Endurance driver Hurley Haywood
Web linksCar Nation blog
ADVETORIAL - Check out the calendar of the guy they call one of the greatest endurance drivers on earth, and you'll find no gaps in the schedule.
Free time? Not Hurley Haywood. Down time? Not a chance.
There are five or six professional endurance races to drive in every year, true long-distance stuff.
There are the all-star races, vintage-car programs and, oh, yes, that little matter of a driving school in Birmingham, Ala. The Porsche Driving Experience, they call it. And Haywood, the chief instructor at the factory-sponsored school, is the only one given the keys to the 605-horsepower Carrera GT, the one car that is not a part of the school curriculum.
The busy guys get all the toys.
Skill? Haywood has plenty of that. Just look at the resume.
He isn't just a dynamic individual with boyish good looks and an easy smile - racing, literally, from one track of the United States to another - he's a legend.
He is, perhaps, the world's most accomplished endurance-racing driver and has amassed an astounding number of wins in this most intense form of motorsport.
He has won more 24 Hours of Daytona (Florida) races than anyone (five times). He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans (France), the Super Bowl of endurance racing, a mere three times. Not a class win, but the overall title. And he has won the 12 Hours of Sebring twice. Haywood has driven the Indianapolis 500 14 times, won the Trans Am Championship and gone head-to-head with the world's best in the International Race of Champions (IROC) series.
Endurance is his passion. No kidding.
"If you have one ounce of energy left," he has said, "then you haven't done your job properly."
Born in Chicago in 1948, Haywood got his start in racing at age 20.
"I was in college in Florida and I had a very fast Corvette that I took to a local autocross," Haywood once told www.motorsport.com, a racing Web site. "I was pretty much unbeatable. One weekend I was in an autocross and [legendary race car driver] Peter Gregg arrived with a big transporter and his race car to test something he was going to use in a race the following weekend. Everybody was moaning and groaning and saying it was unfair."
Haywood pulled a fast one, beating Gregg at his own game.
Gregg approached Haywood at the end of the day: "You have to be pretty good to beat me!" That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Gregg and a career in racing for Haywood, who quickly cut a deal. His father funded his racing, but if Haywood couldn't win a ride and compete on his own within two years, the boy had to find a different line of work.
Two years? It took less than a month.
On his first test in a race car, Haywood convinced Gregg to hire him on the spot.
Their first race together was in Watkins Glen, N.Y., in 1969.
Haywood had no experience and no racing license, but the two won their class, beating a slew of Corvettes in a Porsche 911S.
"That was the start of a pretty good career," Haywood said. And how.
A year later, he was a champion in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, one of endurance racing's big events. Two years later he won it again . . . and again two years after that.
Teamed with Gregg, the two were nearly unbeatable. Haywood credited it to determination, discipline and training.
"We were better prepared than anyone out there," he said.
Wins came at Daytona, Le Mans and every other track they chose to run at. Gregg eventually stopped racing, but Haywood continued on and to this day stays close to the discipline that made him a household name in the field of endurance racing.
He became involved in the Porsche driving school and in this, his 58th year, he's still running the big races. But the big question is whether he would ever do Le Mans again. Is there a fourth championship waiting for the 62-year-old?
Is there time for the legend to become an even bigger legend?
"I just don't want to go back," he said, "unless I have a chance to win the race overall."
Steven Reive is a feature writer with Wheelbase Media. He can be reached on the Web at www.wheelbase.ws/media by using the contact link. Wheelbase supplies automotive news and features to newspapers across North America.