TRIUMPH TR 250
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By the middle 1960s, road racing in America had enjoyed steady growth
spreading from Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake in the late '40s, to tracks all across the American landscape. Some tracks, like Florida's Sebring circuit, was nothing more than a converted Army Air Corps training field for America's aviators during the Second World War. Other tracks, like California's Riverside Raceway, were purpose built to embrace America's new found affection for a form of motor sport that was inherently European. American auto manufacturers were a bit less willing to embrace this new found love. The middle 1950s was a tragic time in road racing, particularly at Europe's biggest event held every June at Le Mans in France. These tragic occurrences led to the American motor car industry to form a racing ban in 1957, which officially meant that there could be no factory-backed racing efforts for America's auto manufacturers. The manufacturers knew that racing, especially road racing, was needed to develop and test new products and technologies that the companies were developing for their line of street cars. Many companies worked "under the table" in a government style "black ops" kind of way to get their products into the hands of racers in order to get the knowledge they were after to develop their products further.
The one thing that couldn’t keep the racing ban in place was America’s youth. The early 1960s saw a population of young Americans that were captivated by the pop culture and technological advancements of their time. In 1964, Ford Motor Company fired one of the biggest shots the automotive industry has ever seen, by unveiling the all new Mustang. The Mustang was small by American standards of the day, and could be powered by Ford’s venerable new small block V-8. Would-be racers quickly gravitated towards the new car, which had its own indirect performance parts development program all ready going for it thanks to Carroll Shelby and his Ferrari-eating Cobras that had been stalking the world’s road race circuits since 1962. With the help of the SCCA and the growing number of tracks in North America to race at, Mustangs quickly experienced rapid success on the track. This left the other American manufacturers scrambling to come up with a remedy for Ford’s dominance in road racing, and the SCCA was all too willing to provide the perfect setting for such a shoot out to occur.
For the 1966 season, the SCCA announced that they would sanction a new series entitled “Trans Am”. This series would involve showroom-stock production-type machines that were readily available to the North American public. The rules allowed for two classes of competition within one event. The first class was that of production cars over two liters of engine displacement, or O2L. The second class was for production cars with an engine displacement of fewer than two liters, or U2L. While the European makes were to dominate the U2L class; American manufacturers and road racers alike had their targets fixed on the O2L class, where they could run large V-8s in their lines of compact coupes. While Mustang had an upper hand in numbers of teams and cars, they had more than a handful of competition from very enthusiastic teams choosing to go a different route than Ford’s pony car. One of these teams that split from the path laid out by Ford’s Total Performance Program was Group 44 Racing.
Group 44 Racing was fathered by Bob Tullius, a young racer that started his career in the early 1960s running in the Mid-Atlantic Region and working his way onto the American road racing scene. For the 1966 season, Tullius and Group 44 partner Dick Gilmartin arranged to run a new Dodge Dart in the inaugural Trans Am season. Bob has always had a reputation for exceptionally high standards, much of which has shown in the success of Group 44 over the years, but nonetheless his high standards can make him a bit tough to get on with from time to time. Dick Gilmartin had secured Group 44 the sponsorship of Quaker State Motor Oil, only to become a casualty of the ever increasing standards within Group 44. The Quaker State money stayed with Group 44 Racing though, and the American Racing White Dodge Dart took to the track for the first time on March 25, 1966 at Sebring, Florida. With Gilmartin having left the team, young Tony Adamowicz was asked by Bob to stand in as co-driver for the four hour Sebring Trans Am event.
Tony Adamowicz was gaining fame as he racked up event wins in the Sports Car Club of America’s North East Region driving a Volvo PV-544. Bob came to recognize Tony’s achievements piloting Sweden’s heavy metal sled, and requested Tony to co-drive with him at the 1966 Sebring event. The result was spectacular, with Tony and Bob finishing second overall behind a U2L Alfa Romeo driven by future F1 World Champion Jochen Rindt. The Group 44 Dart won the O2L class and set the stage for several dynasties to unfold in the years to come.
The little white Dart, with a blueprinted 273 cubic inch engine yielding upwards of 350 horsepower, continued to amaze both the team and race fans throughout the 1966 Trans Am season. The driving duo of Tullius and Adamowicz continued to dominate the Trans Am endurance events; finishing first at the 12 Hours of Marlboro, sixth at Green Valley, and second at Riverside. These results gave the Group 44 Dart a top 5 finish in the Championship for the 1966 season.
Things looked to be off to a great start for 1967, with Bob driving the Dart to a win at the first race of the season in Daytona, Florida. Success was limited for the little white Mopar after that event as teams with heavy manufacturer support moved in on the series. Bud Moore Racing came onto the scene with Mercury’s new Cougar XR7 and a soon to be very well known team manager from Pennsylvania appeared for 1967 with the all new Camaro by Chevrolet. These two teams debut marked the beginning of a factory-backed muscle car shoot out that would last until 1972 and eventually see AMC, a brand known for making the most austere of cars, enter and win two titles.
