the Porsche enthusiast
Courtesy of Follmer Specialties
George Follmer is truly one
of the living legends of auto racing. He is also one
of the most versatile drivers in the world, having
competed in virtually every form of auto racing,
winning at most. Follmer is the only professional
racing driver from the United States who has
competed in Indy Cars, NASCAR, Formula 1, the World
Endurance Championship, Can-Am, Trans-Am and IMSA.
With this flexibility, his skills, and his record,
George Follmer is considered by most people
associated with motor sports as representing the
epitome of his profession.
With a racing career now
entering the second year of its fourth decade,
George Follmer has competed throughout the
"glory years" of auto racing with and
against many of the legendary names of the sport.
His first racing season, 1960, saw California Sports
Car Club "Rookie of the Year" honors,
followed by "Driver of the Year" and the
SCCA U.S. Road Racing Championship
("USRRC") title in 1965.
impressive career start was followed by milestone
after milestone, compris-ing a driving history
equaled by few and surpassed by none. Driving racing
machines now considered classics of the sport, some
of Follmer's professional highlights follow.
Follmer won the 1965 USRRC Championship with an
amazing performance driving an under-two-liter
Lotus 23 powered by a Porsche 904 engine against
such big-block performers as Jim Hall and Hap
Sharpe in the classic Chaparral.
Co-driving with Peter Gregg in a Porsche 904.
Follmer took a class victory in the tortuous 1966
Sebring 12 Hour endurance classic.
chalks up another win.
As a teammate to Mark Donohue in 1967 and
'68, George was the 1968 SCCA Trans-Am series
runner-up to Donohue.
Between 1966 and 1971 driving such classics as a
Mecom Lola, a Sunoco Lola, a Lola-Ford 67B, an
AVS Shadow and a McLaren M8B, Follmer set nine
Can-Am track records, failing to finish only
George drove the only Stock Block powered car
ever to win a race in United States Auto Club
Indy Car history to victory at Phoenix
International Raceway in 1969.
1970 saw a third place in driver's standings
as part of the Bud Moore Ford Mustang team in the
SCCA Trans-Am series. Though his teammate
Parnelli Jones won the driving title, Follmer was
instrumental in P.J.'s achievement and their
combined efforts won the Trans-Am
manufacturer's title for Ford. Follmer also
notched two wins in Formula 5000 races that year,
and started his second straight Indianapolis
1970 also was the year George Follmer made one of
his most profound and lasting contributions to
motor sports. Threatened with the loss of his
racing license by the United States Auto Club if
he drove in the California 500 (sanctioned by a
competing organization) Follmer threatened to
invoke the California "Right To Work
Law". His adamant stance on the issue caused
USAC to back down and established the prece-dent
which now allows drivers to interchange freely
among major sanctioning agencies without
In 1971, George drove for Roy Woods in both
Trans-Am and Can-Am, campaigning the factory AMC
Javelin while winning Riverside in a Can-Am
McLaren, finishing third in the championship for
In 1972, George Follmer became the first and only
driver ever to win both the Trans-Am and Can-Am
championships, winning nine of fourteen races
run. His first Can-Am race that year came about
when Mark Donohue was injured and Roger Penske
called upon Follmer as a temporary replacement.
Never having seen the car or practiced in it.
George drove the legendary Porsche 917 10K
'Turbo Panzer" to victory. His
performance in the car convinced Penske to keep
Follmer and ran a two-car team when Donohue
recovered. George won five Can-Am races, with
three pole positions and five fastest race lap
Follmer's 1972 Trans-Am championship came
about driving the Roy Woods Javelin, with four
wins in six starts.
Follmer's first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1973
resulted in a sixth place finish at the South
African GP, garnering championship points; a
significant accomplishment for any professional
driver. His second such race, George finished
third at the Spanish Grand Prix behind Emerson
Fittipaldi and Francois Cevert. Follmer ran the
full season for the American UOP Shadow effort
teamed with Jackie Oliver and the late Peter
Also in 1973, in his "spare" time,
Follmer placed second in the Canadian-American
Challenge Cup (the "Can-Am
Championship") second in the International
Race of Champions series ("IROC") and
competed in the World Endurance Championship
driving for Porsche.
George Follmer, and Vasek Polak.
1974 represented another phenomenal season for
George, with eleven top-ten finishes in NASCAR
stockers driving the Bud Moore RC Cola Ford
Torino along with another second place in the
Can-Am Championship and another Formula 1 season
teamed with Jackie Oliver.
The SCCA Trans-Am Champion in 1976, Follmer drove
a Porsche 934 Turbo to victory on five
Driving a Porsche in selected IMSA events only
throughout 1977, George finished second in the
Watkins Glen 6-Hour endurance race teamed with
Jackie Ickx, and second at Mid-Ohio with Al
Competing again in IMSA, George took first place
at Laguna Seca in a Porsche 935 in 1978, and
placed third at Riverside teamed with Derek Bell.
