From left: Bobby Rahal, Brian Redman, Sandy Hall, Jim Hall, Roger Penske, Gil de Ferran, Johnny Rutherford. [photo credit: Dennis Ashlock]
Jim Hall Honored By Peers And Racing Elite At RRDC Evening With Jim Hall In Long Beach
by Judy Stropus
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 14, 2012) - Jim Hall, internationally renowned as an ingenious designer, engineer, championship racer and innovator in the sport of auto racing, was honored on Thursday by close to 350 of his peers and racing elite at the RRDC Evening with Jim Hall presented by Firestone. This was the fourth annual Road Racing Drivers Club West Coast banquet, held prior to the running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The dinner was also supported by Chevrolet and Honda.
Hall, whose accomplishments ranged from the 1960s, with the remarkable series of Chaparral race cars he built, to the 1970s, '80s and '90s as an IndyCar team owner, was interrogated in the style of the Late Show with David Letterman by RRDC president Bobby Rahal. Rahal coaxed many an interesting story from the usually reserved Hall, who retired from racing in 1996. From his initial encounter with Chevrolet engineers and executives who partnered with him to help create such advanced race cars as the "vacuum cleaner" Chaparral 2J, to his experiences as a team owner and co-driver with racing champions Roger Penske, Johnny Rutherford, Brian Redman and Gil de Ferran, Hall entertained the crowd with accounts never before chronicled.
Rutherford, Penske, Redman and de Ferran related their own tales of their history with Hall, while Mark Kent, Director of Chevrolet Racing, presented him with a plaque recognizing his "tremendous contribution to auto racing."
Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing, although admitting Hall's heyday was before he joined Firestone, related the unique relationship Hall and Firestone shared, as the always forward thinking Hall would stretch the limits of the tires by putting them on larger rims, resulting in the tire company regularly constructing new tires to satisfy Hall's search for performance.
"It was a magical evening," said Rahal. "Jim Hall is an icon in this sport, and it was a pleasure to sit down with him and listen to the recollections of an extraordinary visionary from such in important era in our sport."
"It's fabulous to be honored by your peers," said Hall, with wife Sandy at his side. "And that's really what it is here tonight. There are so many of the real racers here and I'm honored to be with them, and It's terrific to follow the three guys who were previously recognized by the RRDC (Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones and Roger Penske - all in attendance). And to see so many of the other people in the sport who were willing to come here and support this event just makes you really proud. I'm excited about it."
Past Indy 500 winners were present, including the aforementioned Rahal, Jones and Rutherford, along with Rick Mears, Dario Franchitti and Danny Sullivan, accounting for 13 Indy 500 victories among them.
The audience was comprised of a virtual "Who's Who" of auto racing, many of whom are RRDC members. The list included FIA Senate president Nick Craw, ALMS CEO Scott Atherton, Bob Bondurant, Skip Barber, Josef Newgarden (who became the first SAFEisFAST.com Online Driving Instructor last week), Brett Lunger, Oscar Koveleski, J.R. Hildebrand, Oriol Servia, NHRA legend Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, and many more.
Other contributors to the evening included Bernardus Vineyards and Winery, and Adobe Road Small Lot Handcrafted Wines. In assembling photos from Hall's career, the RRDC has received invaluable assistance from David Friedman, Road & Track, LAT, Michael Keyser and Peter Biro. Steve Earle provided vintage video and motorsports artist Randy Owens donated art for the silent auction.
The dinner's proceeds will help support the RRDC's young driver initiatives, including its groundbreaking www.SAFEisFAST.com program and the Team USA Scholarship, which the RRDC has backed since 1997.
About the RRDC:
The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety, and has evolved to serve the future of road racing by mentoring new drivers on both amateur and professional levels. The Club's membership includes leading industry professionals, race officials and motorsports journalists, in addition to prominent racing names.
In 2011, the RRDC launched a free on-line training seminar - www.SAFEisFAST.com - featuring more than 30 RRDC members and other industry experts in high-quality videos covering subjects from physical and mental preparation to driving techniques, driver safety to car setup and sponsorship. The videos are updated regularly.
President Bobby Rahal is the 1986 Indy 500 winner and is co-owner, with David Letterman, of the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winning Rahal Letterman Racing team. Ten-time SCCA National champion John Fergus is the Club's Vice President/Treasurer, and five-time SCCA National champion Tom Davey is the Secretary.
In addition to RRDC members lending their expertise to up-and-coming drivers, the Club presents three annual awards: the Phil Hill Award for rendering outstanding service to road racing; the Mark Donohue Award for personal spirit and performance at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs; and the Bob Akin Award - the top award presented to amateur and semi-professional racers - for speed with style, passion, sportsmanship and contribution to motorsports.
The RRDC also supports the Team USA Scholarship, which has been assisting young Americans in the early stages of their careers since 1990.
Membership in the RRDC is by invitation only. Additional information on the organization may be found at www.rrdc.org.