As for the cast of characters behind the Group 44 Dart’s amazing 1966 season; Bob Tullius would continue on with his Group 44 Racing project for nearly two more decades, winning some of North America’s most prestigious titles at some of the continents most famous circuits. Most notably, Tullius would become involved with British Leyland and deliver outstanding results for marques like Triumph and Jaguar.
Tony Adamowicz would leave Group 44 in late 1967, eventually to join Marv Davidson in 1968 and win the U2L crown in a Porsche 911. Tony would then move on to win the 1969 F5000 championship in Milestone Racing’s AAR Eagle Chevy. This then opened the door to drive for Ferrari’s NART (North American Racing Team) in 1970, one of the most accomplished endurance race teams ever to take to the track. Tony continued to drive at the professional level of sports car racing until the late 1980s. Even today, Tony is still racing, having been reunited with his 1969 Eagle F5000 car by Doug Magnon and driving the Eagle/Chevy to a 2009 F5000 Class Championship in vintage racing 40 years after the same car and driver combination won the F5000 title in 1969. Tony also operates a2zracergear, an online store for vintage racing apparel.
Over the years; Group 44 Racing, and those involved with the team, have accomplished some amazing things in road racing. One thing is for certain; without the effort put forth by Bob Tullius, Tony Adamowicz, the crew, and the Dodge Dart that made up the 1966 Trans Am campaign; the landscape of road racing in North America would most definitely not be as bright as it is today.
In the world of amateur and professional sports car racing, few combinations have worked together as beautifully as Jaguar and Bob Tullius’s Group 44 Inc. Through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, this team set the standard for motorsports marketing, sports car race preparation, and race team discipline.Beginning in 1962 with a single white Triumph TR3, by 1973 Tullius and Group 44 Inc. had delivered hundreds of victories and 10 SCCA national championships to its clients: Triumph, MG, British Leyland, Quaker State and Goodyear. However, when Tullius began racing sports cars in the early 1960s, no such dynamic existed. Race teams did not represent clients in sports car racing—or any other form of motorsport. Sports car racing was basically a rich man’s hobby, and Tullius was not a rich man by anyone’s definition. In 1962, when forced by his boss to choose between his job selling copiers for Eastman Kodak and his hobby of racing sports cars on the weekend, he made the difficult choice to leave his conventional career behind.
With a young family to support, Tullius had to create his own industry, making business decisions with no business model to follow. No books to read. No one to call for help. Not even the Internet, for God’s sake. Fortunately for Tullius, early on he discovered a remarkable but raw young talent. While working as a service manager for a sports car dealership in Arlington, Virginia, he met his eventual partner, Brian Fuerstenau. While a very capable driver with many national championships to his credit, Fuerstenau became truly invaluable to the team for his engineering genius.Like other engineering giants of the day, such as Mark Donohue, Fuerstenau functioned on a higher level than his peers. Unlike Donohue, however, Fuerstenau was self-taught; he lacked the prestigious Ivy League training and credentials Donohue enjoyed.
But with the addition of crew chief Lanky Foushee in 1970, the duo simply operated on a higher plane than any of their competition from an engineering and implementation standpoint. There is no doubt that Fuerstenau and Foushee would have been successful in any type of racing across the history of the sport—and one of their biggest wins was yet to come.
By the early 1970s, Tullius was campaigning the Group 44 Inc., first the Triumph TR250 and then the Tr 6 in the highly competitive C Production class. Unfortunately, both the Tr 250 and the TR6’s days in C Production were numbered; thanks to a wave of Datsun 240Zs—cars heavily favored by the SCCA’s General Competition Rules—the Triumph had become largely uncompetitive.Tullius itched to move up in class, and he believed that the V12-powered Series III Jaguar XKE offered a platform that Fuerstenau and Foushee could transform into a dominant entry in the SCCA’s B Production class, where Chevy Corvettes had held a decade-long stranglehold.
By then, Tullius had become close friends with Mike Dale, then executive vice president of sales and marketing for Jaguar USA. Together they came to the conclusion that running the Jaguar in B Production would serve several purposes. First, Tullius wanted to compete in A, B or C Production with a car he felt had an honest chance of winning. The TR 250 would have been if it still had been racing after 1968 later closely followed by the TR6, destined to be demoted to D Production in 1975, would be a step backward for him as a driver.
Second, there were thousands of brand-new Series III E-types sitting at the docks in Baltimore. These cars were being held there until American dealers sold their existing inventories of E-types, a task that was proving increasingly difficult to accomplish. Successfully racing the E-type in SCCA against the Corvettes, Porsches, Cobras and Mustangs could reinvigorate the American Jaguar dealer network, they reasoned, hopefully resulting in improved sales of E-types in the States.
