Cameron Lawrence on “coming home” to Trans Am, TA2
February 23, 2017
Two-time champ and newly formed Class Auto team, ready to tackle 2017 season, Sebring opener
For Cameron Lawrence, returning to full competition in the Trans Am Series’ TA2 class after a year away is not a comeback, it is coming home.
With 20 wins and two championships in TA2, Lawrence remains the all-time winningest TA2 driver in Trans Am history. Now with recently formed Class Auto Motorsports and behind the wheel of the No. 19 Class Auto Centers Chevrolet Camaro, Lawrence is returning to the Series where he launched his career, with both car and driver ready to make their season debut on March 5 at Sebring International Raceway for Round 1 of the 2017 Trans Am Championship, presented by Pirelli.
After three seasons with Miller Racing and mentor Mike Miller, Lawrence has been welcomed into the Class Auto paddock, which is currently in the midst of finalizing preparations on their twin Chevrolet Camaros, Lawrence’s No. 19 and team owner Ray Neveau’s No. 29, for the quickly approaching Sebring opener. Lawrence knows this is a new effort and that all things take time; and while he is keeping his expectations in check, he still aims for success.
“The Class Auto team is a really good group of guys,” said Lawrence. “Having worked everything out so early last year with Ray, getting ready for 2017 has been an easy transition. I was in the paddock with them through the homestretch—we had the entirety of the end of last season to put our plans together and figure everything out. The season sneaks up on you— it always does—but we’ve had the time needed to get everything in order. It’s been fun working with them and building a new car— everyone loves new cars—and Ray was kind enough to have this one built to my specifications. Once we get through all the fine-tuning, I don’t see why we can’t achieve the levels of success we want this year.”
Pictured Above: Larwrence's new No. 19 Camaro durring testing PC @CLawrenceRacing
While the cars and the team may be new, there is definitely a certain level of familiarity about everything for Lawrence, who is stepping back into a red Chevrolet Camaro with a Katech LS3 under the hood—the same combination that he rode to his first TA2 Championship in 2013.
“It’s exciting to be back in a Katech-powered Camaro, it takes me back to the beginning with Miller Racing,” added Lawrence. “It’s a red car and looks almost identical to the car I started with just a few years ago; and while there’s a new number and a new chassis, it’s like coming home. We’re going to be on new tires, but I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work as a test driver with Pirelli through the process so I’ve had a little more time with them and expect them to be fast. It’ll be odd not working with Chas Howe after doing so for so long, but I’ve known Mike Cope for even longer and I’m looking forward to the experience of working with him as we dial in our car.”
“These are still definitely the cars I’ve spent the most time behind the wheel of during my career,” continued Lawrence. “Like I said, it’s almost like coming home—I’ve just had so much seat time. That’s not saying you don’t have to get used to them again, they’re unlike anything out there—just the rawness of the platform. You don’t have all that technology helping you out and you have to go at 11/10ths or you can’t cut it. Still, it’s definitely a comfort zone. Once I get back to pushing the car at the speeds we want to go with the smells and sounds that come with it, the muscle memory will come back and then that’s my happy place.”
Despite being away for nearly a full season (Lawrence made one off appearances at the Detroit exhibition and Daytona in 2016), Lawrence sees the current-day TA2 class as very similar to its early days.
“I don’t see too much having changed,” said Lawrence. “We’re set for 34 TA2 cars at Sebring, but I think we’ll see car counts continue to grow again with the technical rules pretty much set— with the bodywork laid out and the fuel injection done, I see TA2 back to along the lines of where the class started. A lot of the same faces are still here too, with some new ones as well, and it’s all just making for better, stronger competition— those are all things you want. I’m just excited to get back in a competitive TA2 car and go as fast as we can and compete for wins, and if we get the chance… compete for a championship.”
Pictured Above: Lawrence looks on as Miller Racing debutes the TA2 Challenger in 2014, the year of his second championship.
One element that has changed for 2017 are the venues and events Trans Am visits on the circuit, including the addition of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the slate.
“I’m very excited for Detroit,” said Lawrence, “and really that’s because of the company we’ll have. Being with Indy Car and IMSA— drivers always say you want to race with the best of the best, but I believe it goes for series as well. You want to try and be the lead attraction on some weekends, but to showcase our talents and our cars on that weekend alongside some of the best drivers in the world, it’s exciting. Then to be there at Detroit with those fans and the industry members that attend, it’s a big opportunity. It’s a really fun configuration too; I ran well there last year and hope to do so again in 2017.”
“I’ve actually never been to Indy,” continued Lawrence. “But just being on the brickyard—it’s on everyone’s dream list— so I’m sure it’ll bring the cars out. You just don’t get that many opportunities in road racing to visit Indy. It will be difficult for sure, the track configuration we’ll use is tricky and just being there is an eye-opener.”
While the team and car might be new and in need of some fine-tuning, Lawrence has the advantage of starting the 2017 Championship on the familiar grounds of Sebring International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway in his home state of Florida—both tracks where he’s undefeated in TA2 competition with three wins at Sebring and two at Homestead.
“It’s something I’ve talked about,” said Lawrence, “We’re trying to be realistic with our expectations having a brand new car and new tires, but yes it’s certainly kind of a home-track advantage. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep my streaks going; I believe I have that pace to go out and win and compete as much as I can. Everyone on this team is experienced with cars at a high level, so I’m going to lean on that advantage but I know these TA2 machines and I definitely know these tracks and that’s something I’m going to do my best to take advantage of as well.”
Pictured above: Lawrence interviewd after winning TA2 at Road Atlanta in 2015
Lawrence expects the TA2 competition to be fierce this season, with some very familiar faces vying for the championship; but it’s a challenge he’s ready to embrace. Even with 20 wins and two championships, he feels he has something to prove.
“Mike Cope is going to have several fast drivers under his tent—we expect that,” said Lawrence. “Then there are the past two champions, Tony Buffomante and Gar Robinson; it’s safe to say they are always going to be upfront. I also expect Adam Andretti and Dillon Machaven to bring a lot of competition to the races this year. And I’m sure some new faces will show up and challenge, especially in the future as Trans Am continues to grow and more and more drivers step up. But I know those four guys will be fast and contending.”
“Having been on the sidelines, watching last year, coaching some, and even driving in a few one-offs—I’m definitely ready to get back behind the wheel,” continued Lawarence. “I want to come show everyone that those 20 wins and two championships were no joke. I know I can do it and I know the team can do it. We have to be realistic, but our goal isn’t to ride around in the top five, top 10 and call it a day. We want to win three or four races and grab plenty of podiums. There’s definitely a desire to compete and a chip on my shoulder— I want to show them what was missing and go for the win.”
You can see Cameron Lawrence, the TA2 class and the entirety of the Trans Am Series, presented by Pirelli, at Sebring International Raceway on March 3-5 for Round 1 of the 2017 Trans Am Championship alongside the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association.
You can follow Cameron Lawrence on Twitter at @CLawrenceRacing and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cameronlawrenceracing/