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Viper victory in Trans Am season opener

by Bill Cawthon on

Lee Saunders drove his Dodge Viper ACR-X to a win in the TA3 Class at the opening event of Trans Am’s 50th season.


Saunders and the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Viper finished first in class and ninth overall in Round One of of the 2016 Trans Am Championship at Sebring International Raceway.

This is Saunders’ third consecutive victory at Sebring, but it wasn’t a sure thing. The Viper was third in the starting order and Saunders trailed Randy Mueller’s No. 0 Epic Motorsports BMW M3 and Randy Kinsland’s No. 11 Crossland Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, which started from the pole position.

With three laps to go, Saunders overtook Kinsland for the lead. Then Mueller surged past Kinsland to take second. Kinsland finished third but set the fastest lap for the TA3 class: 2:13.664. Saunders’ fastest time was 2:14.792.


In TA2 action, Adam Andretti was the runner-up in a race won by 2015 champion Gar Robinson. Andretti, who drove a Chevy last year, was in his first race at the wheel of a Dodge Challenger, the No. 44 ECC/Anchor Bolt & Screw car.

Andretti was joined in the top five by Louis-Philippe Montour in the No. 77 Universal Technical Institute Challenger. Fellow Canadian Peter Klutt finished seventh in the No. 11 UTI Challenger, giving Dodge two top five and three top-ten finishes.

Jason Kennedy, driving the No. 12 UTI Challenger finished 16th.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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