Pioneering Woman Driver Surprised with Prestigious Spirit of Ford Award
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The IMSA influence was on full display last weekend at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, the 26th annual show in North Florida showcasing historic vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
Lyn St. James, whose own historic career included two Rolex 24 At Daytona victories and one Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts win among a multitude of accomplishments, was honored with an exhibit of 11 cars she raced during her career. The pioneering racer was also surprised at the event when she was awarded the prestigious Spirit of Ford Award.
Among the awards presented at the Concours was the Most Historically Significant IMSA Race Car, which went to the famous 1979 Brumos Porsche 935 driven by Peter Gregg, the chassis with the most wins in history. The Spirit of Sebring Award, honoring the best car from the iconic 12-hour race, went to the 1985 Roush Racing 7-Eleven Ford Mustang GTO that St. James drove to victory lane at both Sebring and Daytona. That same car was also named the Best Car of this year’s honoree, St. James.
Also celebrated was the “all-conquering Porsche 935” with 13 versions of the iconic car and a seminar discussing its influential history. Among the panelists for the seminar were sports car racing legends Hurley Haywood, Derek Bell and Brian Redman, along with IMSA Senior Director of Racing Operations, Mark Raffauf. The Best in Class Porsche 935 was the 1979 Interscope Rolex 24 winner owned by WeatherTech Founder and CEO David MacNeil.
St. James was presented the Spirit of Ford Award – Ford Motor Company’s highest honor in auto racing, recognizing lifetime achievement and contribution to the industry both on and off the racetrack – by Ford CEO Jim Farley during a tribute dinner recognizing her accomplishments. St. James is the 27th recipient, joining an international list of honorees including Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr. and many other luminaries. The award is not presented annually; the last recipient was A.J. Foyt in 2017.
St. James began her professional racing career with Ford in the early 1980s, competing in more than 100 SCCA Trans-Am and IMSA races. In addition to her Daytona and Sebring victories, she became the first and only woman to win an IMSA GT race solo, which she did at Watkins Glen International in 1985.
She went on to run the Indianapolis 500 seven times, including being the first woman to win Rookie of the Year honors in 1992. She also 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.
“Lyn’s achievements on the track are special, but what she has done off the track is just as important to us in defining her legacy,” Farley said. “Lyn, while racing for us, was also a consumer advisor to Ford on women’s issues, including educating women on the car-buying process and how to maintain their vehicles during their ownership.
“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.”