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The Can-Am was born as the Canadian-American Challenge Cup in 1966 as the SCCA premier series. Fans quickly dropped the formal name and flocked to the Can-Am races. During its early years when USRRC, the championship for similar group 7 sports racing cars, was still alive, Can-Am seasons maintained the six races held in autumn of each year. The situation changed in 1969 when USRRC was abandoned and Can-Am expanded to 10 races to be run during whole year.
Can-Am history consists of two separate periods. The first one ended in 1974 when due to economic crisis all forms of motorsport suffered and Can-Am was one of its victims. There were no new cars except two unbeatable Shadows, very little public and press interest during 1974, so several races were cancelled and even the FIA-required 6 race minimum limit per season wasn't completed to recognize Can-Am champion the FIA. it However the most famous Can-Am era was before 1974. Group 7 sports racing cars were almost totally unrestricted. New technology, specifically wider tires and rims and aerodynamics were adopted and Can-Am cars became the quickest cars in the world, eclipsing F1 and the famous sports cars from the World Championship of Makes.
Initially the short season allowed F1 drivers to participate in the Can Am. The first title came to John Surtees driving his Lola. But after that the McLarens completely dominated Can-Am championship. The factory team with Denny Hulme and its founder Bruce McLaren was almost unbeatable and won most of the races between 1967 and 1971. But before the 1970 season started, Bruce was killed during testing of his new McLaren M8D Can-Am car. The new McLaren management, without manufacturer support for the Can-Am cars and with a growing F1 commitment, lost their interest in Can-Am after being beaten by Porsche-Turbo armada in 1972. Soon after that Can-Am began slowly lose its importance and interest of public. This situation came into crisis in 1974 when the series ended after only five races and the winner Jackie Oliver driving a Shadow wasn't accepted by the FIA.
The new Can-Am era started in 1977. New rules allowed only cars with engines only up to 5 litres. Since there wasn't enough cars to fill the entry, Formula 5000 cars with closed wheels were allowed into the series. Several old Can-Am cars with smaller 5-litre engines were much heavier than light formula cars had no chance for overall honours. So McLarens M8F, Lola T310 and similar cars from early 70s disappeared after a season or two and single-seater Lolas and its derivates called Spyder, Schkee, Prophet or later Frissbee completely dominated the new Can-Am era. Although among Can-Am single-seater era champions we can find drivers drivers like Patrick Tambay, Alan Jones or Jacky Ickx, it was never supported as good as the original Can-Am and after five years of decline died after the 1986 season.
When SCCA lost interest in Can Am, Can-Am Teams organization (CAT) took it over and ran its own championship during 1987 but it was just a swan song of the famous Can Am.
There was an attempt to bring Can-Am name back in 1998 when the new SCCA sanctioned USRRC created its own championship almost identical to the well established IMSA. WSC sports cars were renamed to Can-Am but all these things had really nothing to do with the 'true' Can-Am spirit of unfettered technology. The USRRC series wasn't a success and disappeared after only two years of its existence.
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