BONNEVILLE SALT FLATS | USFRA WORLD OF SPEED | SEPTEMBER 14-18, 2017
What is Bonneville Salt Flat Racing? Why is there such a mystique about it? And why does just about every racer want to go there? I was fortunate to finally get the opportunity to run on the salt at the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFRA) 31st Annual World of Speed event. After wanting to run on the salt for many decades, it finally happened, and I’m starting to understand it.
Let me start with “What is Bonneville Salt Flat Racing”
I think it’s the Ultimate Mechanical Challenge. It combines creativity, design, and the engineering ingenuity to “build something to a diverse set of rules that will go fast on an unknown surface”. The only area where there’s no compromise is in safety – because the tech inspectors take no prisoners when it comes to safety inspection. Everything is thoroughly checked (even the all the drivers gear – including underwear – to the highest degree of FIA safety specs). There’s a huge diversity in the types of vehicles that show up to run on the salt: production cars, custom built race cars, modified street machines, motorcycles, trucks, 2 wheels/3 wheels/4 wheels, wings, no wings, hot rods, just about anything and everything the mechanical mind can imagine. And the unknown surface – well that means every time there’s a meet on the salt, no one knows what condition the salt surface will be in until the day(s) of the meet. It varies based on the weather over the last season, the current weather conditions, and the constant deterioration of the salt. It takes place on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), so authorization has to come from the BLM to schedule the race meets. Many variables, many unknowns, yet people spend all year (years) to build/prepare a vehicle to run on the salt, and often the event will either get canceled prior to the scheduled dates/or even while on site.
Why is there such a mystique about it?
Literally and visually it’s a phenomenon. The area is a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville and is the largest (46 sq. miles) of the many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake. Speed runs have taken place on the salt flats since 1914. But I think there’s a mystique when one looks out over this massive white surface, surrounded by mountains, and often you see a mirage that looks like the surface is actually water. And depending on the clouds and sun, everything set against this white surface takes on such artistic forms. Jaw dropping.
Why does just about every racer want to go there?
The combination of history, engineering ingenuity, limited access (at best 3-4 times/year), the wide range of types of vehicles, and of course – the SPEED! NOTE: It’s difficult to describe the salt; it’s very coarse, in some places really hard; in other places quite mushy (like slush); quite crusty; and in there are ruts and potholes. It’s never really smooth. And it sticks to everything!!
Now onto my experience of being there for the first time.
How did it happen? I’ve wanted to run on the salt since the 80’s and over time quite a few people knew about it. At Amelia Island in March of this year, Bill Warner had a special display of land speed record cars, and while I was drooling/taking photos of the cars I ran into Ted Wenz of Savannah Race Engineering, who knew about my desire to run on the salt. He asked me if I was still interested in doing it, and of course I said “YES”. He connected me with John Goodman out of Wichita, KS who was building a Lakester to take to Bonneville, hopefully later in the year. John and I started emailing back and forth, and the wheels were now in motion. I joined the USFRA and got the rulebook so I could learn what a Lakester was, and what I needed to get/do as a driver. NOTE: A Lakester is a streamliner with four exposed wheels, and there are many difference classes based on the engine size. John’s has a 2.0 Cosworth BDG engine, so the category is G/GL for engine size, Gas Fueled Lakester. The current record in that class if 211.463 mph. I had to upgrade my nomex, which was fine, except for the race suit (because they are so expensive and this would likely be a one-time use, I was hoping to figure out how I could borrow a suit). I ran into Yves Morizot, founder of Stand 21, at the Rolex Reunion at Mazda Raceway, and Stand 21 came to the rescue. They had one suit (FIA 20 grade) that just might fit me. Walla! So I was ready (at least for the things I needed to do). THANK YOU, STAND 21!
Day 1: I decided to rent a car and drive from Phoenix, which would give me flexibility in my traveling day(s). I left Phoenix on Tuesday, 9/12 expecting to arrive in Wendover, UT that night. I almost made it, but had a tire blow out on my rental car just past Ely, NV – so I ended up spending the night in Ely, NV and had to wait for a replacement rental car the next day (crazy car had no spare tire/just one of those stupid pumps).
Day 2: As I drove into Wendover the marvel of the salt flats appeared off to my right and I just had to stop and take a photo. I arrived Wednesday afternoon and immediately went to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Everyone was just starting to set up; the folks at registration recognized me and gave me my car and pit pass, but I couldn’t officially register until the car arrived and passed tech. After I checked into the hotel I got a call from John saying they had arrived. (They had 3 flat tires on the drive from Kansas). It rained during the night, at least at the hotel, which was only about 10 miles from the Salt Flats.
Day 3: We agreed to meet at the course at 9am, so I met John for the first time, along with his crew: “Izzy”, Glen, “Bones”, Wayne and a little later “Stainless”. The sky is dark, ominous, and looks threatening for the entire day, but the only place it rains is in Wendover, but not on the course. The first order of business is to take the car through tech. This is a newly built car, so tech inspection seems to be more critical than usual. Did you see the movie, “The World’s Fastest Indian”? Well, that’s what it was like going through tech. John Goodman is an experienced record holder on the salt flats, but hasn’t been there since 1999, so he’s a bit nervous. And then there’s me, a salt flat rookie, but somewhat “known entity”, so there’s quite a bit of attention being paid by everyone. Almost 2 hours later and after much discussion, we leave the tech area with a list of things that need to be changed, or the car cannot run! Stainless has arrived on the scene (a true legend/veteran salt flat record holder) and the consensus is they’ll be able to fix things, so let’s work on fitting me and John in the car so we can do our “Bail Out” tests (this consists of after being tightly strapped into the car, the driver has to release everything and be able to get out of the car unassisted in less than 30 seconds). Love the optimism in all racers!! While I make a lunch run to town (drenched in rain) they fit John in the car and he passes his “Bail Out”. Then they start fitting me in the car (not an easy task). Most critical is being able to see and reach everything in the cockpit. About 3 hours later the tech inspectors show up to observe by “Bail Out”. I have to be able to exit the car on my own from a tightly strapped in position in under 30 seconds. The canopy weighs about 20# and isn’t hinged, and the latches are hard to reach. But I get it done (in 21 seconds). As I look up at the sky, there’s a rainbow! We leave the track and decide to meet for dinner at the Copper Kettle Diner (not many options in Wendover – other than the casinos in West Wendover, NV). Good day!
