By the center 1960s, highway racing in America had loved regular progress; spreading from Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake within the late ’40s, to tracks all throughout the American panorama. Some tracks, like Florida’s Sebring circuit, was nothing greater than a transformed Military Air Corps coaching subject for America’s aviators through the Second World Warfare. Different tracks, like California’s Riverside Raceway, had been objective constructed to embrace America’s new discovered affection for a type of motor sport that was inherently European.
American auto producers had been a bit much less keen to embrace this new discovered love. The center 1950s was a tragic time in highway racing, significantly at Europe’s largest occasion held each June at Le Mans in France. These tragic occurrences led to the American motor automotive trade to kind a racing ban in 1957, which formally meant that there could possibly be no factory-backed racing efforts for America’s auto producers. The producers knew that racing, particularly highway racing, was wanted to develop and check new merchandise and applied sciences that the businesses had been creating for his or her line of avenue vehicles. Many firms labored “below the desk” in a authorities model “black ops” type of method to get their merchandise into the palms of racers to be able to get the data they had been after to develop their merchandise additional.
The one factor that could not preserve the racing ban in place was America’s youth. The early 1960s noticed a inhabitants of younger Individuals that had been captivated by the popular culture and technological developments of their time. In 1964, Ford Motor Firm fired one of many largest photographs the automotive trade has ever seen, by unveiling the all new Mustang. The Mustang was small by American requirements of the day, and could possibly be powered by Ford’s venerable new small block V-8. Would-be racers rapidly gravitated in the direction of the brand new automotive, which had its personal oblique efficiency elements growth program all prepared going for it because of Carroll Shelby and his Ferrari-eating Cobras that had been stalking the world’s highway race circuits since 1962. With the assistance of the SCCA and the rising variety of tracks in North America to race at, Mustangs rapidly skilled fast success on the monitor. This left the opposite American producers scrambling to provide you with a treatment for Ford’s dominance in highway racing, and the SCCA was all too keen to offer the right setting for such a shoot out to happen.
For the 1966 season, the SCCA introduced that they’d sanction a brand new sequence entitled “Trans Am”. This sequence would contain showroom-stock production-type machines that had been available to the North American public. The principles allowed for 2 lessons of competitors inside one occasion. The primary class was that of manufacturing vehicles over two liters of engine displacement, or O2L. The second class was for manufacturing vehicles with an engine displacement of fewer than two liters, or U2L. Whereas the European makes had been to dominate the U2L class; American producers and highway racers alike had their targets mounted on the O2L class, the place they might run giant V-8s of their strains of compact coupes. Whereas Mustang had an higher hand in numbers of groups and vehicles, that they had greater than a handful of competitors from very enthusiastic groups selecting to go a special route than Ford’s pony automotive. Considered one of these groups that cut up from the trail laid out by Ford’s Whole Efficiency Program was Group 44 Racing.
Group 44 Racing was fathered by Bob Tullius, a younger racer that began his profession within the early 1960s working within the Mid-Atlantic Area and dealing his method onto the American highway racing scene. For the 1966 season, Tullius and Group 44 accomplice Dick Gilmartin organized to run a brand new Dodge Dart within the inaugural Trans Am season. Bob has at all times had a repute for exceptionally excessive requirements, a lot of which has proven within the success of Group 44 through the years, however nonetheless his excessive requirements could make him a bit robust to get on with infrequently. Dick Gilmartin had secured Group 44 the sponsorship of Quaker State Motor Oil, solely to grow to be a casualty of the ever growing requirements inside Group 44. The Quaker State cash stayed with Group 44 Racing although, and the American Racing White Dodge Dart took to the monitor for the primary time on March 25, 1966 at Sebring, Florida. With Gilmartin having left the staff, younger Tony Adamowicz was requested by Bob to face in as co-driver for the 4 hour Sebring Trans Am occasion.
Tony Adamowicz was gaining fame as he racked up occasion wins within the Sports activities Automotive Membership of America’s North East Area driving a Volvo PV-544. Bob got here to acknowledge Tony’s achievements piloting Sweden’s heavy metallic sled, and requested Tony to co-drive with him on the 1966 Sebring occasion. The outcome was spectacular, with Tony and Bob ending second general behind a U2L Alfa Romeo pushed by future F1 World Champion Jochen Rindt. The Group 44 Dart gained the O2L class and set the stage for a number of dynasties to unfold within the years to return.
The little white Dart, with a blueprinted 273 cubic inch engine yielding upwards of 350 horsepower, continued to amaze each the staff and race followers all through the 1966 Trans Am season. The driving duo of Tullius and Adamowicz continued to dominate the Trans Am endurance occasions; ending first on the 12 Hours of Marlboro, sixth at Inexperienced Valley, and second at Riverside. These outcomes gave the Group 44 Dart a prime 5 end within the Championship for the 1966 season.
Issues seemed to be off to a terrific begin for 1967, with Bob driving the Dart to a win on the first race of the season in Daytona, Florida. Success was restricted for the little white Mopar after that occasion as groups with heavy producer assist moved in on the sequence. Bud Moore Racing got here onto the scene with Mercury’s new Cougar XR7 and a quickly to be very well-known staff supervisor from Pennsylvania appeared for 1967 with the all new Camaro by Chevrolet. These two groups debut marked the start of a factory-backed muscle automotive shoot out that might final till 1972 and finally see AMC, a model identified for making essentially the most austere of vehicles, enter and win two titles.
As for the solid of characters behind the Group 44 Dart’s wonderful 1966 season; Bob Tullius would proceed on along with his Group 44 Racing venture for practically two extra a long time, profitable a few of North America’s most prestigious titles at among the continents most well-known circuits. Most notably, Tullius would grow to be concerned with British Leyland and ship excellent outcomes for marques like Triumph and Jaguar.
Tony Adamowicz would depart Group 44 in late 1967, finally to hitch Marv Davidson in 1968 and win the U2L crown in a Porsche 911. Tony would then transfer on to win the 1969 F5000 championship in Milestone Racing’s AAR Eagle Chevy. This then opened the door to drive for Ferrari’s NART (North American Racing Staff) in 1970, some of the completed endurance race groups ever to take to the monitor. Tony continued to drive on the skilled stage of sports activities automotive racing till the late 1980s. Even at this time, Tony continues to be racing, having been reunited along with his 1969 Eagle F5000 automotive by Doug Magnon and driving the Eagle/Chevy to a 2009 F5000 Class Championship in classic racing 40 years after the identical automotive and driver mixture gained the F5000 title in 1969. Tony additionally operates a2zracergear, a web-based retailer for classic racing attire.
Through the years; Group 44 Racing, and people concerned with the staff, have completed some wonderful issues in highway racing. One factor is for sure; with out the hassle put forth by Bob Tullius, Tony Adamowicz, the crew, and the Dodge Dart that made up the 1966 Trans Am marketing campaign; the panorama of highway racing in North America would most positively not be as vivid as it’s at this time.