The Spirit of Racing

Jim Pace and Angus Russell. [Photo Credit HSR]

Jim Pace and Angus Russell. [Photo Credit HSR]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

While the cars are the objects that get most of the attention in motorsports, for the ones who are really involved in the sport, we know that the cars are just a means to an end. They are literally the vehicle to get to the finish line, but they are just mechanical sculptures. Without the people in racing to breathe life into these inanimate objects, they remain inert, lifeless. However, the real focus of racing, the true heart and soul of the sport, are the people who populate its ranks. From the first-year crewman whose job it is to clean and polish the car, to the driver getting his first big break after years of struggling, to the writers and photographers who crisscross the planet to chronicle the exploits of their heroes, to the sanctioning body President who is responsible for the health and wellbeing of the sport and the people under his charge – these people are what motorsport is all about.

We have been involved in motorsports since the 1970’s (Jack) and 1980’s (Eddie) and have seen pretty much everything. We have seen victory and defeat, triumph and tragedy, good luck and bad luck. We have made lifelong friends and suffered through the loss of some of those friends in and outside of racing. On the balance scale of life, however, we would have to say that our lives have been truly enriched by our motorsport experiences. It’s been the racing people who have made this journey worth it.

The following story will illustrate the truth of the preceding paragraph – victory and defeat, triumph and tragedy, good luck and bad, lifelong friends and loss.

Jim Pace was an excellent race driver, but an even better human being. Unfortunately, we lost Jim in November due to complications from COVID-19, the scourge of humanity in 2020. Jim was a champion driver who started his career in 1988 and went on to win the both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1996, among his other accomplishments in motorsport.

We nearly lost Jim in July of this year when he had a terrible accident at Road America while driving the 1974 Shadow DN4 CanAm car, which did a blow over on the pit straight during qualifying for the annual vintage race. Jim survived unscratched, thanks in part to the safety standards in the race car he crashed and his personal safety gear (HANS device and carbon fiber helmet). Or as Jim himself said: “plus the guardian angels that watch over us when we don’t know it.”

Perhaps Jim was saved to further inspire us all, to be able to spend a few more months among us continuing to do good deeds.

Enter Angus Russell, a successful British businessman and motorsports enthusiast who met Jim Pace in 2015. Angus had acquired the Leyton House Porsche 962C, and was making a big step up from piloting a Porsche Cayman S in competition. Angus wanted to work with a driver/coach to help him with the 962 and Jim Pace came highly recommended. Angus picks up the story: “I remember having dinner in Ormond Beach with Jim to ‘get to know each other’ before the test the next day at Daytona, He asked me if I had any concerns about driving the car. I told him I was concerned that the car was too much car for my abilities and that I would not be able to drive it correctly. He smiled and said ‘you know, Angus, it’s just another car. It has four wheels and a steering wheel just like any other car.’ That was Jim! Always encouraging, never seemingly concerned or doubtful. Throughout our time together he never once suggested that the car was beyond my capabilities and made me believe that one day I would be competing up front in races.”

Together, Angus and Jim made a good team, a perfect mentor/student relationship. They piloted the Leyton House 962C in several HSR Classic 24 at Daytona endurance vintage events, finishing 3rd in 2018 and 2nd in 2019. They were scheduled to drive together at the 2020 event, but Jim couldn’t drive – he was fighting COVID-19.

Angus elected to go forward without Jim at his side in this race for the first time. Instead of trying to find someone to fill in for Jim, Angus decided to race solo. It would be 4 one-hour sessions behind the wheel of the physically and mentally demanding Porsche, on the challenging high banks and road course at Daytona. Angus: “When I drive at Daytona his voice is frequently in my head reminding me to ‘be on the gas’, ‘firm brake’, ‘hold it, hold it, full power’, ‘breathe on the straights, check your instruments’. Sometimes it’s as if he was in the car with me.”

Perhaps Jim Pace was riding along with Angus Russell at the 2020 Classic 24 at Daytona, for Angus brought his 962 home a winner, capturing the prestigious C-1 prototype class. Angus piloted the winning car a total of 84 laps of the 3.570-mile historic circuit, finishing a full two laps ahead of the second-place car.

Jim Pace passed just a few days after Angus’ triumph at Daytona, but his legacy and spirit lives on in the countless lives he touched both inside and outside of motorsport.

Angus Russell put it best: “Jim made me believe in my ability to be successful.”

Godspeed, Jim Pace.

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