Day 4: The driver’s meeting is scheduled for 8 am, with another rookie driver’s meeting at 9am. Everyone is able to take their personal/tow vehicles down both the long course (7 miles) and short course (5 miles) to observe where the mile markers are, lines marking the course, and other important landmarks. It’s incredibly windy and hazy, so it’s pretty difficult to see much of anything. I’m in information overload at this point. “Floating Mountain” and other references are discussed. I’m used to finding braking zones, turn in points, and apexes, but they’re like right in front of me. Now I’m having to look at quarter mile posts, mile markers, and having a difficult time seeing them at 20 mph! Relax! Patience is required. The wind never lets up; gusts over 20 mph, so the track continues to be on “hold” because of the wind. But our crew is now more focused on fixing the things that need changed from tech inspection. This mostly has to do with how the fuel lines are run – and not isolating the driver compartment from potential flow if the fuel line were to leak/break. A solution is discussed, and before work is started they discuss the solution with the tech inspectors, who seem to agree. Work begins. About 4pm in the afternoon, work is completed and tech inspectors come back for final sign off! YES! We can now officially register and be ready to run tomorrow. Let’s start the motor and do a systems check. Grind/grind/grind. The car won’t start. At this point, I determine there’s absolutely nothing I can offer, and I’m completely windblown from the elements, so I decide to go back to the hotel. NOTE: One high point of the day was the arrival of 14 school buses full of high school students from area schools. How cool to see so many kids excited to be around these vehicles, asking questions, and taking photos. They stay for a couple of hours. I find out later that some of the buses got a chance to drive down the course since it was closed due to the winds. What a great experience for the kids!
Day 5: Perfect conditions! Cool (low 50’s), sunny, no wind. I arrive at the track about 8am, and the crew are making last minute adjustments to the car to get it ready to move over to the short course. About 8:30 one of the fastest streamliners, the record holder Vesco Terminator II, makes a pass and everyone stops for a few minutes to listen (they announce the speeds on AM radio 1610 & CB radio) to what the speeds are: 315.664mph at the quarter mile, 338 mph at the 1 mile, 395 at the 2 mile, 420.499 at the 3 mile, and final trap speed is 430.524. Not a record run, but really fast! About 10am they get the car loaded onto the trailer to get in line on the short course, and load the van with as much support equipment they think they will need. It’s like the paddock is transported to the line (which is now the pits). And the line is long; 38 cars ahead of us. This reminds me of my early drag racing days; hurry up and wait in line to make a pass that will only last a few seconds/minutes. There are 3 lines on the short course: one for the 130mph club cars, one for the 150mph club cars, and one for Land Speed Record cars (which is the one we are in – the longest line!). There is very little activity, time to wander around, but not much to see. Things get really quiet and we realize the course is shut down; there’s a communication glitch with the officials (which threatens safety) so the delay is over one hour. When we’re about third in line John gets suited up and warms up the engine. At about 3:45 (5 hours after we put the car in line) the starter waves John to “go”. I’m in the van, which is the push vehicle, so we push John at the starting line and off he goes. Since this is his first pass, he’s not to exceed 150mph, and even though he only has to go to the 3 mile marker, he seems to disappear into the horizon. It’s a successful run (clocked 138 mph between the 2-3 mile markers), but he’s not happy. The car is unstable, but he needs to get back in line for his second run (between 150-175mph). They inspect the car and begin making suspension adjustments while it’s in line. There continues to be delays, some vehicles take runs, and darkness begins to threaten. Even though it was scheduled to stop at 5pm, they run until a little after 6pm when one of the cars seems to go off course immediately after leaving the start line. End of day! We keep the car in line so it will be able to go out early tomorrow morning, and after that it will be ready for me to run the salt! But we’re done for today! I’ve been here for four days, but still don’t know what it’s like to drive fast on the salt!
Day 6: I arrive at the track at 7am – there’s cloud coverage on the horizon, but you can see the sun peeking out as it comes up. I get a few good photos of the sunrise over the salt. The weather is perfect – cool, and soon to be partly sunny. John goes out about 9:15am and gets a good run – 174mph. While walking around the pits I look over and see someone I recognize, but didn’t expect to see here – Ray Evernham. He tells me he’s doing a documentary on the Bonneville Salt Flats. He said Erin told him I was going to be here. He said let’s do an interview. I get suited up and we do an interview.
Now that John has his first two licensing runs done it’s time to get the car ready for me to run. This involves installing the seat insert, pads, and additional seat belts (cheek belts). At about 12:15 I get my first run down the salt! The time sheet they hand out has the following breakdowns on the short course: NOTE: These are all averages. Here are all my runs.
LSJ Times: 1st Run (Sun) 2nd Run (Sun) 3rd Run (Sun) 4th Run (Mon) 5th Run (Mon)
130 Club (1 mile) 115.15096 137.35503 132.86531 aborted 151.70051
You’ve heard the saying “flying blind”, well my first runs down the salt were literally driving blind. I’ve never done anything in racing quite like this – no real seat of the pants feel, and can’t see much at all. Between the vibrations, distortion in the canopy, the bright white salt, the wide space between two blue lines marking the edges of the track (done with environmentally safe type fluid), and looking for the mile markers at both edges of the track, you really have no idea where you’re going! I also can’t read the GPS gauge on the steering column that indicates speed. And that’s the ONLY indicator to give you any idea of how fast you’re going (no tach/no temperature gauges/no gear indicator), so I just shift by the sound of the engine. They give me “speed goals” for each gear, but since I can’t read the speed, it really doesn’t matter. I know the goal is to stay between 125-150mph to get my “D” license. Luckily I achieve that with the 142.40744 mph. When they check over the car they realize the battery is down, so they put a battery charger on it and work on the GPS speed gauge. I abort my next run after the 1 mile because the inertia switch tripped and shut the car off (we didn’t realize what it was until John got to the car and saw it had tripped). At 3:30 I get back in and do a second run, but I can’t shift into 4th gear, so I top out in 3rd gear at about 157 mph, which at least earns me my “C” license (150-174 mph). We get back in line and at 5:40 I get in my third run, but still couldn’t get it into 4th gear. I’m getting really frustrated. Long lines, so much work/time spent taking any part of the body off the car to work on it, it’s like time stands still. And then when I DO finally get on the course, something (or maybe me) isn’t working. We call it a day and decide to go to the Salt River Café Mexican restaurant for dinner. Good call! Time to gather the troops – but my throat is sore and I feel a bad cold coming. The weather is predicted to be windy tomorrow (Monday), which means the course may not even be open. I mention to John that if the track is open it might be good for him to run the car and check out what’s happening with 4th gear. It was left we’ll just see what the weather will be. And they’ll check the car out in the morning. I go back to my hotel feeling under the weather (literally) and thinking that the likelihood of me getting any more time on the salt isn’t likely to happen.
