On This Day in Trans Am History: July 7, 1979
July 7, 2020
July 7, 1979
Bob Akin completed a breakout season while Bob Tullius debuted a new car with victories in their respective classes in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli portion of the Six Hours of Watkins Glen.
Akin quit a promising club racing career in 1961 to concentrate on his family business. After sitting out more than a dozen laps, he began vintage racing and then decided to get serious in 1978. Akin purchased a Porsche 935 in 1978 to try his hand at serious competition. The president of Hudson Wire of Ossining New York took an overall victory in the 1979 12 Hours of Sebring, and brought back that winning lineup when he rejoined McFarland and Woods for the endurance race at Watkins Glen, where Trans-Am competed concurrently with the World Endurance Championship.
Racing legends Peter Gregg and Al Holbert raced in Trans Am and challenged the World Endurance Championship teams for the overall lead before encountering various issues.
Gregg was the top Trans Am II qualifier, running 1:14.114-seconds in the No. 85 Bayside Disposal Porsche 935 he shared with Hurley Haywood and car owner Bruce Leven. Gregg pressured overall pole winner Rolf Stommelen for the lead early in the race before running out of fuel – a mistake that cost the team 10 laps while Haywood had to run with a can of gasoline to the car. Eventually, a failed wheel bearing sidelined the Porsche.
The Hilton Porsche 935 of Holbert and John Paul Sr. took the overall lead and was dominating the Trans Am when a long pit stop for a jammed lug nut cost the team several laps.
A steady race led to the Trans Am victory for the Akin team, finishing third overall behind Klaus Ludwig and brothers Bill and Don Whittington in their own Porsche 935, and the Dick Barbour Porsche 935 of Stommelen, Barbour and Paul Newman.
Second in Trans Am II went to Holbert and Paul, three laps down, followed by Indy 500 star Johnny Rutherford, who shared the second Whittington Porsche with Brian Redman and Don Whittington.
Tullius had a brand-new Group 44 Triumph TR8 for the event, with the team owner putting it on the Trans Am I class pole with a lap of 2:06.159-seconds. Co-driving with Brian Fuerstenau, the team placed seventh overall and won the class by 13 laps ahead of the Corvette of Sam Feinstein, Michael Oleyar and Nick Engels.
Trans Am ran a second Watkins Glen event in 1979, teamed with the debut of CART Indy cars. Bobby Unser beat Roger Penske Racing teammate Rick Mears on the Glen’s 2.428-mile short course, while John Paul Sr. (TA II) and Tullius (TA I) won the Trans Am race on the 3.377-mile long course.
Photo: Bob Tullius unveiled a new Group 44 Triumph-8 for the Trans Am I class in the 1979 Six Hours of the Glen.