Also running Can-Am that year, Follmer won he San
Though he won at San
Jovite, Laguna Seca proved his undoing, where he
almost lost his life that same year. In a
spectacular crash on the twisting Laguna Seca road
course, Follmer's car suffered a stuck throttle
and launched itself at full speed several hundred
feet through the air, slamming into a
hillside.(2) The Can-Am championship was
lost, the car was destroyed and, most thought,
Follmer's career along with it. George had
broken an ankle and two vertebrae in his back. To
the surprise of the racing community, but not to
those who know him, George was back on the track
less than a year after the crash in 1979. Follmer
again pursued the Can-Am title in the Herb Caplan U
S. Racing Chevy-powered Prophet.
In 1980 he ran only
selected IMSA and Can-Am events, capping his
"comeback" with one Trans-Am win at
Charlotte and another most gratifying victory at
Since then, George has
competed regularly in the Trans-Am series and, since
1983, has acted as the principal test driver for the
International Race of Champions series, sorting and
honing the Condition of the cars to keep them
race-ready and identically prepared. Along with the
wealth of experience he brings to the track, George
is an experienced team leader and manager and plans
to apply the knowledge he has gained through his
involvement with IROC and his long-standing
association with Porsche to the Carrera Cup. Whether
he personally wins the championship or not, most
racing aficionados expect to see more than one
Carrera grace the winner's circle wearing the
George Follmer Racing team colors.
Email from Gary Lapidus, 10 October 2007:
Your bio on George Follmer says:
In 1971, George drove for Roy Woods in both Trans-Am and
Can-Am, campaigning the factory AMC Javelin while winning
Riverside in a Can-Am McLaren, finishing third in the
championship for that series.
I am certain this is incorrect, based on my memory of Trans
Am in the early 1970s. I was just a boy, but my memories are
vivid. George drove for Bud Moore in 1970, alongside Parnelli
Jones, and again in 1971, alongside Peter Gregg. In 1971 the
Roy Woods Javelin was driven by Peter Revson, which was a
deal that left Donohue in the Penske Javelin and placed
Revson w/ Roy Woods. It was 1972 that George drove for Roy
Woods/AMC in the Javelin, the lone factory entry in that
season. George won the Trans Am and Can Am (Penske Porsche
917-10) titles in 1972, leading to the advertising headline
(Champion spark plugs, I recall) "George Am".
Email from Brian Ferrin, 26 April 2009:
At the end of the page, there is a correction submitted by a
reader. I offer the following 'updated' correction.
As to where George Follmer raced in 1971, you are both
correct. George did drive for Bud Moore in a Boss 302 Mustang
for the majority of the '71 season. However, the last 2
races of the year were on the West coast, and Bud was unable
to afford the travel costs. Additionallly, the championship
had been decided at Michigan. George was released from
Bud's team and signed to drive the Roy Woods Javelin in
the final race at Riverside, which he won.
Email from Kevin Curtin, 26 October 2010:
I was present at the Laguna Seca Can-Am event, and at the
very corner, in which George Follmer crashed when the
throttle on his car stuck. In the text which follows, in a
different font, you have described an incident that was quite
a bit different, and much more spectacular, than the crash I
witnessed from approximately 50-75 feet away with an
unobstructed view of the before, during and after phases of
the crash. I was directly across the track on the
inside(apex) side of the track and had a straight on view as
the car passed in front of me from my right to straight
across from where I was standing.
In a spectacular crash on the twisting Laguna Seca road
course, Follmer's car suffered a stuck throttle and
launched itself at full speed several hundred feet through
the air, slamming into a hillside.
Several items in your account are incorrect.
1) the car was not traveling at "full speed". The
crash occurred as Follmer was attempting to negotiate the
lefthand turn following the "corkscrew" turn. This
turn is taken at medium speed for a Can-Am car, probably in
second or third(of 5) gears. It is a very challenging turn
due to its off camber nature, but it is not as fast as
several other turns at Laguna Seca.
2) the car DID NOT "launch itself several hundred feet
through the air". The car actually speared straight off
of the course much well before reaching the apex of the turn.
As it left the pavement, it ran over a dirt area before
scaling a near vertical dirt bank that was perhaps 10-15 feet
high. The car did not slam into this bank nor did it slam
into any hillside. It merely scaled the bank......in a hurry.
As the car scaled the near vertical dirt bank, it was
launched vertically above the flat surface at the top of the
bank to a height where the tail of the car reached a height
of perhaps 10-15 feet above this flat surface(ground). When
the car reached this height, the car was at an attitude
nearly perpendicular to the ground(virtually straight up and
down) with the tail of the car closest to the ground. When
the car's upward momentum was exhausted, the car dropped
to earth, tail first, and then the front tires and nose of
the car slammed into the ground. The car came to rest on its
wheels and at no time did it overturn or land on its side.
The car did not travel far at all beyond where it
"landed". As it scaled the bank, it ended up
passing over a 4 foot high wire fence used to restrain
spectators. As spectators saw the car approaching them, they
scattered in both directions along the fence so as to avoid
being struck by the car either on its way up or as it was
falling back to earth. No spectators were injured as far as I
know. I have no doubt that several of them needed to launder
their undergarments, though, due to the extreme fright they
suffered as a Can-Am car was bearing down on them.
I don't want to minimize this crash nor Follmer's
injuries. The shock his body was subjected to when the car
crashed to ground very hard was enough to damage his spine.
He was fortunate to have not been injured much more
seriously. However, the car in NO way resembled a low-flying
airplane launching itself "several hundred feet"
through the air. Rather, it was launched straight up, to a
very short altitude, and it landed in a heap causing
injuries. Through it all, although the car was heavily
damaged, it did not roll end-over-end. It did not
disintegrate or fly apart, shedding wheels and the engine, as
is often the case with cars that crash at the Indy 500.
West Linn, OR