Day 7: I get a good nights rest and slept in a little bit since I figured I wouldn’t be running. My cold wasn’t any worse, so I figured I’d get some cold medicine, stop at the course to see everyone, go to impound to get my license, and get ready for the drive back to Phoenix. As I’m checking out of the hotel my phone rings and it’s Gary (from the team) who says “get suited up – they found the problem with the shift linkage and we’re getting ready to run with you in it”, so I hustle over to the course. And the conditions are perfect – no wind, cool (60’s), partly cloudy. I arrive about 9:30 and the crew are working on the car (they found where the shift linkage was hanging up), and we load the car on the trailer and transport it to the pits. There are only a few cars around, which is great – NO LINES! There’s excitement in the air, and I hear John say “I have a good feeling about this”. YES!
I’m going down the course and the car shuts off 2 times, so I pushed the inertia button down twice and kept running (got into 4th easily) and when it happens the 3rd time, I know we aren’t going any faster so I abort the run and go down the turn out area. Bummer! John and Stainless decide how to fix it so it won’t happen again, and we take it back to the start line.
I notice on my last run how much more my situational awareness had improved. Even though I couldn’t see any better, it just seemed easier to see what I needed to see. And things now felt like they were happening almost in slow motion rather than fast forward motion. As I looked down the course I felt the left side of the course looked a bit smoother (plus that line was used for the slower cars the last few days and probably had gotten beaten up less), so I talk with Stainless and tell him I’m going to try to stay closer to the left side of the course. I learned later I was right because the workers had “dragged the left side of the course up to the 2 mile marker” that morning (that’s how they smooth out the course – they drag wooden pallets behind trucks to pack down and smooth out the ruts in the salt). My confidence level had also improved, so as they pushed me from the start line and I dropped the clutch at 30 mph in 1st gear, I was “ON IT” full throttle – and went through the gears aggressively – yes, I’m “going for it”. All my shifts were by sound (still can’t read that damned GPS gauge, and when I do see a number, I don’t like it – it’s too slow). Sailed into 4th gear – throttle down, just past the 2 mile marker, when the front of the car takes flight and turns toward the right! I go into a couple of spins – pull the parachute lever (which because I was going backwards didn’t deploy) and land/dig deep into the salt headed up course. I “Bailed Out” (fortunately had practiced that earlier in the week) and by the time the course workers were there I was out of the car. I was fine – and amazingly the car wasn’t too bad. Fortunately it stayed upright, the nose box was somewhere down course, and the undertray was all torn up, but the cockpit and engine bay/rear body work, were all attached and other than being covered in white salt, were all good. This was not how it was supposed to go. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong; in fact, I felt pretty good about how I handled it. Then one of the course workers comes up and tells us my speeds: 177mph at the Quarter (2-1/4) marker (which would earn me my “B” license) and between the 2-3 mile marker (which I was traveling airborne) the speed recorded was 273.63078mph. How could that be?!? The only thing we could determine was I tripped the timing line.
It’s hard to put into words how blessed and grateful I am for the opportunities I’ve had in racing. Running on the salt has been a goal for decades, and to finally get the chance to do it was amazing. I’ve been asked “is it what you expected”, and my reply is “I had no idea what to expect, and kept an open mind”. I’m glad I did. In my opinion it is the ultimate challenge and test of courage, commitment, and determination. The patience required, the problem solving, the ability to brave the elements, and the determination to keep coming back (whether it’s to go for another run, or get ready for another year), is beyond anything else I’ve done in racing. I’ve raced SCCA (amateur and pro), IMSA, Indycar, off road, go karts, FIA, vintage, but nothing compares to running on the salt. Yes, there are rules, but there’s so many ways to “do it” which can be successful or get you in trouble. To some degree I think it’s a throwback to what racing used to be like (race what you bring to the track), but don’t be fooled, it’s not crazy nor easy.
I want to thank Ted Wenz for introducing me to John Goodman, and thank John and the entire Kansas Twisters for giving me this opportunity and giving it everything they had to give. And thank you to the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFTRA) for continuing the legacy and passion of salt flat racing – Safe is FAST!! I want to go back! I want to earn my 200 mph Club Membership!
Ahead of the October 3 game launch, Forza Motorsport 7 demo availability was officially announced today – September 19.
