Franklin, TN – April 1, 2020 – There are very few, if any, upsides to the current virus crisis but it does give us a chance to take a closer look at some of the teams and cars raring to go when the 2020 Trans Am presented by Pirelli Championship season reconvenes. We took this break from the action as an opportunity to take a glance at one of the leading teams in the newly formulated Trans Am Xtreme GT class.
As we all know, motorsports is an expensive business and sponsorship is all important. If you are either fan of motorcycle races, you know that even a small motorcycle battery for professional bikes is pricey enough. However, in any type of motorsport, the pilot’s safety is the leading priority. So, sponsorship is, first of all, a guarantee of protection and security. Tennessee based Showtime Motorsports are running a pair of Audi R8s and their principal partner is Franklin Road Apparel. We spoke to Showtime team principal Ken Thwaits earlier this week and asked him about the company supporting his team, “Franklin Road Apparel is a men’s and women’s boutique clothing store. It is located in the downtown area of Franklin, Tennessee which is a quaint little civil war town founded in 1792. We are located in the old fire station and it is adorned with automotive collectables and memorabilia. We specialize in casual attire featuring brands like John Varvatos, Billy Reid, Naked & Famous, Psycho Bunny and more!” Franklin Road goods are also online so be sure to check them out.
Ken may be a relative newcomer to the Trans Am paddock, but he is no stranger to high level motorsports and he told us how he came to be behind the wheel of the awesome Audi, “I had been competing in Optima’s Ultimate Street Car series over the last six years. I raced 5th Generation Chevrolet Camaros and a Mitsubishi EVO IX.” He said, before explaining how he came upon the R8s, “I was looking for a new project for that series and an AWD Audi R8 came up on our radar as a car that would be THE car to build. We looked for older R8 street cars to purchase and we happened upon an Audi R8 GT3 Ultra race car.”
In spite of its complexity and advanced engineering, the Audi is nevertheless a practical car to race, “We realized that racing this would be cheaper than building and racing a street car. The only problem was, there weren’t many options of where to compete with this car. After some research, SVRA was the logical choice as it just met the five year old cut off for older race cars.”
Even then, Ken had another hurdle before he could join battle on the track, “I went to the February racing school at Roebling Road, got my license and ran a few SVRA group 11 races. Then I started running in the more competitive IGT class which was a lot of fun. All the while I was watching the Trans Am series and was able to BoP our car to race in the SGT class. That leap was what led to the formation of the new XGT class. So quite a different path to Pro Racing in Trans Am!”
The Xtreme GT cars use advanced aerodynamic parts as homologated into the original FIA GT3 specification, and boast a higher level of downforce than is utilized in the Super GT and GT class machines in Trans Am competition. Ken described the experience behind the wheel for us, “These Audi R8 GT3 cars are very easy to drive up to 85% of potential. It takes some more seat time to get acclimated to the speed of the car and its incredible braking performance to extract that remaining 95-100%. In XGT trim these cars run about the same lap times as a TA2 car, but achieve that lap time in a completely different way. The XGT cars are light, create lots of downforce, and stop probably better than any car in Trans Am! In qualifying trim (light fuel load, and sticker Pirelli tires) the car is just incredibly quick and will be the quickest it will go all weekend. Phenomenal grip and G-forces in the corners and under braking!”
Originally built for long distance racing, these European supercars add an exotic flavor to the Trans Am grid that has been welcomed, “The XGT class is made up of older GT3 cars that were built for endurance racing, so they are very strong and robust,” exclaimed Ken. “Winter prep of these cars is just making sure everything is fresh. The gearbox is gone through and should last the whole season. The engine in the R8 is a stock engine out of the street version, so it requires very little attention. A new clutch is installed before the season and should go five or six races before needing replacement. So race prep in between races is pretty easy. Just maintain the fluids and keep an eye on brake pads and rotors. On a typical Trans Am weekend we will use only one set of new Pirelli’s. We qualify and then race on that new set. Then those tires become our practice set for the next race weekend. All in all this car is very dependable once prepared properly and cost effective to race.”
It is to be hoped that this practicality leads to even greater competition in XGT in the months and years ahead, particularly with the parent company and works being supportive. Ken paid tribute to Audi Sport when he added,” Another bonus is that Audi Sport Customer Racing is really good about getting parts to us in a timely manner! We also maintain an extensive list of spare parts that we take with us just in case.”
It should be an exciting year ahead when the action resumes for Franklin Road Apparel, Ken and Showtime Motorsports. Learn more about the Showtime Motorsports team partner, Franklin Road Apparel, at franklinroad.com and showtimemotorsports.net. Keep up to date with the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli at gotransam.com.
Check out the Showtime Motorsports Facebook page: facebook.com/showtimemotorsp/ and @ShowtimeMotorsp on social media.
About Showtime Motorsports:
The Showtime Motorsports brand includes Ken Thwait’s racing team and racecars, and an outstanding classic Camaro collection. Showtime Motorsports brings together a dynamic staff who employ diverse talents and share a passion for cars, racing and caring for clients like they are our own family members.