The idea occured to John Bishop back in 1970. The RS category would be based on limited modifications to the cars. This new race series should feature :
- Compacts and sub-compacts
- Restrictive rules
- Low-cost preparation
- Roll cages
- Big fields
- Close racing
- Street radial tires
The Baby Grand series was created in 1971 to provide an inexpensive entry to the world of road racing. This series featured sub-compact sedans which would bring highly contested races with street tires. A lot of components, such as carburetion, bore, stroke and port size, had to remain stock, while the suspension could be altered by one inch. The use of street tires was the key to competition, with the manufacturers having a chance at testing their products in a fierce competition. In 1972, however, BF Goodrich would become the main sponsor of the series. It would be called the BF Goodrich Radial Trophy Series in 1972. It did not prevent the other tire manufacturers to enter the series, however. BF Goodrich dropped sponsorship midway through 1976. The series later became the Goodyear then the Champion Spark Plug Challenge. Battling for position would be the hallmark of the series.
Technically speaking, this category was intended to promote interest in race competition for volume-produced cars familiar to the American public. To generate publicity for competing drivers, entrants and manufacturers. The goal was to encourage individuals to become active competitors to enable and compete in professional races with modest investments and maintenance costs.
Cars egilible should have been produced and marketed in sufficient volume, so that cars and parts may be obtained easily. They should be marketed in the USA as 1968, 1969, 1970 or 1971 models. Ford Pintos, AMC Gremlins, BMW 2002s, Dodge Colts, Volvo 122s or Mazda RX2s were the cars you were supposed to watch.
They had to be be able to seat 4-average-sized adults comfortably at the same time. They had to be produced with an integral hardtop. Wheelbase was set at about 105 inches.
All components had to be identical to those produced and delivered to the public in the USA.
-Doors had to be pinned or bolted shut.
-Roll bars of approved design were mandatory in all cars.
-Passenger seats, seat backs, mats and other loose gear had to be removed.
-Hoods and deck lids had to be secured with pins or straps in addition to their normal latches.
-Steering lock mechanisms must be removed.
-Headlight bulbs had to be protected against breakage and the socket covered with non shattering material. Functional wiring should remain installed.
-Metal bulkheads had to be installed to separate the driver from the fuel tank.
-Shock absorbers could be modified or replaced with others installed in the original supports and brackets, provided that riding height is not affected by more than 1" from standard. Anti-sway bars, torque rods and similar axle-locating devices may be added or substituted.
-Original wheels could be strengthened but had to remain of size and offset specified for that model. All four wheels had to be of the same dimension.
-Standard brakes had to be used, but could be modified as follows : any dual master cylinders and pressure equalizing devices could be used, lining material was free and hand brake could be removed.
-Battery may be replaced with another of same voltage, similar size and weight, and installed in original location. Any make of ignition coil, condenser, spark plugs, fuses, relays and regulators of original type could be used. Any battery ignition system could be used.
-Engine and drive train was required to be as produced in combination with body and chassis of each recognized make and model. All components had to be mounted in standard location, with no material added. Cylinder head could be ported and polished; however, inlet and exhaust port sizes at the manifold face could not exceed the dimensions specified for the model engine concerned. Engine could be blueprinted and balanced. Pistons and piston rings were free.The valve train were free, their basic type and location of valves could not be changed. Exhaust manifold were free and standard oil sump had to be retained. Vents, breathers and oil filters could be added or substituted, but no oil cooler could be added. Any radiator, which could fit the standard location could be used, provided they did not modify the car's appearance. Fuel pumps were free in type, size and number. Axle ratios were limited in those listed for the mke and model concerned.
-The following components could be added or replaced with others of any origin : nuts, bolts, screws, washers and fasteners, electrical wiring, gaskets and seals, fuel and brake lines, any bearings of standard dimensions and type, drive belts and bushings.
Of course, a full roll cage was required.
The very first race took place in 1969, at Talledega Superspeedway road course. Razey Fizzell won that very first race in an Alfa Romeo GTV. The series first year was 1970, with only two races. One was held at Summit Point, and the second one was held at Montgomery Speedway. Razey Fizzell won the first race and Red Farmer took the second one in a Datsun 510. This race was to be the last RS race Razey Fizzell would compete in, as some local racers had brought in their cars with their protruding wheels which would rub his Alfa Romeo GTV. He then quit the series forever. Two classes were introduced from 1970 through 1973 :
- Class A for under 2,0L or 1,6L with overhead cam
- Class B for over 2,0L or over 1,6L with overhead cam up until 3,8L.
Copyright Mark Windecker
-George Alderman was the series Class A 1971 Champion, driving a Datsun 510, Byron Morris won class B in a BMW 2002.
-In 1972, Earl Fellin drove his BMW 2002 to the class B Championship by a single point over Carson Baird's Ford Pinto. Steve Coleman won the title in class A in an Opel Manta.
