Seventeen cars showed up for the penultimate round of the Trans-Am series at Riverside. Only six of those seventeen were TA2 brats. Yet, the front row was once more an exclusive European afaire. Goissen had grabbed pole for BMW with Lepihive second in his trusty Escort.
Goissen’s pole lap had been over a second faster than the first of the 5 liter hulks, an honor that befell new boy Lengyel in one of the Firebirds. He shared the second row with Parker who was back to give Plaçais a run for his money in the TA1-class.
Dutchman Remmen made another appearance in his Camaro, but it would turn out to be a short lived race for François. The starting flag had not even dropped, or his electrics bought the farm. There was no option but to retire.
As the flag dropped, Goissen shot away in the lead. Lepihive got caught out by both Lengyel and Parker and fell back to 4th.
It would be a short race for rookie Lengyel however. He overcooked his engine and, barely two laps into the race, one of his the pistons in his engine set sail for a mission to the stars in a cloud of white smoke.
That moved Lepihive back to third and the French Ford man immediately started catching back Plaçais. On lap 5, Plaçais’ big Cuda conceded second to Lepihive. The white Escort went looking for Goissen.
The opening laps had meanwhile claimed more victims and before the leaders had started lap 10, Martinelli, Detroit Star White, Gibelin and Corliss had all crashed out. Leaving a field of barely 11 cars for the remaining 70 laps. The race was heading towards another bland afternoon.
Ben Paulet retired. Raul Jereb got a call from one of the pit sirens and, truly a sailor at heart, could not resist.
Dana Schurer overcooked turn 2 and destroyed her Javelin against a wall. An almost certain 3rd place finish in TA1 went out the door.
Goissen’s race was meanwhile deteriorating. Several little mistakes had allowed Lepihive to reduce the distance between the Beemer and the Ford to almost nada. Lepihive was patiently abiding his time in Greg’s wake till the Bavarian car needed to pit for fuel.
Lephive stayed out and pitted some laps later but needed much less fuel, allowing the Escort to stay in the lead.
Goissen engaged into a crazy pursuit but would end his race shortly afterwards, crashing his BMW on lap 68. Caught by the paparazzi, he complained about his car being somewhat sluggish in responding to driving inputs.
The fiercely yellow Javelin of Parker and Plaçais’ pristine white Barracuda were meanwhile having an occasionally breathtaking squabble over what became 2nd place after Goissen’s retirement. It would end in tears when they approached Ryon’s Challenger and prepared to lap the Belgian driver. Gerard was anxious to let the fast cars through and braked hard on the exit of turn 1. Plaçais shot passed. But Parker could not avoid the Challenger and hit him hard in the back. His car was crippled and the Brit was happy to salvage a distant 3rd.
Up front no one was able to trouble Lepihive. The French Ford-man drove to a crushing victory, securing the championship with it.
Even if not the most appropriate for the voluptuous TA1 tarts on paper, Riverside turned out to be a good turn-out for the American muscle brokers. Plaçais came home second, albeit one lap down on Lepihive.
Parker salvaged third in his stricken Javelin. Enough to keep the fight for the final championship spoils in the TA1-class wide open.
Ray Riddall, again drafted in by Alfa, came home fourth. Ryon and Titz rounded out the top 6.
There was an abundance of champagne in the Ford boots after the race. While as Plaçais’ Plymouth boys and Parker’s AMC crew already started preparations for the final leg at Laguna Seca. Where everything was left to play for in the TA1-class.