Judy Ganley was an accomplished driver, race team member and race team administrator. She raced a Sprite and Mini-Cooper with the San Francisco Region of the SCCA in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1970 she drove a Le Mans Sprite Prototype with Janet Guthrie and Rosemary Smith to a class win and 19th overall in the Sebring 12 Hour race. Judy went on to work with the McLaren team as a timer and scorer and her skills were sought after by many of the top teams in Europe.
<font face="Tahoma" size="2">What would posses an attractive, smart, twenty-five year old women, to go sports car racing? No doubt the fact her brother and husband were racing with the San Francisco Region had some influence, however, it was something else that kindled her desire…the smell of Castrol Oil. After attending her first sports car race in 1964, Judy recalled it was that smell of Castrol Oil which permeated the air, that stuck with her.
Deciding she would give it a try, she took the first step and purchased an olive green, Bugeye Sprite. She then attended the RDC driving school where her instructor was Steve Froines, a seasoned racer on the rise and a friend of her brothers. She did well at the school, received her license and looked forward to her first race.
Over the next three years, Judy raced the Sprite up and down the West Coast and performed much of her own maintenance on the car. Seeking a different challenge and a bit more safety, she switched to a Mini-Cooper in 1968 and continued a busy racing schedule. Like many other SCCA members, Judy was not satisfied with just participating on race weekends. She decided to give more of her time to other SFR activities including public relations, driver instruction, driver observer, corner worker, two consecutive terms as the Region’s Treasurer and one year as Assistant Regional Executive.
With her success as a sports car racer and being a women driver, Judy was recommended to Atlanta based Baker Racing in 1970. Sponsored by Ring Free Motor Oil Company, Baker Racing had entered a Prototype Sprite in the 12 Hours of Sebring and wanted it driven by an all-women team. Judy would be driving with Janet Guthrie of Indy 500 fame and European rally ace, Rosemary Smith. After a whirlwind week of publicity events, the team got down to business with preparation and practice. Judy encountered a few problems during practice – she was not as tall as Guthrie or Smith; she was driving a car with right-hand drive/left-hand shift for the first time and she had limited night vision. Despite these problems, she completed her assigned driving stints, alternating with Guthrie and Smith and the team finished first in class and nineteenth overall. With her Regional and Sebring successes, Judy was voted Women Racer of the Year by the Northern California Motorsports Writers Association.
1971 was a busy and diverse year as Judy continued racing selected events with the SFR, took on additional public relations assignments including Sears Roebuck at the Indianapolis 500 and attended the 12 Hours of Sebring as a reserve driver for the Ring Free Motor Oil Team. Unfortunately, the teams Chevron B-16 blew an engine on the second lap so she did not compete in the race.
In 1972, Judy retired from driving but her involvement in racing was far from over. She accepted an invitation from Patty McLaren and traveled to Europe to attend the GPs with the McLaren F1 Team. Before long, Judy was assisting with timing/scoring where she exhibited an amazing ability to accurately time up to twenty cars with a single stop watch. On many occasions, Judy’s timing charts were used by other teams and drivers to compare their times against those of the race organizers. With her reputation as a timer growing, Judy embarked on a long career providing administrative support to major racing teams. These included (Chris) Amon Engines Ltd; LeMans with Matra (1972); BRM F1, Williams F1, Gulf in the Sports Car World Championships; Gelo Racing at Nurburgring 1000km, LeMans and Interseries; Verb Schuppan’s CanAm Team at Laguna Seca and Riverside (1980).
Along the way Judy became involved with race car engineering and between 1984 and 1987 she assisted various Group C teams with technical advice along with timing and lap charting. She returned to LeMans several more times in the 1980’s performing her flawless timing duties for several teams and co-managed one of the Schuppan Porsche 1962s in 1990. Besides her on-track advice, Judy gained considerable experience in aerodynamics and was involved in several wind-tunnel programs.
In 1971, Judy met and eventually married Formula One, Formula 5000, LeMans and CanAm racer, Howden Ganley. While still an active driver, Howden co-founded well known racecar manufacturer, TIGA, in 1976. Judy became reacquainted with the SCCA and the SFR working with Howden as the two made several trips to the U.S. from their base in England to promote the sales of the very successful TIGA Sports 2000 and Camel Lights racers. In 1990 and after living solely in England since the 1970’s, Howden and Judy bought a home in the San Francisco Bay Area with a plan to eventually settle here full time. Splitting time between the U.S. and England, the Ganley’s remained involved in various racing activites for the next several years. Unfortunately, Judy developed cancer in 1998 and after a courageous fight, she passed away April 27, 2007 at her Bay Area home, surrounded by her family.
Thanks to Gary Horstkorta