Lyn St. James Awarded Spirit of Ford Honor at Amelia Island Concours d\u2019Elegance

Lyn St. James Awarded Spirit of Ford Honor at Amelia Island Concours d\u2019Elegance

05/27/2021

The annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, located just north of Jacksonville, Florida, always maintains a strong motorsports presence, a hallmark of founder Bill Warner, who continues to race himself at well past retirement age.

The 26th annual Concours held May 20-23 was no exception, with the honoree being Lyn St. James, sports car champion and seven-time Indianapolis 500 competitor. St. James was also the surprise recipient of the Spirit of Ford award, presented by Ford CEO Jim Farley. “Today, she is channeling the same drive she had in breaking through barriers in her racing career to become a tireless promoter of opportunities for women and minorities in the racing world. And the sport and industry is better for it,” he said.

St. James began her professional racing career in her Ford Pinto, going on to compete in more than 100 SCCA Trans-Am and IMSA races. She won her class twice at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring once, and became the first and only woman to win an IMSA GT sports car race solo in 1985 at Watkins Glen.

She went on to run the Indianapolis 500 seven times, including being the first woman to win Rookie of the Year honors in 1992. St. James held 21 international and national closed circuit speed records for women over a 20-year period, including 225.722 mph during qualifying for the 1995 Indy 500.

Warner and his team gathered 11 of the cars that Lyn St. James drove throughout her racing career, including the 1985 Ford Mustang displayed by 3 Dog Garage. Her first Daytona 24 hour class victory would come behind the wheel of this car in 1987 when she shared driving duties with Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott, Trans-Am champ Tom Gloy and IMSA GTO champion Scott Pruett.

“Lyn has always been an exceptional advocate for Ford, and I’m proud to call her a friend,” said Edsel B. Ford II, who has been involved in Ford’s racing efforts for decades. “I have always been impressed by how hard she worked to be a successful driver. She has worked just as hard to give so many young drivers the same kind of mentorships that she had in her career. Lyn is a very worthy honoree of the Spirit of Ford Award.”

Spirit of Ford Award Winners

SPEAKING OF WARNER

As a longtime Road & Track photographer and writer, Warner was present at hundreds of noteworthy races. The Other Side of the Fence: Six Decades of Motorsports Photography, Warner’s new book, debuted at the Concours, and it contains some never-before-seen images from F1, NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, Le Mans and other sanctioning bodies taken from 1959 to the present day. It will be available on Amazon.com June 1.

SEMINARS A SUCCESS

As usual, there were a pair of well-attended seminars on racing topics: Friday was on “Chevy Thunder,” the history of Chevrolet’s small-block V-8 engine, introduced in 1955, with the basic architecture still in use today. Panelists included moderator Ray Evernham, racer Dale Earnhardt, Jr., former GM racing head Herb Fishel, NASCAR’s Dr. Eric Warren, and racers David Hobbs, Brian Redman and George Follmer.

Saturday, it was the history of the “All-Conquering Porsche 935,” with 13 examples on the show field, all based on the 911 Turbo, thanks to a new competition rule that moved the top class away from pure prototypes to cars based on road-going models. Panelists of the Evernham-moderated event included IMSA rulemaker Mark Raffauf, can builder Kevin Jeannette, tech gurus Jack Atkinson and Alwin Springer, and 935 race winners Hurley Haywood, Bob Garrettson and Brian Redman.

Jeannette showed up in an original-look Swap Shop uniform of the sort worn when that 935 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a team backed by the Whittington brothers with co-driver Klaus Ludwig. Jeanette also brought a couple of huge baguette loaves of bread, which he used for a remarkable demonstration: During Le Mans, the 935 shed a fuel pump belt, meaning no fuel could get to the injectors. The driver can work on the car himself, with no help from the crew aside from what he could hear on the radio.

Don Whittington tried to make the alternator belt work, with no luck; it was too long. The crew needed to get him a pair of new belts. So reasoning with the tech officials that the driver “had to eat,” Jeannette said they allowed the crew to deliver two baguettes to Whittington. They’d slit open the bread, and stuffed an alternator belt into one loaf, a fuel pump belt into the other. “And that’s how we won Le Mans!” he said, after he had dramatically pulled a pair of belts from the bread.

SHADOW WINS BEST OF SHOW

A 1974 Shadow DN4 displayed by James Bartel of Key West, Florida took home the Best in Show Concours de Sport Trophy. It was originally driven by Jackie Oliver and won four out of five races from the final shortened season of the original Can-Am. It would have scored a clean sweep of the series but suffered an engine failure in the final race, only four laps from the end.

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