It was a race of firsts last Sunday when the Trans Am West Coast Championship held its inaugural race at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, CA. The race marked the first time a Trans Am event was hosted at Willow Springs – a track famed for its preserved original layout since it opened in 1953, and was the first time Trans Am has raced on western soil since 2009 at Portland International Raceway.
“Just being able to hold my own in modern Trans Am was exciting to me.” –@adamcarolla https://t.co/gTEVAa7FxX
— CarCast (@CarCastShow) March 30, 2017
But there were more firsts to be had, as Chassy Media’s Adam Carolla contested his first professional race, driving an 850-horsepower Corvette C7.R contested by Burtin Racing, calling it, “The best decision I ever made.”
It was the best decision I ever made. https://t.co/RPDilpHeNQ
— Adam Carolla (@adamcarolla) March 30, 2017
The opportunity to drive for Burtin Racing occurred when Burtin, a professional chemist and entrepreneur who has founded household name brands such as LINE-X and FOAMETIX alongside a successful racing career, was familiar with Adam’s passion for racing, in particular Trans-Am, through some collaborations for their day jobs and by watching Chassy Media’s documentary, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman. After some talks, Carolla was secured for the ride.
The ride itself was a Tony Ave-built Corvette C7.R-bodied Riley Technology-designed tube chassis for Viper’s factory efforts from a couple of years ago, and powered by a Chevy SB2 NASCAR engine modified to Trans-Am’s liberal engine rules. Adam was to drive the No. 33 Go Share branded Corvette, while his teammate Richard Wall, in his Trans-Am return to Trans Am after decades away, drove the No. 7 Welded Fixtures LLC Vette.
Despite having only one practice session with the beast of a racecar and having to learn how to shift with a sequential shifter, Carolla qualified a respectable fifth position out of the six cars in the top TA class (the race itself featured three different classes). But more challenges were to come for Adam in the High Desert Challenge race event.
With only some Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) races, Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity successes, and historic racing experience under his belt, this race was to be Adams’ longest race he had to endure. The race itself was a 100-mile sprint around the 2.5-mile Big Willow circuit – an almost whale-shaped track that Adam had not had great experiences at when racing in the past.
“Willow Springs is like my Moby Dick,” groaned Adam in his latest CarCast Podcast 913. “The last two times I’ve been there, I went off (the track) violently…I just don’t like the track.”
At the start of the race, Adam dropped to sixth and paced himself and his car as the leaders slowly edged away. Thankfully, a blown engine from one of the leading Corvettes promoted Adam back to fifth, and allowed him to catch up to the pack with the subsequent full-course caution.
From there, Adam was able to stay with the leading pack and made a daring late-braking move on the inside of the No. 64 Corvette driven by fellow rookie Ken Davis at the first turn for the final podium position with ten laps to go. This pass would later earn Adam the COOLSHIRT “Cool Move of the Race” award.
The final ten laps saw Adam drive hold off attacks from behind, first from Davis, and then from the hard-charging sports car veteran Greg Pickett in the No. 66 Mustang that was originally battling for the lead before briefly going off the track.
Adam reached the checkered flag in third position, just a half second ahead of Pickett. After the race, the Adam’s exhaustion was apparent even if he had scored a place on the podium.
“When he got out of the car, he looked a little bit gone,” says Burtin. “I kind of looked at him and asked, ‘Hey, how’s your condition?’ and he just kind of walked the other way…You got to give it to him – he didn’t use any cool suits. He raced the old-fashioned way.”
Adam himself was understandably enthusiastic about his experience:
“For me Trans Am has always been huge,” says Adam in the official Trans Am race report. “I have old Trans Am cars from the 70’s and 80’s. I have some 2.5 Trans Am cars from the 70’s and I have Paul Newman cars that were raced in Trans Am. So just the idea of being asked to race in the modern Trans Am was a huge honor. Just being able to hold my own in modern Trans Am was exciting to me.”
With three more races to go in the Trans Am West Coast Championship presented by Pirelli, the next question is whether Adam will continue to race in the championship for the title.
“We’re in negotiations right now,” says Burtin. “I think the bug bit him a little bit.”
For more information about the Trans Am by Pirelli Championship, check out the official Trans-Am website here.
For Adam’s thorough recounting of the race weekend, be sure to check out CarCast episode 913.
For video highlights of the race, watch the compilation video found here.
For more information about Burtin Racing, check out their website.