Interview: Ernie Francis Jr. Dominated Trans Am TA1

In his 1st year stepping up to the Trans Feel TA series in a new Katech-powered, Mark Meissen-built Mustang race vehicle, Ernie Francis Jr. drove aside with double-digit wins and a tournament. (Photo Credit: Trans Am)

I went into the Trans Are series the next year when I converted 16 and won our initial championship. — Ernie Francis Junior.

In recent memory space there have been a lot of Ford racing successes, but not since Tommy Kendall’s eleven consecutive Trans Am wins within 1997 can we recall the dominating performance like Ernie Francis Jr. ’s 2017 season in the Trans Was TA1 class, in which he won 10 of 13 contests.

“It’s been crazy, ” Ernie said after his earn and the last race in Daytona. “A year ago we were simply starting to think about this, trying to put together the TA program that could compete as well as win a race. It was the far off dream to win a tournament, never mind 10 races. The very first season in the TA course , with the No . 98, it is just been incredible and we look ahead to next year. ”

To find out how this 19-year-old wunderkind have got to this point and where he is going, we chatted with him…

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FordNXT: What is your history in racing?

Ernie Francis Jr.: “I started off in go-karts when I was four years old. My father really got me into it while i was a little kid. He had already been racing all of his life, therefore it was kind of a family sport that people did. After I did go-karting, We moved up into Spec Miatas when I was 13 years old, plus raced some amateur racing within NASA and SCCA. From there, we all wanted to take it to the next level, therefore that’s when I raced my initial pro season when I was fifteen years old. I went into the Trans Am series the next year while i turned 16 and won our own first championship. We won 4 championships in the Trans Am Collection, Rookie of the Year in the Pirelli World Challenge and a bunch of other things. ”

Trans Am Engine Specs

• 358 cubic ins

• Ford Overall performance block

• Kia Performance D3 cylinder heads

• 12: 1 data compresion ratio

• Mahle pistons

• Bryant crankshaft

• Pankl connecting rods

FN: How did your earlier racing experience set you up for success within Trans Am?

EF: “The go-karts and Spec Miatas are really exactly what helped me a lot with my profession and helped me learn how to drive vehicles. Those cars have very low hp so it’s important to carry swiftness through the turns. In any form of race, you want to carry speed and maintain quickness as much as you can. Even in the 850-horsepower Trans Am cars like a generate now, you still want to carry that will speed. ”

FN: Why did you decide to step up in order to Trans Am TA this season?

EF: “It was kind of the mutual decision between my dad and am. About midway through last period we were looking at what we wanted to perform and race for this next year. All of us saw the TA cars in Detroit and thought they were quite cool and we wanted to see what would take to race one. Me personally met up with Mark Meissen a great chassis builder and he got all of us going with a brand-new chassis before the start of season and the rest is background. ”

After many years in go-karts and Spec Miatas, Ernie quickly adapted to effective, rev-happing Trans Am cars. Just before winning the TA championship this season, he had already earned three competition in the lower tiers of the Trans Am series.

FN: How did you decide competition a Ford and work with Katech for engines?

EF: “We had a relationship with Ford the entire year prior in the Trans Am collection. We had switched from the Camaro T4 car to the new Mustang Employer 302. We really liked what Kia was doing with us and we actually wanted to continue that relationship plus try and build off of it. Katech had been the particular engine supplier for our Trans Was program since I started doing it, therefore it was kind of a no-brainer choosing them to build our engines. ”

It had been a whole new kind of car which i had to learn how to drive, but We think  I  learned it rapidly. — Ernie Francis Jr.

FN: How does driving this particular race car compare with your prior race cars?

EF: “…These TA vehicles are just all about high-rpm pulling for an 8, 600-rpm redline. I had to obtain used to that, but Katech do a great job building us a dependable engine that makes power throughout the RPM band and really put us away front at almost every race. The particular Boss 302, being a production framework car, the way it drives is really much different. It’s a lot softer framework than these TA cars. They may be tube-chassis, they are very stiff, plus low to the ground. They have an extremely low center of gravity. They will handle amazingly well. They have a lot of high speed grip and, surprisingly, a lot of low-speed grip. It was a whole new type of car that I had to learn how to generate, but I think  I discovered it very quickly. ”

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FN: What are your plans for the 2018 racing season?

EF: “So far 2018 looks like an active year for me. I will be doing some Trans Am again, as well as some Pirelli World Challenge and I was recognized into the NASCAR driver diversity system, so I will be racing in the K& N East series in the road-course races that they have with NASCAR. Therefore it’s going to be a jam-packed 12 months for me. ”

Right after an incredibly successful run in 2017, it will be exciting to see what Ernie can do racing Fords in Trans Am and World Challenge in addition to stretching beyond into the larger collection, including driving an IMSA Kia GT at the Rolex 24 within Daytona next month.

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