As part of today’s announcements, Forza is also revealing the “Voices of Motorsports” contributors that will be featured in Forza Motorsport 7 – including our own Lyn St. James. This year’s list includes past and current racing drivers, automotive industry designers, automotive journalists and automotive personalities, each bringing their own unique perspective to racing, driving and automotive passion. This year’s roaster of more than 15 people including:
Charlie Turner – Editor-in-Chief of Top Gear Magazine
Jonny Lieberman – Senior Features Editor at Motor Trend Magazine
Josef Newgarden – Professional IndyCar Driver, (and newly minted 2017 Champion!) with Team Penske, also a Forza Ambassador
Katherine Legge – Professional Driver with Michael Shank Racing, participating in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. IMSA driver, IndyCar driver
Ken Block – Professional Rally Driver with Hoonigan Racing Division, participating in FIA World Rallycross Championship, also a Forza Ambassador
Kim Wolfkill – Editor-in-Chief of Road & Track
Lyn St. James – retired Professional Driver in IndyCar and ChampCar series, Speaker
Magnus Walker – Porschephile, Author, Serial entrepreneur, fashion designer, and original “Urban Outlaw”
Mark Roberts – Chief Designer McLaren Automotive
Matt Farah – Automotive Journalist, Podcaster and Founder of The Smoking Tire
Pat Devereux – Automotive Journalist
Pat Long – Professional Sportscar Driver with Wright Motorsports, participating in Pirelli World Challenge also a Porsche Factory Driver and Porschephile
Ralph Gilles – Head of Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)
Rutledge Wood – NASCAR Commentator with NBC Sports, and TV Personality
Shannon McIntosh – Professional Driver, Racing Instructor and ForzaRC host
Tanner Foust – Professional Rally Driver with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross (VARX), participating in Red Bull Global Rallycross, also a Professional Stunt Driver, TV Personality and Forza Ambassador
For more information, please visit the official release or watch the below launch trailer.
The Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium Grant is now accepting applications. This grant provides direct financial assistance in the form of matching grants to women in racing to help further their professional careers. The Project Podium Grant process introduces or further provides experience for drivers related to the very important business aspect of the racing industry. Read the guidelines and apply today! Deadline to apply is October 31, 2017. For additional details, please visit the Women’s Sports Foundation website.
Guidelines and Application Instructions
What is the purpose of the grant? The overarching goal of the Women’s Sports Foundation Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium Grant is to provide direct financial assistance in the form of matching grants to women in racing to help further their professional careers. The Women’s Sports Foundation Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium Grant is a matching funds program focused on young women in racing who have demonstrated talent, hard work and perseverance with successful competitive records, who have the potential to achieve even higher levels of performance and the ability to generate sponsorship dollars to achieve racing and business success. The Women’s Sports Foundation Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium Grant process provides experience for drivers on the very important business aspect of the racing industry by the matching fund requirement.
What is the vision of the Women’s Sports Foundation Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium Grant?
Increase the number of women winning races and championships in key categories of motorsports;
Enhance the ability of women in racing to gain resources for expanded opportunities;
Create a diverse talent pool in the upper echelon of motorsports;
Highlight racing as a gender-neutral sport and gender-integrated industry; and
Empower drivers with ability to generate financial resources to grow and sustain their racing careers.
Who will administer the grant? In addition to Lyn St. James, a panel of motorsports experts and business professionals selects each recipient from a list of qualified applicants.
• Makala Marks, 14, Avon, IN – Karting
• Courtney Crone, 16, Corona, CA – USAC Midgets/Sprint Cars/Formula Mazda
• Ayla Agren, 20, Norway – USAC Midgets, World Sports Formula Car Championship
• Jessica Brunelli, 16, Hayward, CA, NASCAR Modified Series/USAC Ford Focus
• Sabre Cook, 19, Grand Junction, CO – F1600 or Skip Barber Racing Series
• Natalie Fenaroli, 12, Raymore, MO, go kart racer
• Taylor Ferns, 17, Washington Township, MI– USAC Silver Crown/National Midget Series
• Alesi Gerthe, 19, Rockdale, TX, IHRA & NHRA Quick Rod
• McKenna Haase, 16, Des Moines, Iowa – 305 Sprint Cars
• Brie Hershey, 17, Dillsburg, PA, 358 Sprint Car Driver
• Shea Holbrook, 23, Groveland, FL– SCCA Pirelli World Challenge
• Brandie Jass, 15, Bryan, TX Mini sprint racer
• Justine Jackson, 20, Kingston, Jamaica, go kart racer
• Rebecca Kasten, 18, Megon, WI, ASA Late Model Stock Car Series
• Kristy Knoll, 13, Amherst, NY, go kart racer
• Zoe Mattis, 13, Pottstown, PA, Micro Sprint Car Series
• Megan Reitenaur, 17, Miamisburg, OH, stock car racer
• Miranda Throckmorton, 16, Coatesville, IN, sprint car racer
• Stacy Warrington, 18, Milton, DE, Super Late Model Stock Cars
In order to be eligible for a Women’s Sports Foundation Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium grant, women drivers must:
1. Provide proof that funds equal to the funding amount requested have been raised from sponsorship or other forms of support for her racing for the specific racing series and season identified.
2. Have a minimum of three years of racing experience.
3. Complete the Women’s Sports Foundation Project Podium Online Grant application. You will need to register with the Foundation’s grant-management system to access the application. Under the organization information, please enter the information for your Team. A Tax ID number is not required to register (so you may leave that space blank).
4. Write, in 250 words or less, an explanation specifically identifying the need and how the grant will be used;
5. Provide a complete racing resume with available supporting documentation such as qualifying sheets or box scores; media coverage; photographs, etc.;
6. Provide driver/team personnel, vendor/supplier/racing series, and sponsorship information;
7. Provide reference letters, if available;
8. Agree to provide final report(s) about how the funding was used and results; and
9. Promote Women’s Sports Foundation through logos, inclusion in media materials and interviews.
Applications are evaluated and grants are awarded to the following criteria:
1. Financial need;
2. Present and potential level and ranking;
3. Show of support from traditional motorsports sources; (ex. Tires, fuel, lubricants, apparel)
4. Potential impact of grant on advancing women in motor sports;
5. Priority given to those who present a plan for reimbursing the grant in the future, whether financially or otherwise contributing to women in motor sports;
6. Limit of grant request is based on the grantee’s ability to secure matching funds (1:1) from sponsors or other resources; and
7. Grantees will be required to display a Women’s Sports Foundation mark (logo) and Project Podium patch on their race suit and/or helmet and decals on race vehicle and support equipment (location TBD) as well as include information regarding the grant in press and marketing materials, including websites.
How many grants are awarded and for what amount(s)? The number of grant(s) shall depend on the number of qualified applications received and the amount of funding available annually.
What are the deadlines and other relevant dates? The 2018 application window is from August 1 through October 31. Applicants will be notified by November 30th and the 2018 grants will be awarded the first quarter of 2018.
