Welcome to the IMSA History unofficial website

This site is aimed at bringing you memories from the glory days of sportscar racing in the US.



"Well, my story of becoming a racing driver and starting my career in IMSA actually started in 1967. I had a set of drums and my little brother had a guitar and we were determined to be just like the Beatles. But one Saturday afternoon my Mother made all of that change when she took us to see the movie "Grand Prix" which I'm sure, if you are reading this have seen it. I will never forget where I sat and I was astounded at what I saw that day. After the movie, I told my Mother "when I grow up, I'm going to be a race car driver". From that point on, I no longer wasted money on comic books and the like. I spent my money on Road & Track, and other car magazines and read them instead of studying for school. I watched all the races I could and knew all the famous drivers of that time. Well, like the late John Lennon said "while you are busy doing other things, life happens" or something to that effect. I grew up still reading AutoWeek, Car & Driver, Road & Track, and watching racing on TV, but I had school, then college and shortly after I was married, had children and was busy running my own business. The thought of racing faded into the back of my head even though I went to Watkins Glen every year from about 1976 on to see the Trans AM races and the incredible Can-Am races every July, and then back to watch the Grand Prix in October, where I would collect lots of team jackets and coveralls (many which are autographed and I still have) from the crew guys on the teams. In 1979 I believe, I went to the Long Beach Grand Prix, and met George Harrison of the Beatles and we spook for about 45 minutes and I got my picture with him. I also met Colin Chapman, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, and my biggest hero, Nicky Lauda. It was quite a thrill.

Soon after that race I wanted to purchase a new set of wheels for my BMW and I was showing the picture of them to my friend and mechanic who worked at the local BMW dealer. Another mechanic approached and said "those are really nice wheels...we use the same one's on our race car". I asked him about it and he said he was crew chief on a Porsche team that ran in the SCCA. I told him that I had always wanted to be a driver, and he replied "come on down to the track this weekend". I told him I knew very little about the mechanics of a car, but he said to come away, that they could always use a "gofer". So I left for Summit Point Road Raceway that Friday evening and slept in my car. The next morning I had breakfast and found the team in the paddock. I was introduced to George "Ted" Hulse who was the owner and driver. We won the race, and I really had a good time except for seeing two drivers killed in the Formula race. That's when I made up my mind that I would never drive a formula car, and besides I was getting to be a bit old to even consider trying to get to Indy or F1 at that point, not to mention that my Grandmother was still alive and if she knew I was racing, that would have killed her. Unfortunately, she passed away later that year and my business was going rather well. So was the team.

Ted built a new car and decided it was time to turn pro. It was 1983 and we were at Watkins Glen in an IMSA race and both Mario Andretti and Rick Mears were in the pit next to us driving a Porsche of some type. After the race I asked to speak with them. I told them of my aspirations to drive instead of being a crew guy. Rick asked where I lived (Maryland) and said if I had the money to go to Bondurant School in California, Mario suggested Bertil Roos at Pocono Speedway as it was close to me and he had sent Michael there. The plan was for Ted and Bill Scott (super-vee champ, trainer, and owner of Summit Point) to co-drive the upcoming Pocono 500. So I enrolled in the Bertil Roos School the week before the race and thought I would just stay on and crew the car that following weekend. I though I did prett y well at the school despite almost crashing one of the "slide cars" with my instructor in it. I was given a certificate and we all said goodbye and I thought it was just a great time. I returned to my motel and only moments after I entered the room, and manager knocked on my door and said to call your race shop immediately, that it was very important.

Lots of the motels there don't have TV much less a phone, so I followed her back to the office and called home. I was told that Bill could not make the race and asked if I would like to co-drive the 500? Stupid me of course replied yes, but how would this happen? I was only out of school one hour. They told me that they had already spoken to the Chief Steward Mark Raffauf and he said if I didn't do anything bad in practice, he would let me start the race. I was to go to registration in the morning and get my provisional license. I was in!!! I left the motel and drove like a madman back to the track and caught one of my instructors Ove Flock (the one I almost crashed with) and announced that I was going to drive in the race. He immediately replied "you will die boy, you are in way over your head" which of course looking back he was 100% correct about. I told him I didn't care, I was doing it anyway so he said to jump in his car and we would run the course that I would run in the race. He was pointing out shift points, showing me where always to look, and gave me several other tips. He then parked the car, shook my hand and said "nice knowing you, to bad I'll never see you again" and drove off. Well, the next Sunday I was the starting driver for my first pro race. There were prototypes and GT cars (about 50 all together) and some pretty big names in the field. Well, Ove was right....I was in way over my head. The mental stress was killing me, not to mention the heat. I drove 45 minutes and had to be helped over the guardrail by the crew and I just laid down in the grass. I couldn't move. But I made it! As I recall, we were 7th overall, but as I am writing this I don't have access to the records of that race. My wife at the time ask me when I would quit. I made it impossible by saying "when I race in the 24 Hours of Daytona".

That was my very next race February 4th 1984. I remember seeing Mario and Michael and having my picture taken with then in our racing uniforms. I was amazed (and I still to this very day) at the size of Daytona and the history made there. I remember the driver meeting and I stood between the Andretti's and A.J. Foyt. Bob Wollek and Derek Bell (who I named my son after) where there. David Hobbs, Al Holbert ,EFR, Terry Labonte from NASCAR, Jack Baldwin, Jim Downing, Hurley Haywood, Rodger Mandeville, Rich Attwood, and Vic Elford. Just too many famous drivers to name, all hero's of mine. I was one of them, but I couldn't believe it. Despite being out for hours with transmission problems we finished 8th in GTO and 33rd overall. It's still my only finish in nine tries. I had the of my life, and one of my favorite memories was playing cat and mouse with Vic Elford who was driving a Porsche 928S, as we passed and re-passed each other many times in the early morning. I met John and Peg Bishop, the founders of IMSA and found out we were from the same State. The one thing that sticks in my head the most about those days was how welcomed into the "club" I was. I I still stay in touch with many of the guys from way back then. Most are still in the game. One competitor Jerry Thompson, became a co-driver along with his son Chris and we just watched him get inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame. I met many good friends and talented people during those years and will never forget them. They were certainly the "Golden Years" of sports car racing in the United States. Last, many years into my career my Mother asked me whatever possessed m e to become a driver. I told her it was her fault. She asked why? And I told her "Remember taking me to see the movie Grand Prix in 1967? I told you I would be a driver". She hung up on me."

Michael deFontes at Daytona 1984.