Roots of the Can-Am

1963

In 1963 the SCCA created the United States Road Racing Championship. It was their first attempt at a professional-level road racing championship. This series included the large club events throughout the spring and summer. This was meant to bridge the gap between the amateur gentlemen drivers of the SCCA, and the hot-rod types that wanted to get a small payday out of their racing efforts.

There was a very similar championship in Canada, with many of the teams racing on both sides of the border.

GT Classes

While the series top level was the open sports-racer class, they also ran a concurrent GT championship until 1965. The first year was a single class of large-bore Shelby Cobras, Corvettes and the occasional Jaguar or Ferrari GTO. An under 2.0 litre class was added for 1964 and 1965.

USRRC 1963

Place

Car
Sponsor

Car # Class

Model

Ref. #

Image

USRRC - Laguna Seca
1Lotus 23 Ford
Chuck Parsons
10
2.0
Spark
S0261
17Ferrari Dino 196 SP
Doug Thiem
(Error: Box lists "Riverside")
1
2.0
Art Model
ART033
DNFFerrari 250 GTO
Ed Cantrell
9
GT
Box
8433 
Bang
433
USRRC - Road America
DNFPorsche 718 RS61
Don Wester
50
S 2.0
Minichamps
430 636560
DNSFerrari 290 MM
James Flynn
48
Art Model
ART249

No name, no championship, no problem...

The USAC Road Racing Championship was discontinued after 1962, despite growing fan interest. The big money-paying 200-mile events in the autumn still went on, but without an overall championship points system. Many of the top F1 drivers competed in these during the North American rounds of the GP season. There were races at Kent, Riverside, and Laguna Seca.

The entry list for these races often included the biggest international drivers and teams of the era, with Chaparral, Ferrari (NART), Shelby, and Lotus often creating dedicated cars for this mini-season.

In some ways, this nameless series of races was the purest expression of motorsport that has ever existed. It was considered to be "Group 9" in the FIA Yellow Book.

1963 "Fall Season"

Track

Organizer

Comments

Mosport

CRDC

Canada GP

Riverside

CSCC

L.A. Times GP

Laguna Seca

SCRAMP

Pacific Grand Prix

Kent, Washington

?

Pacific Northwest Grand Prix

'Fall Season' 1963

Place

Car
Sponsor

Car # Class

Model

Ref. #

Image

Canadian Grand Prix - Mosport
1Ferrari 250 P
Pedro Rodriguez
5
S +2.0
Art Model
ART225
DNFFerrari 250 P
John Surtees
4
S +2.0
Art Model
ART155
L.A. Times Grand Prix - Riverside
4Ferrari 250P
John Surtees
11
O2L
Art Model
ART251
L.A. Times Grand Prix - Riverside (Preliminary GT Race)
2Shelby Cobra
'Coventry Motors'
Allen Grant
96
Bang
7292
Pacific Grand Prix - Laguna Seca
11Shelby Cobra 'Coventry Motors'
Allen Grant
96
Bang
421
   Box
8421 
12Lotus 23B
Graham Hill
1
S +2.0
Spark
S0254
Nassau Speed Weeks
3Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Roger Penske
50
GTP
Eagle's Race
2009
4Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Augie Pabst
65
GTP
Eagle's Race
2008
6Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Dick Thompson
80
GTP
Eagle's Race
2003
7Ferrari Dino 196 SP
Bob Grossman
90
S 2.0
Art Model
090

1964

United States Road Racing Championship 1964

Place

Car
Sponsor

Car # Class

Model

Ref. #

Image

USRRC - Augusta (GT)
5Porsche 356B Carrera Abarth GTL
Chuck Cassel
50
GT 2.0
Best
9458
USRRC - Laguna Seca
DNFCheetah GT
Jerry Titus
58
O2L
Spark
S1451
USRRC - Road America '500'
3Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Roger Penske
Jim Hall
Hap Sharp
67
O2L
Eagle's Race
2006
DNFCheetah GT
Ralph Salyer
(Roof removed to create 'Cro-Sal Special')
26
O2L
Spark
S1453

The 'Group 9' series attracted more attention, and there was a dedicated series in the UK, where Lotus, Brabham, and Lister took part.