History of the Program
A strong advocate for women in the motorsports industry, particularly women who aspire to the professional level in racing, Lyn St. James established the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation (WWCF) in 1994 as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to professional development for talented, up-and-coming young women in racing. One of the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation’s programs was the Women in the Winner’s Circle Academy: The Complete Driver. The Academy became the most comprehensive educational and training program of its kind for gifted women racers providing the skills on the track and off the track to be competitive in motor sports. Since its inception, more than 230 women drivers from 5 countries and 33 states, including Danica Patrick, Erin Crocker, Melanie Troxel and Sarah Fisher, have participated in this invitation-only Academy.
Building on the success of this continuing program, St. James felt it was important to provide financial resources to these talented drivers as well as training.
In 2007, Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation announced the first ever scholarship fund for women race car drivers, Project Podium, with a donation from Paul Newman’s Newman’s Own Foundation. Since then, this industry wide scholarship fund has been available to female race car drivers from all forms of racing, including go kart, quarter midget, drag racing, sports car racing, oval track racing, etc. For a driver to be considered eligible to receive a grant, they must have had a minimum of 3 years of racing experience, and they need to provide proof that funds equal to the scholarship amount requested has been raised from sponsorship or other forms of support. Those who apply, qualify, and are approved will receive a grant on a matched fund basis only. One goal behind this program is to help teach drivers how to raise sponsorship funds.
Fans attending the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix Raceway can receive an autograph from some of their favorite former IndyCar drivers at the Vintage Autograph Session Presented by Classic Racing Times on Saturday, April 29.
From 12:30-1:30 p.m., all ticketed guests can line up inside the Gates at the entrance to Corporate Village near Gate 4 to collect a free autograph from some of IndyCar’s legendary drivers including Arie Luyendyk, Dick Simon, Lyn St. James, Tom Sneva and Derek Daly. Fans will also be able to check out two of the vintage Classic Racing Times vehicles that will be on display.
Classic Racing Times will also present the Vintage Desert Classic as part of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix weekend on April 28-29. The addition to Phoenix Raceway’s Ultimate Open-Wheel weekend will feature two on-track sessions ahead of the Verizon IndyCar Series race on April 29.
Some of the most legendary cars in open-wheel racing history will be displayed, both on and off the track, as part of the Vintage Desert Classic. Newly added cars include the 1961 Brabham Cooper Philippe driven by Formula 1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham, which changed the face of racing forever as the first successful modern day rear engine car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Also appearing at Phoenix Raceway will be the 1939 Sparks-Thorne Engineering “Little Six” No. 10. Owned by Joe Freeman, this car picked up the pole at the 1939 Indianapolis 500 driven by Jimmy Snyder, and went on to finish all 200 laps for the second place finish behind only Wilbur Shaw.
The Vintage Desert Classic will take place along with both the USAC Silver Crown Series and the Quarter Midget races ahead of the Verizon IndyCar Series Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. Fans looking to get an up close and personal look at the cars themselves can access the Vintage Desert Classic paddock with a Garage and Pit Pass for only $50. Grandstand tickets are available online at PhoenixRaceway.com, by phone at 1-866-408-RACE (7223) or in person at the Phoenix Raceway ticket office.
Back in 2015, the theme was “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.”
At the time, The Henry Ford celebrated by imaging Lyn St. James, or any other female race car driver, weaving her way through the pack of race cars to take the lead, set the standard and win the checkered flag…
Please take a moment to read the original text:
Race car driver, commentator, author, motivational speaker. Competed in seven Indianapolis 500 races in nine years, including six consecutive years. Two-time competitor in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest endurance sports car race. Nine-time participant in the 12 Hours of Sebring race. Two wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona race. Owner of over 30 national and international speed records over a 20-year period. A courageous, determined, hardworking, record-breaking, and inspirational race car driver. A woman.
Are you surprised? We’re describing Lyn St. James, one of the most influential female race car drivers in history. From her first professional race in 1973, to her last in 2000, Lyn St. James continually showed the motor sports world that not only could women compete with men on the race track, but that they would outlast them, outsmart them, and outrun them. Lyn St. James was a pioneer who embodies the saying that sometimes “it takes a woman to do a man’s job.”
Throughout her career, Lyn helped other female athletes build successful careers just like she had. She serviced as the President of the Women’s Sports Foundation for 3 years, and established her own charitable foundation, Women in the Winner’s Circle, in 1994. Her work with the foundation even led to the formation of a traveling museum exhibit about female drivers, created with The Henry Ford, in 2010.
In 2011, Lyn St. James donated a collection of personal papers and memorabilia to the museum. Looking through the materials St. James chose to archive throughout her career, her passion for the advancement of women in sports in abundantly clear: a letter written to legendary athlete Billie Jean King, newspaper clippings about female race car drivers from around the country, notes of support for the America3 Women’s America’s Cup team. All of these underline her commitment to the cause. Looking through the memorabilia in the collection, we are filled with such esteem for the work she has undertaken to help women achieve everything they can in sports, and in life.
One artifact in particular spoke to us. At first glance, perhaps this checkered flag from the St. James collection in the Benson Ford Research Center doesn’t seem like anything extremely special. However, take a second look. Notice that each white square of the flag is signed by a different race car driver, and all of them were women. The signatures of Janet Guthrie (the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500 in 1977), Erica Enders, and Erin Crocker can all be seen on the flag. These women, and all of the others who took a permanent marker and signed their name, have found success in racing and have proven their worth on the track and off.
Women continue to make strides in the world of auto racing. Take a look at Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, and Courtney Force Hood, just to name a few. Sarah has driven in the Indianapolis 500 9 times now, Danica is the only woman to earn a victory in an IndyCar Series event (the Indy Japan 300 in 2008), and Courtney currently holds the record for most wins by a female driver in NHRA history. Gender equality in sports means much more than just the opportunity for women to compete alongside men. It means that women are able to live in a society that believes in and encourages their dreams, and allows women to have the skills, confidence, and community support to take the lead in their field.
Lyn St James was recently featured in the latest installment of iconic Ford Performance drivers through the years. Please visit the Ford Performance website or read an excerpt here:
Lyn St. James’ racing career began in deep water and is ending at the top of the hill.