-In 1973, Nick Craw, driving a BMW 2002 and Amos Johnson, in a Gremlin, finished tied in points until the end.
Carson Baird won the class A Championship, driving a Dodge Colt. Ten races were held, all in the eastern half of the United States. Mazda took its first professional win at Lime Rock, with Pat Bedard driving the famous Car and Driver RX2. He finished third in points.
-In 1974, all cars were placed in one class, and cars under 1,6L were allowed free carburetion. Limited preparation was permitted, but the origjnal rules required the cars to retain headlights, seats, upholstery, window cranks, stock brakes and original springs and radial tires. The exhaust systems and shock absorbers were free. Later, the rules regarding all this stuff would soften and engine modifications similar to the SCCA B sedan class were permitted. Overboring was not allowed, however. Stock carburetors were required, but modifications were allowed. Springs and alignment were free. The series was loosely based on the SCCA Trans Am's Two-Five Challenge. Nick Craw lost the Championship in the last race of the season to George Alderman, who drove an AMC Gremlin.
-Nick Craw won the 1975 Goodrich Radial Challenge series, driving a BMW 2002, Amos Johnson finished second in a AMC Gremlin.
-1976 was one of the best years for the series, with a wide variety of cars. Only Goodrich T/A tires were allowed. The series was split in two, with Goodrich winding up its participation and Goodyear stepping in. Carson Baird took both titles.
In 1977, Don Devendorf won six times, and he grabbed his first racing title. The series became the Champion Spark Plug Challenge, a name which was retained for seven years. Jerry Grant was named the series representative, working with the drivers, crews and manufacturers to help promote the series. He also had to ensure each event was a success. Hosted dinners became commonplace and a $10000 point fund was now available.
-In 1978, the series officailly became the Champion Spark Plug Challenge, with Jerry Grant becoming Champion's representative. He would co-ordinate Champion's sponsorship. Walt Bohren had three wins and many consistent finishes, and he won the title in his Mazda RX2. Two 6 Hour races were introduced, and they counted toward the World Challenge for Endurance Drivers.
-Roger Mandeville won the 1979 Championship in his Mazda RX3, and Renault scored its first victory with Patrick Jacquemart at the wheel. Many drivers took victories, including Tom Waugh, Roger Mandeville, Pete Harrison, Gene Felton, James Reeve and Jim Downing.
-Rob McFarlin took the 1980 Championship in his Datsun 200SX. taking five victories. Jim Downing was his fiercest opponent, with three wins, losing the title by eight points.
-The 1981 season would be one to remember, with Jim Downing having a fantastic season end, winning the four last races from the pole! The racing was tough between him and Roger Mandeville and Joe Varde. It was a Mazda year.
Copyright Mark Windecker
-In 1982, a rather unknown driver, Chuck Ulinski emerged as a winner after taking two wins and several high finishes.
-Joe Varde won the 1983 Championship in a Dodge Charger, he was challenged by Kal Showket, who took five wins in a similar car.
-A big change occured in 1984, with the introduction of the ProFormance front wheel drive sedans. Those cars would dominate the series. It was also a Renault year, with Tommy and Bobby Archer dominating the season. Tommy took the title in his Renault Alliance, taking seven wins.
1971 Baby Grand
George Alderman class A Champion Datsun 510
Byron Morris class B Champion BMW 2002
1972 BF Goodrich Radial Trophy Series
Steve Coleman class A Champion Opel Manta
Earl Fellin class B Champion BMW 2002
1973 Goodrich Radial Challenge
Carson Baird class A Champion Dodge Colt
Amos Johnson class B co Champion AMC Gremlin
Nick Craw class B co Champion BMW 2002
1974 Goodrich Radial Challenge
George Alderman Champion AMC Gremlin
1975 Goodrich Radial Challenge
Nick Craw Champion BMW 2002
1976 Goodrich Radial Challenge
Carson Baird Champion Dodge Colt
1976 IMSA Radial Challenge
Carson Baird Champion Dodge Colt
1976 the series was split into two different series, the Goodrich sponsorship ended half way through the year. Goodyear would step in.
1977 Executive Motorhome Challenge
Don Devendorf Datsun B210
Champion Spark Plug Challenge
1978 Walt Bohren Mazda RX2
1979 " Roger Mandeville Mazda RX3
1980 " Rob Mcfarlin Datsun 200SX
1981 " Jim Downing Mazda RX3
1982 " Chuck Ulinski Mazda RX3
1983 " Joe Varde Dodge Charger
1984 " Tommy Archer Renault Alliance
It was the final season for the RS series. The following seasons would see a tremendous domination by the ProFormance cars. The series would later be renamed after the IMSA Showroom Stock and later International Sedan series.
Many thanks to Brian Walsh, who provided me with helpful information.