Third, Group 44 Inc. wanted more opportunities to show what they could do in the way of developing and campaigning high-horsepower race cars. The team was already successful with a Dodge Dart in the early days of Trans-Am, and Tullius knew that they had the talent to move up. Running the Jag would continue their evolution toward professional racing. The time was ripe, and pairing Group 44 Inc. with the E-type seemed like a marriage made in heaven.
By the spring of 1974, the team had grown to 10 full-time employees. With the addition of the E-type project, they were seriously outgrowing their relatively modest shop in Falls Church, Virginia. When first opened in 1965, the small facility had suited the company’s purposes reasonably well, but now they needed to move to larger quarters. Group 44 Inc. kicked off 1975 by moving into a larger facility. The new shop, located a few minutes from Dulles Airport in Herndon, Virginia, featured an engine dyno room, formal paint booth, body shop, wash bay, and proper loading dock—the team could finally load and unload the cars without using ramps. Tullius himself enjoyed increased office space and room for a secretary, Pamela Compton, and a public relations person, Paul Brand.
For this year, John McComb took over driving duties of the TR6, now running in D Production with an actual chance of winning. Fuerstenau continued driving the MGB, and John Kelly moved to the MG Midget, ending the Group’s tenure campaigning Spitfires. Tullius would now focus his driving talents on the big Jaguar. The season was a tremendous success for Tullius and the E-type. They won seven times on seven different tracks, including the SCCA finale at Road Atlanta—once again hyped as the East Coast versus West Coast “Jaguar Race” Mueller’s Huffaker-prepared car suffered another DNF due to rear end failure attributed to a spin during practice, but Tullius and his gleaming white E-type sat on the pole and led every lap, dominating the field of 14 Corvettes and one Porsche Carrera.
The East Coast’s Group 44 Inc., and the West Coast’s Huffaker Engineering operated independently of each other, but they pursued the same goals. Together they demonstrated the XKE in a light most favorable to its manufacturer, winning as many races as possible along the way. When the two teams met at Road Atlanta for the Runoffs, it was a highly anticipated face-off.
Before the race, Mike Dale had some directives for Tullius: The quicker of the two Jags in qualifying would take the win, while the slower would throw the race. The two cars were not to compete against each other and risk taking both of the Jaguars out of the race altogether.
Although Tullius sat on the pole anyway, the pre-race fix was ultimately not necessary; the Huffaker car met its demise during the pace lap. Although it would have gone against his competitive nature, Tullius recalled that he would have honored the team orders if he had been on the “losing” end of the equation. He understood that this race was crucial for Jaguar.
The importance of the U.S. Jaguar competition program and the 1975 Road Atlanta win cannot be overstated. So significant was this race to the company that Lord Donald Stokes himself, the managing director of British Leyland, was at Road Atlanta to witness firsthand the results as they unfolded.
Interestingly, Jaguar enjoyed a resurgence of interest in the E-type throughout the course of the 1974 and 1975 seasons, both at the dealer and consumer level. Tullius, ever mindful of his perceived duties to his clients, ensured that the public relations department for Group 44 Inc. visited every track’s closest major market center. Before each 1974-’75 race, they’d stop by to promote the event, the cars and, of course, Group 44 Inc. This included print media, television and radio promotions.
Additionally, local dealers were given the opportunity to attend the races; where possible, Tullius arranged for the cars to be displayed in the dealers’ showrooms either before or after the race weekend. The enthusiasm was palpable and contagious, and it carried over to the consumer.
For its part, Jaguar USA advertised heavily, proudly showing off its extremely successful, and beautiful, Corvette-dominating V12 E-type. Although the company had decided to focus its future energies on the XJS and halt production of the E-type long before the end of the 1975 season, Jaguar sold every E-type it had by the end of that year. Dale and Tullius were proved right.
Today, the Group 44 Inc. championship-winning E-type—chassis number UE1S/24250—properly resides at the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust on Browns Lane in Coventry, England. There it takes its place as one of the few cars that the company calls “a significant milestone in the continuing development and growth of Jaguar Cars and its related companies.” Thought of by many as one of the most beautiful racing cars ever built, this E-type stands as a testament to the ingenuity, dedication and competitive spirit of Bob Tullius, Brian Fuerstenau, Lanky Foushee, Mike Dale, Jaguar and Group 44 Inc.
Their contributions would be further recognized in 1981, when Tullius was presented with the Sir William Lyons award for his dedication and contributions to Jaguar. Lyons, the co-founder of Jaguar Cars, was still living at the time this award was presented, although he was by then officially retired. The notoriously detail-minded Sir William no doubt passed approval on the well-deserved award.