A pioneer in auto racing with an accomplished career across a wide spectrum, St. James will be inducted into the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame in a ceremony Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.
Such an occasion would have been the very last thing on St. James’ mind in 1974 when she made her rather ignominious — and quite soggy — auto racing debut.
The race was an SCCA Showroom Stock event at Palm Beach International Raceway in West Palm Beach, Fla. An SCCA driving school graduate, St. James had purchased a new Ford Pinto – cost $2,500 – from the showroom floor. She drove it to the track for her first try at competition.
She was slow. Quite slow. The race leaders roared up behind St. James on the way to lapping her. Surprised, she lost control of the Pinto, and it spun off the track and into a lake between Turns 2 and 3.
The car went underwater. St. James, though somewhat embarrassed, escaped without injury, and the car was pulled from the muck to race again.
“I lost control of the car because I wasn’t watching my mirrors,” St. James said. “It went into the body of water. We thought it was a pond, but turned out it was bigger than that.
“I was terribly embarrassed. Even though I was excited to finally race, I thought maybe I’m not supposed to do this. But my husband said, ‘How badly do you want to do this? You have to learn. How hard are you willing to work?’ ”
The Pinto, cleaned up and dried out, returned to race again and again, and St. James won the Florida SCCA regional championship the next year.
She had no idea then, of course, but the adventure with the Pinto would be only the first chapter in her eventful relationship with Ford Motor Company and Ford Performance. Ultimately, the Ohio native would race on some of the world’s top courses — Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Le Mans and the Nurburgring — and build a reputation as one of the best female drivers in racing history.
Her official relationship with Ford began in 1981, although, as St. James will admit, her “contacts” with Ford officials began much earlier.
She had established herself as an excellent amateur road racer in SCCA events, but her goal was to compete professionally. That wasn’t possible without a path that would lead to sponsorship and support.
The door began to open — ever so slightly — in 1978 when St. James read a magazine article about Ford’s push to provide equal employment opportunities for women. The article quoted Ford officials, and St. James started a letter-writing campaign to introduce herself.
“I went to car shows and talked to everybody who would listen,” she said. “I basically bugged the Ford people for three years. I think they might have hired me more out of not having to deal with me bugging them any more.”
Ford signed St. James and immediately boosted her career.
“I will say to anybody and everybody who will listen that without that happening I don’t believe I would have had a career,” she said. “I would have continued racing, but it would have been really sketchy. God only knows how long I would have been able to sustain that.
“The Ford deal turned me from being an amateur racer trying to be professional to being a professional race car driver. I had my first photo session. I did my first real interviews. I was representing Ford Motor Company and having a great time.”
St. James would move from the IMSA Kelly American Challenge Series into IMSA GT, where she scored six wins. She also ran SCCA Trans-Am. She scored two class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona, teaming up with greats like Bill Elliott, Tom Gloy and Scott Pruett to win in 1987 and then she teamed with Robby Gordon and Calvin Fish in a Roush Racing Mercury Cougar to win the GTO class in the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring (1990).
Her greatest IMSA win may have been in 1985, when she became the first and only woman to win an IMSA race driving solo, taking the checkered flag in the September race at Watkins Glen.
She also raced Ford-powered cars in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989 and 1991.
In 1988, St. James participated in speed runs at the giant Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, driving a Ford Thunderbird to a then women’s closed-course speed record of 212.577 miles per hour on the 2.66-mile track.
Racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway wasn’t a goal – or even a random thought — for St. James for much of her life, but doors opened and she walked through.
“I can get big dreams, but that wasn’t even a dream at all,” she said. “That was far out there past my abilities and resources. But the more I ran – the Trans-Am Series was often a support race for Indy cars. So I was around them a lot. They’re not so ominous when you’re actually at the track. They were fast and they were cool, but, in a way, they’re just another race car.
“I got this idea in my head that I wanted to drive an Indycar. I didn’t think I’d ever race one, but I didn’t want my driving career to end without at least sitting in one.
“In 1988, (car owner) Dick Simon called me and gave me the opportunity to go to Memphis to test an Indycar. I started out way over my head, but, at the end of the day I was turning some good laps. Dick said, ‘We can do this; we just have to raise the money.’ ”
St. James finally put together a sponsorship deal with department store chain JCPenney to run the 1992 Indy 500. “It was the 151st company I had gone to looking for sponsorship,” she said.
At 45 years old, St. James surprised many in the Indycar crowd by finishing 11th in her first Indy 500 and winning the Rookie of the Race award.
“I had a blast,” she said. “I was standing on the podium at the victory banquet, and everybody’s happy, and I realized this was a new beginning. It wasn’t the end. It wasn’t like I was capping my career. In my heart, I said I want to do more of this.”
St. James raced partial IndyCar schedules through the rest of the 1990s.
Along the way, she became very active in women’s sports groups, serving as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation and starting a foundation and scholarship program of her own.
And what about that original Pinto, the Ford that started it all?
“A guy in south Florida has it,” St. James said. “It’s changed hands several times. Now he wants to restore it. It was the beginning for me, yes, and it has memories, but nothing that particularly warms my heart.”
TOPEKA, Kan. (Dec. 5, 2016) – Eight individuals who have made significant contributions to the Sports Car Club of America and the world of motorsports have been announced as the Club’s newest Hall of Fame class, adding their names to a list of timeless superstars. Pete Brock, Dennis Dean, Larry and Linda Dent, Joe Huffaker Sr., Lyn St. James, Phil Hill and Jim Kaser comprise the latest class to join the select ranks.
As in years past, this group will be formally inducted to the Hall of Fame as part of the SCCA Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet. That event takes place Saturday, January 21 and serves as the capstone of the three-day SCCA National Convention taking place again in 2017 at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Along with the accomplishments of the 67 previous inductees, these Hall of Fame members positioned the building blocks that have elevated SCCA’s stature in the motorsports world for more than 70 years.
Pete Brock At only 19 years old, Pete Brock was the youngest designer ever hired by General Motors. In November 1957, at only 21 years old, he drew the sketch which GM VP Bill Mitchell picked to become the Stingray. A native of the San Francisco Bay area, Brock also began racing with SCCA around that time.