American Challenge Cup

The Daytona Continental race was GT-only in 1964, so they held a one-off support race for sports racers. The Porsche 904 had not been officially homologated, so it ran in its debut race as a prototype.

Non-Championship Races 1964

Place

Car
Sponsor

Car # Class

Model

Ref. #

Image

Daytona - 'American Challenge Cup' (Non-Championship)
1Scarab Mk. IV
A. J. Foyt
35
Spark
S1165
13Cheetah GT
Ralph Salyer
14
Spark
S1452
DNFPorsche 904
Chuck Cassel
50
Minichamps
400 646550
HighSpeed
HF9191B
L.A. Times Grand Prix - Riverside
3Lotus 30
Jim Clark
(Includes driver figure; unusual for a sports-racing model)
15
O2L
Spark
S2187
DNFMcLaren Elva Mark I
Bruce McLaren
2
O2L
Spark
S1101
DNFCheetah GT
Mike Jones
33
O2L
Spark
S1454
DNFCheetah GT
Allen Grant
81
O2L
Spark
S1455
Nassau Speed Weeks - Tourist Trophy
1Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Roger Penske
82
GTP +5.0
TrueScale
TSM164317
Nassau Speed Weeks - Nassau Trophy
2Mclaren Elva Mark I
Bruce McLaren
5
S +5.0
Spark
S1103
3Ferrari 330P
Pedro Rodriguez
10
S 5.0
Art Model
217

1965

Team Shelby American

By far the most famous car of this era is Ken Miles' #98 Shelby Cobra (289), which won the 1965 GT chamionship. There are many examples of this car in all scales of models (especially 1:1).

Ken Miles also raced one of the very first 427 Cobras (Chassis CSX3002) in the Prototype class at Riverside. While the cars had similar paint schemes, the 289 and 427 are completely different and are often confused. This was the only time that the Shelby American team raced a 427 Cobra in top-level competition. The car had not been homologated so it ran in the Prototype class.

Possibly as the result of shifting fan and competitor interest, the GT class was eliminated in 1966. In its place, the Trans-Am championship was created for pony cars in the AS (Sedan) class.

Riverside L.A. Times GP - The All-Time High Water Mark?

The entry list for this race was off the fucking chain. If you were a race car driver in 1965 and were not there, well then just go bag your face...

Jim Clark scored an excellent second-place finish with the notoriously shitty Lotus 40.

Chaparral 2

The fearsome white Chaparral cars absolutely dominated 1965. Who could have predicted that they would only win only one Can-Am race?

The aforementioned Lotus 40, and its notorious shittiness...

Team Lotus launched a full scale assault on "Group 9" racing in 1965. Jim Clark ran a full season of the British Sports Car Championship in the spring. For the "Fall Season" Ritchie Ginther and A.J. Foyt were added. Regretfully, all of this talent was wasted as the type 40 was easily the worst object to ever roll out of Coventry. There were numerous design issues, but the inherent flexibility of the wish-bone chassis made the car practically undriveable. (A.J. parked his after a few laps of the season-ending Nassau race in disgust...)

United States Road Racing Championship 1965

Place

Car
Sponsor

Car # Class

Model

Ref. #

Image

1Chaparral 2
Jim Hall
66
S +2.0
Auto Art
66956
1Shelby Cobra (289)
Ken Miles
98
GT +2.0
Bang
7341
USRRC - Pensacola
1Lotus 23
George Follmer
16
S +2.0
Spark
S0255
USRRC - Riverside (Prototypes)
DNFShelby Cobra 427
Ken Miles
98
S +2.0
Kyosho
03016BL
Mosport Player's 200 (Part of the Canadian Sports Car Championship)
1Lola T70 Spider
John Surtees
11
Class 2
Best
9614
DNFLola T70 Spider
Hugh Dibley
5
Class 2
Best
9194