On This Day in Trans Am History: June 12, 1983
June 12, 2020
June 12, 1983
Making his fourth start in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli, Willy T. Ribbs scored his first major career victory at Portland International Raceway. A native of San Jose, California, Ribbs led final the 37 laps after starting third, driving the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Camaro fielded by Portland’s Neil DeAtley.
“I had been knocking on the door in the first three races of the season, at Palm Beach, Summit Point and Sears Point,” Ribbs recalled. “When we got to Portland, everything worked great. Not just great in how the car performed, but how the race unfolded. We were strong. It was surreal.”
Gene Felton, winner of the season opener at Moroso Motorsports Park, qualified on the pole in the No. 2 Oftedahl Racing Pontiac Trans-Am. Greg Pickett actually posted the fastest qualifying lap – 1:09.47-seconds in the No. 6 Pickett Racing Corvette – but started sixth.
David Hobbs started on the outside of the front row in the No. 29 Budweiser Camaro. The popular Englishman got the jump at the start and led the opening 14 laps before losing the lead to his teammate. Ribbs led the rest of the way, although Pickett closed in during the latter stages of the event. Ribbs finished strong, nosing out Pickett at the finish by .60-seconds.
“There was no doubt I was going to win,” Ribbs recalled. “But it’s not a win until you cross the line. I kept asking myself on the cooldown lap, ‘Did I win?’ I wasn’t quite sure I won, and I kept asking the team. Then, when I got out of the car, that was when it sunk in that I had won the race.”
Tom Gloy rounded out the podium in the No. 8 Lane Sports Racing Mercury Capri, followed by Hobbs and Felton.
Also competing in the 35-car field were Lyn St. James, 11th in the No. 18 Lane Capri, and Paul Newman, 21st in Bob Sharp’s Datsun 280ZX turbo.
Ribbs finished the campaign with five victories and took second in the championship, 10 points behind Hobbs, earning Rookie of the Year honors.
Ribbs went on to compete in 61 Trans Am races, winning 17 of them while recording 37 top-five finishes. When he stepped aside he was the third-leading winner, and as he is proud to point out, “I was the leading money winner when I quit.”
PHOTO: Willy T. Ribbs in 1983 action (Mark Windecker photo)