Brock went on to work with Carroll Shelby. During his time with Shelby, he helped create the Shelby American brand logos, merchandise, ads, car liveries and more. He also designed the Shelby components of the Shelby Mustang GT350, as well as the iconic Shelby Daytona Cobra coupes that won the 1965 FIA World GT Championship.
In 1965, Brock started Brock Racing Enterprises which later became Datsun’s West Coast factory race team competing in SCCA D Production races with Datsun 2000 roadsters. In 1970 and 1971, BRE took on C Production with 240Zs and earned national championships. He followed that up in 1971 and 1972 with 2.5 Trans Am national championships in Datsun 510s.
Dennis Dean Dennis Dean began his involvement with SCCA as a tech inspector due to his interest in all things mechanical. Because of his insight as a tech inspector and his Navy training, his documentation with respect to tear down checklists and other procedures have kept many stewards out of trouble over the years.
At the Regional level, Dean provided Washington DC Region a wonderful set of standards that are still being used today. He later joined the SCCA stewards program where his unparalleled technical excellence served him and the Club well. But beyond that, Dean exemplified all the personal attributes that have been stressed to SCCA stewards.
After many years as an outstanding SCCA volunteer, he took on a new challenge in 1996 when he joined the SCCA staff as Vice President of Club Racing and Rally/Solo. And after his stint with the national office, Dean found time to further expand his impact with ever increasing involvement in the Runoffs, providing guidance and leadership to the Hall of Fame project, and serving on the SCCA Foundation Board. In each of these areas his impact has been felt both now and into the future.
Larry and Linda Dent SCCA members Larry and Linda Dent designed the SCCA Safety Steward program, a vital initiative that has improved motorsports safety as a whole.
Since 1967, Larry has been an SCCA Chief Steward. He also served the SCCA for nine years as a member of the Board of Directors. He was a member of the Executive Committee, serving as liaison to the Competition Board. He also helped as Chairman of the Board of the SCCA Foundation, serving three years in that capacity during which time he significantly improved the Foundation’s financial standing. And while Larry is the one that held the “official” titles, make no mistake that he and Linda worked as a team over the years to advance the Club.
In 2008, Larry received the Woolf Barnardo award, the top award for service to the Sports Car Club of America.
Joe Huffaker, Sr. For more than 30 years, Joe Huffaker Sr. was one of the most successful racecar constructors. In 1954, he was contracted to build an Austin-Healey Special. The car, known as the Huffaker-Healey, was a common site in the late 1950s on race tracks in Northern California. In 1959, Huffaker joined British Motor Cars in San Francisco to open a competition department. Known as BMC Competition Department, this effort spawned a very successful string of cars including the BMC Formula Juniors and Genie Sports Racers. During this era, BMC Competition Department became one of the largest racecar manufacturers in the United States.
From 1964 to 1966, Huffaker’s attention was turned toward Indianapolis 500 competition. He helped build the famous MG Liquid Suspension Specials, for which he received an engineering award for design and development. Huffaker also helped develop safety technology in the form of the deformable fuel cell.
Not forsaking SCCA racing, BMC Competition continued to build dominate production racecars such as MGBs and Jaguar XKEs. But in 1967, Huffaker left BMC and formed Huffaker Engineering where preparation of winning cars continued. These included SCCA championship winning MG Midgets, MGBs, Triumphs and Jensen-Healeys. In the 1980s, Huffaker Engineering built Pontiac cars for the Trans Am and IMSA series.
Lyn St. James Lyn St. James started in Florida as a racer in Showroom Stock classes, and was the 1976 and 1977 Florida regional champion. A two-time class winner at Daytona, a class winner at Sebring, and a class winner at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, she has also competed at Le Mans and was a 1988 record speed holder of 212.577 at Talladega in a Ford Thunderbird. James entered 53 SCCA Trans Am races and was a top-five finisher seven times. She also entered 62 IMSA GT races, and was a top-five finisher 17 times. She is the only woman to win an IMSA GT race driving solo, when she won in 1988 at Watkins Glen.
The Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 1992, James went on to form the Women in the Winner’s Circle organization dedicated to the advancement and promotion of women in the motorsports industry. Outside of racing, she was also the President of the Women’s Sports Foundation during the early 1990s.
Phil Hill The only American-born racer to ever win the World Drivers’ Championship, Phil Hill was one of the first dozen members of the California Sports Car Club. He began his storied career wrenching on others’ cars and went on to compete in major SCCA races. He piloted assorted Alfa Romeos, OSCA’s and various Ferrari’s for wealthy car owners, and quickly gained a reputation as the man to beat in West Coast racing.
In 1955, Hill was the SCCA Champion in D Modified, driving a Ferrari to wins in 8 of 14 races, including the inaugural event at Road America. He began racing outside the U.S. that same year which later landed him a drive with Ferrari in Formula One. But beyond Formula One, Hill exhibited a great deal of prowess as an endurance driver. He was an overall winner at Le Mans and Sebring three times, and became Sports Illustrated’s 1959 Sports Car Driver of the Year.
Jim Kaser The original head of SCCA Pro Racing, James E. “Jim” Kaser oversaw the first SCCA professional racing series, the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). The success of USRRC led Kaser to organize a series initially involving two Canadian races, thus giving birth in 1966 to the Canadian American Challenge Cup, more commonly known as the Can-Am series. Soon after, Kaser’s Pro Racing department introduced America’s longest running road racing series, the Trans-American Sedan Championship, later known as Trans Am.
It was Kaser’s success with these series that resulted in the most significant change ever to the Sports Car Club of America. The organization turned from being an amateur’s club to a professional, international sanctioning body and organizer.
