Championship racer and innovator Jim Hall was honored on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) Evening with Jim Hall presented by Firestone. This was the fourth annual RRDC 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.
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.
For more information on the RRDC, visit www.rrdc.org.