities,” said Harris.
“John Andretti and Gar Robinson both want to come out to Australia for next year and race in our series. At this stage we’re thinking the ideal time to have them come out here and drive our cars would be at next year’s Muscle Car Masters.”
Harris would like to see TA2 cars fight for a national title but admits it’s probably two to three years away, but feels the relatively inexpensive costs to buy and run these cars, the lure of racing a muscle car and linking with the classic Trans Am class will prove attractive to competitors and promoters.
“The whole reason to bring that series to Australia is it is not chequebook racing,” Harris says.
“It is good, fast, clean racing that requires a very small budget. Once you buy the car, as long as you don’t crash it, it is inexpensive. We have a rule that you can only use two new tyres a meeting, so it’s very cost effective. You can compare it to some of the other categories out there and the money that you’re spending to hop into some of those other categories, it’s way cheaper.”
The only disappointment for McAllister is that he can’t run a Ford Coyote engine but hopes the class may become a pathway for young drivers to progress to an eventual career in Supercars.
“I’m a bit disappointed we can’t get a Ford engine out because that would be fantastic for me but when we looked at the bits and pieces needed to do it and the extra cost was about $10,000. They have to alter the chassis a bit because the Coyote is pretty wide at the top and it wouldn’t fit in and I need all the room I can get anyway, so it was easier to leave the Chev engine. We expect to see a lot of young guys come over to this to go into something else, to move on [to Kumho or the Dunlop Series]. I think it would be a great nursery for young fellas because it’s reasonably affordable.”
There are 87 TA2 cars so far in the USA – and 96 in Scandinavia, plus 17 in Central America, one in Spain and several orders have been placed for Asia. More are coming our way – and there are rumours that a Supercar team owner is showing interest in getting one himself…
Date posted: January 11, 2017