Hap Sharp

Full Name:
James R Sharp jr
Born:
1st January 1928
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Died:
7th May 1993 (Aged 65)
San Martin de los Andes, Neuquen Province (RA), suicide
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Jim Hall may be recognised as the man behind the Chaparral sports car marque but some credit must also go to his quiet and unassuming colleague. "Hap" Sharp was born on January 1 1928 and his nickname was short for "Happy New Year". His father worked in the oil trade and Sharp trained as an oil-well drilling contractor.

Intermittent Formula 1 career

He settled in Midland, Texas and became a business associate of fellow resident Hall. Sharp finished fourth in the 1961 Sebring 12 Hours with a Ferrari 250TR and raced a Cooper in North American sports car and Formula Junior events that year.

Hall and Sharp commissioned the first Chaparral in 1961 and the latter’s year ended with his Formula 1 debut in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Sharp’s Cooper T53-Climax lined up on the penultimate row (next to Hall’s Lotus-Climax) and finished in 10th position.

Sharp was a regular local addition to the American GP field for the next three years. He finished 11th in the 1962 United States GP with the Cooper and hired Reg Parnell’s Lotus 24-BRM for both US and Mexican races in 1963. He retired from the former but finished a career-best seventh in México City. He entered both races again in 1964 with Rob Walker’s Brabham BT11-BRM – finishing 13th in his sixth and final GP in Mexico.

Chaparral sports cars

The Chaparral was ready to make its debut in the 1962 Sebring 12 Hours. Sixth that day, Hall and Sharp won a SCCA race at Elkhart Lake later in the year. Sharp was a consistent competitor in the United States Road Racing Championship – finishing fifth in the 1964 standings and third a year later. He also enjoyed success in the end-of-season Bahamas Speed Week and his Chaparral 2A-Chevrolet won the Nassau Trophy in 1964 (with Roger Penske) and 1965 (solo).

His most successful season as a driver was 1965. Winner of the Sebring 12 Hours with Hall and the Chaparral 2A, he scored USRRC victories at Castle Rock, Mid-Ohio and Elkhart Lake. However, increasing business commitments forced Sharp to scale back his racing schedule thereafter. His last race of note was the 1968 Sebring 12 Hours.

Sharp had interests in real estate, the oil business and the automotive sector. He was also a major land owner in his homeland and in South America, including an Argentinian cattle ranch close to the Chilean border. It was here that he took his own life in 1993 shortly after finding out he was suffering from terminal cancer.

Championship seasons