James King: trans-Atlantic historic racer

Historic Racing

American racer James King, now 70-years-old, is competing in major historic events on both sides of the Atlantic. He’s raced against some of the sport’s biggest names and is still racing and winning after half a century in the sport.

When did you start racing?

“I started when I was a senior at university and I was 21. That was the age limit in the States back then. So I converted my road-going Porsche roadster into a race car and got my licence. I competed until I got drafted into the army. I came back from Vietnam, sold the Porsche and bought a Formula Ford. It was the first ever production Royale in 1969. I did that for two or three years and then started racing in Formula B with a March 712. I was in the famous race at Trois Rivieres when James Hunt got beaten by Gilles Villeneuve. Gilles was on pole and I was right behind Hunt on the grid. But I crashed out of the race and wrote off the chassis. I was trying to keep up with those guys.”

When did you first come to Europe?

“I came to England in 1977 for Formula 3 in the works March. We all thought we were going to be in Formula 1. The only F2 race I did was at the Nurburgring in 1978. March owed me some money and I ended up with a 782 rolling chassis and did one race at the ‘Ring and couldn’t raise any money so that was it for that year. All the time I was here I was working for a company and we had distributors all over Europe.”

Did you race back in the US?

“I went back to the States and bought a March 79B from Doug Shierson and raced in Formula B again. We won the national championship in 1982 in a Ralt RT4. I did a handful of pro races after that and did Daytona with some friends and some Camel Lights. I stopped racing at the end of 1987 with a podium at St Petersburg. After racing for 20 years, I thought that was pretty good. We had a family business and I got well stuck into that, got married, had children; all the usual things.”

What drew you back into racing?

“Doug Shierson found the Beta March that Vittorio Brambilla drove in the 1975 Trois Rivieres Grand Prix when he won the race. He was the only import to ever win that race. It was all local guys except for Vittorio. So Doug bought the car and we raced that for a while starting in 1993. Our business was acquired in 1998 and I was afforded a lot more time and a little more cash to go racing. I have good friends like Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan.”

 When did you get involved in Historic F1?

“We brought a March 761 over here in 1999 and ran it in TGP and had a pretty good season. The next year we started Historic Grand Prix in the States and organised races for 3-litre F1 cars in North America. We did the US and Canadian Grand Prix support races, Indycar races and all the big vintage races. We ran that for 14 seasons and then Ron Maydon took it over at the beginning of 2014. He wanted to expand into the States and we decided we’d had a pretty good run and that it was time to go.”

Which is your favourite car?

“Duncan Dayton is a good friend of mine and he got me into the one-and-a-half-litre F1 cars and I found the car that Dan Gurney drove to win the French Grand Prix in 1964. I was bumming around Europe that summer and I was at that race and I’ve got great memories of those events. It was a Brabham BT7 with a Climax V8. We’ve run that at Goodwood and Monaco and won both of them over the years and the biggest benefit is that I got to be friends with Dan because of the car. He could not have been more gracious and generous with his time and it has just been a great relationship. For me, that’s the real jewel of historic racing!”

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