The new class of eight inductees join the list below of 67 previously-entered SCCA Hall of Fame members: 2005: Cameron Argetsinger, A. Tracy Bird, John Fitch, Arthur Gervais, Harry Handley, Vern Jaques, Bill Milliken, Sue Roethel, Art Trier, Rob Walker 2006: John Bornholdt, John Buffum, Mark Donohue, Denise McCluggage, Grant Reynolds 2007: Marge Binks, Marc Gerstein, Carl A. Haas, General Curtis E. LeMay, Theodore F. Robertson 2008: Roger E. Johnson, Don and Ruth Nixon, Kjell Qvale, Robert Ridges, Fred Schmucker 2009: Bill Chambres, Bill Johnson, Jim Kimberly, Paul Newman, John Timanus 2010: Nick Craw, Briggs Cunningham, R. David Jones, Burdette “Berdie” Martin, Wayne Zitkus 2011: Karen Babb, John Bishop, Jim Fitzgerald, Tracer Racing, Harro Zitza 2012: Charlie Earwood, Jim Hall, Gene Henderson, Dr. Peter Talbot, Bryan Webb 2013: Skip Barber, Bill Noble, Bobby Rahal, Carroll Shelby, Andy Porterfield 2014: Kathy Barnes, Robert “Bob” Bondurant, Dan Gurney, Dr. Robert “Bob” Hubbard and Jim Downing, Pete Hylton 2015: Roger H. Johnson, Oscar Koveleski, Ron Sharp, Dr. George Snively, Bob Tullius 2016: Hubert Brundage, Bob Henderson, Roger Penske, Randy Pobst, Alec Ulman
The SCCA National Hall of Fame was created in 2004 to preserve, protect and record the history and accomplishments of the Club by acknowledging those members who have made a significant impact on the development of SCCA, be it through service to the national organization, achievements in national competition, bringing national recognition to SCCA, or a combination of these factors. Nominations were submitted to, and reviewed by, the Hall of Fame Nomination and Selection Committees before the inductees were selected.
Online registration for the SCCA National Convention can be found here and includes the Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet. Additional information about the upcoming SCCA National Convention can also be found here.
The history of motorsports usually revolves around men who became heroes behind the wheel. But this year’s Arizona Concours d’Elegance features a panel discussion that looks into the exciting lives of women who have raced professionally.
Legends: Pioneer Women in Racing is one of three panel discussions that take place Saturday, January 14, 2017. The panel will include veteran race driver Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 in the 1970s, and Miranda Seymour, an acclaimed author whose book, Bugatti Queen, explores the life of Hellé Nice, the famed French woman racing driver who competed in the 1920s and ’30s. The discussion will be moderated by another female racing star, Lyn St. James, also of Indianapolis 500 fame.
The discussion will include the following cars and drivers:
1925 Bugatti Type 35 (from the collection of Jan Voboril) driven by Elizabeth Junek – One of the most renowned female racing drivers of the period. She would often accompany her racer / husband Cenek Junek on his motoring exploits in their Bugatti Type 35. Her most famous race was the 1928 Targa Florio, which she led until the final lap before succumbing to mechanical troubles.
1927 Bugatti Type 37A (from the collection of Andrew Larson) driven by Anne-Cecile Rose Itier – From the late 1920s to the early 1950s, Anne-Cécile Itier was the most active female racing amateur in France. She participated in everything from Grand Prix racing to hill climbs and rallies. She entered Le Mans five times – a female record – and ran the Monte Carlo Rally seven times. Her peers were Hellé Nice and Elizabeth Junek.
1927 Bugatti Type 35 (from the collection of William “Chip” Connor II) driven by Helle Nice – A talented and beautiful race car driver, Nice was a true pioneer of the sport in her day. She owned and raced this Type 35 in the early 1930s, competing at prestigious international circuits like Le Mans, Reims and Monza. Nice would develop a close association with the Bugatti marque, leading to her nickname, “The Bugatti Queen.”
1955 Maserati 250F (from the collection of Bill Pope) driven by Maria Teresa de Filippis – The first women to have raced in Formula One. After her retirement, and as a sign of tremendous respects, she was awarded the title of Honorary Chair of both the Maserati Club and the Formula One Grand Prix Drivers Club.
1967 Ferrari NART Spyder & 1960 OSCA Formula Junior (from the Collection of Lawrence Auriana) driven by Denise McCluggage – Automotive journalist and race car driver, she is the first automotive journalist inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
The following schedule will be utilized:
Saturday, January 14, 2017
– The Grand Ballroom at the Arizona Biltmore – 10:00 am – Phoenix Automotive Press Association’s Auction Week Preview
Noon – Legends: Pioneer Women in Racing
2:00 pm – Driven: What Drives Successful Race Team Owners (also moderated by Lyn St. James)
For more information, visit www.ArizonaConcours.com. Tickets to attend all panels are priced at $60 and available through www.ArizonaConcours.com/ticket The Arizona Concours d’Elegance is a not-for-profit corporation registered with the State of Arizona, with federal 501(c)(3) status.
Motor racing reporter Marshall Pruett interviews today’s stars and yesterday’s heroes in his new podcast series: The Marshall Pruett Podcast.
In his latest installment, Marshall interviews Lyn St. James. In his own words, Marshall describes the podcast:
She raced and won in IMSA, scored a popular GTO class victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona, competed at the Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans, called Bruce Jenner a teammate, overcame significant prejudice while developing her career, crawled through burning wreckage after flying hundreds of feet in a terrifying GTP crash, and broke new ground for women in boardrooms and sponsorship opportunities.
St. James, who followed in the wheel tracks of Indy pioneer Janet Guthrie, was the prototype for Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Simona de Silvestro, and every other woman who has found success and prosperity in motor racing since her rise to stardom.
A badass in every sense, Lyn St. James shares her incredible life and story as a racecar driver with the Marshall Pruett Podcast.
The North Carolina Motorsports Association will host its Annual NCMA Membership Luncheon presented by IDG Racing on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at The Speedway Club Ballroom (Charlotte Motor Speedway).
This year’s luncheon will feature an outstanding “Women in Motorsports” panel discussion featuring some of the most prominent women in world of motorsports. Among them: NASCAR’s Jill Gregory, JR Motorsports’ co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller, GM Performance’s Alba Colon and racing legend Lyn St. James. The panel will be moderated by Erin Evernham.
The luncheon is scheduled from 11 AM – 1:30 PM. Members of the NCMA receive one complimentary ticket, additional tickets can be purchased for $30. Non-members can purchase tickets for $50.