1971 revisited: The first ever Anglo-American match races

Words: Bruce Cox – Pictures: Mortons Archive and Bruce Cox Collection

In more than a decade and a half of racing, the Transatlantic Trophy Series introduced no fewer than seven American World Champions to British fans. Here, from one of the series creators, and told for the first time, is the full inside story on the early background to the series and how it all came about 45 years ago…

Transatlantic trophy teamster, Don Emde, gets a top up of fuel.
Transatlantic trophy teamster, Don Emde, gets a top up of fuel.

Throughout the 1970s and more than halfway through the 80s, without doubt the world’s most significant race series outside of the World Championships was the annual Easter weekend clash between teams of visiting challengers from the USA and their home-grown British opposition.


What was first billed as the Anglo-American Match Races in 1971 later morphed into the John Player Transatlantic Trophy Series after a substantial injection of cash sponsorship and highly visible marketing support from the UK tobacco giant. The series was significant, and subsequently unforgettable, in that it introduced to the British public every one of America’s seven World Champions from that era!

World 500cc Grand Prix Champions Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz all made their first trips outside the USA to compete in the match race series. As did America’s first world title winner, the 1977 Formula 750 World Champion, Steve Baker and its first World Superbike Champion, Fred Merkel.

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