Ken May ‘ran into’ Pete Halsmer at Barber
Morosports Park, while covering the Grand Am Rolex Series race for
dailysportscar. As Ken explains, Pete Halsmer
drove the Probe with Klaus Ludwig in 1986, the car that got me hooked
on sportscar racing on the streets of Columbus, Ohio. Ken managed
to fit Pete Halsmer into his busy Barber schedule…
Klaus Ludwig himself will also feature on these pages
Pete, how did you get started in racing and specifically, sportscar
PH: Well, living in Indiana as a
boy, went to just about every 500 as a child. My
racing background included time with SCCA, Formula
V, Formula Ford, Super V, Indy, and then sportscar
KM: I only remember watching you race
the Ford Mustang GTP Probe, was there a car before that?
PH. Yes, in ’83 with Mazda,
the BF Goodrich 962 ……….
KM: Sorry, before my interest in
KM: How did you get involved with the
Ford racing program?
PH: Doc Bundy was with Ford, then
moved to Chevy and their GTP program, so there was
an opening at Ford….there was some discussion
with me and we were able to finalize the deal….
KM: Talk to me about the Corvette GTP
you raced against.
PH: Now that was a machine….at
times it made the Probe look like it was running
the speeds of the GTP Lights….Awesome power…one
of the great ones in the GTP era.
KM: Tell me about the GTP era and the
time in the Probe.
PH: It was definitely a great time
to be in racing……..you had the sleek
962s, the Jaguars, BMWs, Nissan, Toyota……..was
a real fun time to be in sportscar racing. The tracks
we raced on were fantastic and the fan turnout was
KM: What was your most memorable GTP
racing experience? Please tell me it was with the Probe…
PH: Sorry Ken, but not to many good “memorable” experiences
with the Probe…it was actually in a 962…the
BF Goodrich….. We were running the car with “street
legal tires”…..BF Goodrich was using
this as a marketing push and we really had no business
racing on those tires…….John Morton and
I took the pole at Riverside on those tires. Considering
what we were up against, that was a lasting, memorable
experience. Those tires were not designed to be raced
on the track, but we did put the 962 on pole.
KM: But back to the Probe, sorry Pete,
it is still my favorite car…what was it like?
PH: Very challenging to drive….always
on the edge and the Turbo aspect of it, was a something
else….the lag back then on turbos is nothing
like today’s turbos.
KM: Did you feel like you could win
any time you were in the car?
PH: Sure, but with drivers like
Cobb, Holbert, Bell, etc. you had to run a perfect
KM: Your co-drivers, specifically Lynn
St. James….one of the best?
PH: She did so much for the sport
and yes, one of the best.
KM: Do you remember the Columbus 500
PH: Sure do, tight corners and a
very weird pit entrance and exit…..I do remember
the fans came out for the race…it was a nice
track and a challenge..
KM: I think it was the ‘87 race
(no, ’88), when the Probes out of Tom Milner’s stable collected
each other in the Keyhole….I remember the accident as I was screaming
how the drivers were fools at the top of my lungs…hopefully one
was not you…
PH: Can’t remember Ken, let’s
KM: How about the Mid-Ohio track?
PH: Another great track and I still
enjoy racing there……
KM: Speaking of tracks, how would you
describe Barber Park?
PH: This is an absolute beautiful
layout. Being brand new, the surface is incredibly
smooth and has many challenges for the drivers. They
really did a nice job here for not only the teams,
but the fans too.
KM: What’s it like driving this
PH: Technical and very busy….lots
of places to pass and the elevation changes make
it a hell of a ride. The front straight is not that
long, but besides that…great track.
KM: Why are you racing the Grand Am
Cup series, and not SPEED GT?
PH: Good question, do you know the
KM: SPEED GT seems to me to have more
of the “names” in sportscar and “factory type” teams…besides
that, they both provide great door to door racing….
PH: Yes, but there is a big difference
that you are missing…..In Grand-Am Cup, there
are driver changes and that plays into the strategy,
and the races are of course longer.
KM: OK, so why have you decided to race
with this team?
PH: Everyone on the Honda of America
Racing Team is here as part of a learning program
from Honda. They learn what is going on at the track
to assist them back in Marysville……
KM: Just a few more questions…..How
do you view the sportscar environment in the US right now?
PH: A real mess….Because GARRA
is here and IMSA is here, conflicts with schedules,
just a real mess and it needs to corrected.
KM: How would you correct the “mess”?
PH: Start with the schedules…then
go from there….
KM: Can both GARRA and IMSA survive
PH: Yes, but they need to work together…..
KM: Do you hear comments like that with
other drivers or is it just from fans?
With that, I shook the hand again of my hero from the
GTP era…..Pete gave me his card and said to stay in touch…..I
took him up on that after his race, to congratulate him and his team
on their podium finish, Pete having raced with with John Schmitt in
the Acura RSX-S.