George Follmer

George Follmer

27/1/1934

Follmer is the only professional racing driver from the United States who has competed in Indy Cars, NASCAR, Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship, Can-Am, Trans-Am and IMSA. George Follmer competed throughout the "glory years" of auto racing with and against many of the legendary names of the sport. His first racing season, 1960, saw California Sports Car Club "Rookie of the Year" honors, followed by "Driver of the Year" and the SCCA U.S. Road Racing Cham-pionship ("USRRC") title in 1965. George Follmer's impressive career start was followed by milestone after milestone, compris-ing a driving history equaled by few and surpassed by none. Driving racing machines now considered classics of the sport, some of Follmer's professional highlights follow. Follmer won the 1965 USRRC Championship with an amazing performance driving an under-two-liter Lotus 23 powered by a Porsche 904 engine against such big-block performers as Jim Hall and Hap Sharpe in the classic Chaparral. Co-driving with Peter Gregg in a Porsche 904. Follmer took a class victory in the tortuous 1966 Sebring 12 Hour endurance classic. Follmer won the 1965 USRRC Championship with an amazing performance driving an under-two-liter Lotus 23 powered by a Porsche 904 engine against such big-block performers as Jim Hall and Hap Sharpe in the classic Chaparral. Co-driving with Peter Gregg in a Porsche 904. Follmer took a class victory in the tortuous 1966 Sebring 12 Hour endurance classic. As a teammate to Mark Donohue in 1967 and '68, George was the 1968 SCCA Trans-Am series runner-up to Donohue. Between 1966 and 1971 driving such classics as a Mecom Lola, a Sunoco Lola, a Lola-Ford 67B, an AVS Shadow and a McLaren M8B, Follmer set nine Can-Am track records, failing to finish only once. George drove the only Stock Block powered car ever to win a race in United States Auto Club Indy Car history to victory at Phoenix International Raceway in 1969. 1970 saw a third place in driver's standings as part of the Bud Moore Ford Mustang team in the SCCA Trans-Am series. Though his teammate Parnelli Jones won the driving title, Follmer was instrumental in P.J.'s achievement and their combined efforts won the Trans-Am manufacturer's title for Ford. Follmer also notched two wins in Formula 5000 races that year, and started his second straight Indianapolis 500. 1970 also was the year George Follmer made one of his most profound and lasting contributions to motor sports. Threatened with the loss of his racing license by the United States Auto Club if he drove in the California 500 (sanctioned by a competing organization) Follmer threatened to invoke the California "Right To Work Law". His adamant stance on the issue caused USAC to back down and established the prece-dent which now allows drivers to interchange freely among major sanctioning agencies without penalty. In 1971, George drove for Roy Woods in both Trans-Am and Can-Am, campaigning the factory AMC Javelin while winning Riverside in a Can-Am McLaren, finishing third in the championship for that series. In 1972, George Follmer became the first and only driver ever to win both the Trans-Am and Can-Am championships, winning nine of fourteen races run. His first Can-Am race that year came about when Mark Donohue was injured and Roger Penske called upon Follmer as a temporary replacement. Never having seen the car or practiced in it. George drove the legendary Porsche 917 10K 'Turbo Panzer" to victory. His performance in the car convinced Penske to keep Follmer and ran a two-car team when Donohue recovered. George won five Can-Am races, with three pole positions and five fastest race lap records. Follmer's 1972 Trans-Am championship came about driving the Roy Woods Javelin, with four wins in six starts. Follmer's first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1973 resulted in a sixth place finish at the South African GP, garnering championship points; a significant accomplishment for any professional driver. His second such race, George finished third at the Spanish Grand Prix behind Emerson Fittipaldi and Francois Cevert. Follmer ran the full season for the American UOP Shadow effort teamed with Jackie Oliver and the late Peter Revson. Also in 1973, in his "spare" time, Follmer placed second in the Canadian-American Challenge Cup (the "Can-Am Championship") second in the International Race of Champions series ("IROC") and competed in the World Endurance Championship driving for Porsche. 1974 represented another phenomenal season for George, with eleven top-ten finishes in NASCAR stockers driving the Bud Moore RC Cola Ford Torino along with another second place in the Can-Am Championship and another Formula 1 season teamed with Jackie Oliver. The SCCA Trans-Am Champion in 1976, Follmer drove a Porsche 934 Turbo to victory on five occasions. Driving a Porsche in selected IMSA events only throughout 1977, George finished second in the Watkins Glen 6-Hour endurance race teamed with Jackie Ickx, and second at Mid-Ohio with Al Holbert. Competing again in IMSA, George took first place at Laguna Seca in a Porsche 935 in 1978, and placed third at Riverside teamed with Derek Bell. Also running Can-Am that year, Follmer won he San Jovite race. Though he won at San Jovite, Laguna Seca proved his undoing, where he almost lost his life that same year. In a spectacular crash on the twisting Laguna Seca road course, Follmer's car suffered a stuck throttle and launched itself at full speed several hundred feet through the air, slamming into a hillside. The Can-Am championship was lost, the car was destroyed and, most thought, Follmer's career along with it. George had broken an ankle and two vertebrae in his back. To the surprise of the racing community, but not to those who know him, George was back on the track less than a year after the crash in 1979. Follmer again pursued the Can-Am title in the Herb Caplan U S. Racing Chevy-powered Prophet. In 1980 he ran only selected IMSA and Can-Am events, capping his "comeback" with one Trans-Am win at Charlotte and another most gratifying victory at Laguna Seca. George competed regularly in the Trans-Am series and has acted as the principal test driver for the International Race of Champions series, sorting and honing the Condition of the cars to keep them race-ready and identically prepared. Along with the wealth of experience he brings to the track, George is an experienced team leader and manager and plans to apply the knowledge he has gained through his involvement with IROC and his long-standing association with Porsche to the Carrera Cup.

Courtesy of Follmer Specialties

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