Record updated 23-Sep-21
One of America's most articulate racing drivers. A multiple kart champion who previously drove in the Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League, Gidley has now carved a niche for himself as a successful sports car racer.
José Guillermo "Memo" Gidley is a racing driver of German and Canadian ancestry, born in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico in 1970. He holds dual citizenship (American and Mexican).
José Guillermo "Memo" Gidley is a racing driver of German and Canadian ancestry who also holds dual citizenship (American and Mexican). He was born into a family that lived for excitement and adventure. An hour after his birth in La Paz, Mexico, Memo was taken out to the sailboat that would be his home until he was nearly eight years old. Raised by Cass, a hard working commercial fisherman from Canada, and Mary, a freelance writer from Wisconsin, Memo spent his early years on the Pacific Ocean between Mexico and Northern California, accompanied by his two sisters, Lupe and Sharon, and the family dog, Huckleberry. The family lived as "anchor outs" in the San Francisco Bay, maintaining a lifestyle straight out a Steinbeck novel. Eventually, they would move to dry land and the town of San Rafael, California. It was his time spent on the ocean that helped develop a work ethic that would take Memo from seeing his first car race to driving an Indy Car in a mere seven years, less than half the average time of most top-level drivers.
Memo learned to sail and began racing small sailboats at the age of seven. Between the ages of eight and eleven, he had successfully raced BMX bicycles and decided it was time to try racing with a motor. When he was 11, Memo purchased a motocross bike with money he had earned from painting boats around the harbors, and doing odd jobs after school. Memo and sister Lupe would join Cass on his motorcycle (which would tow a small trailer with Memo's bike), head out to the races and sleep under the stars. Gidley went on to win multiple 125 and 250cc Championships and continued to travel this way until "the kids grew too large to fit on Dad's bike."
Shortly after high school, Memo decided to pursue his dream of racing cars - a dream that was born in 1991 after his uncle, Jon, had taken him to see a Champ Car race at the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, California. The first time he saw the sleek, gleaming cars race through the world famous "corkscrew" section of the track, he knew what he wanted to spend the rest of life pursuing. he needed to race and win in these 900 horsepower rocket ships. Without the money to start his career, he referred to a flyer he had found blowing around the infield of Laguna. Leaving his apartment and moving into his pickup truck, Memo enrolled in the mechanics-training program at the Jim Russell Racing School. In exchange for working in the school's shop, Memo was able to begin driving and raced in the USAC Russell Championship Series. In his first race, Memo surprised the competition by qualifying on the pole position and leading the race from start to finish. Although it was his rookie season, Memo went on to win the 1992 series championship, winning nine of eleven races.
From 1993 to 1998, Gidley proceeded to win major races and championships throughout the junior "ladder" ranks of CART and made a big name for himself. His driving skill and popularity rose to the point of breaking into the pinnacle of the sport in 1999 with Walker Racing. Memo amassed an impressive record in the CART ranks over the following three seasons, including a fifteen-race run in 2001 with four-time CART champions Target Chip Ganassi Racing that produced three podiums (two seconds & a third) and four top five finishes.
He nearly retained his drive for 2002, Chip later suggested that they only retained Bruno Junqueira as he was under contract. where as Memo was not. He has raced assorted sports cars since, although he made 2 ChampCar starts for Rocketsports in 2004, and briefly ran in the rival IRL series.
Since 2005 he has competed full time in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, co-driving with Michael McDowell to a victory in the Mexico City season finale. He is highly popular with many fans and hasn't given up on a return to single seaters.