Interview – Pete Halsmer
OK Pete, Where Is The Probe?

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 shortly.

dailysportscar.comKM: Pete, how did you get started in racing and specifically, sportscar racing?
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 racing.

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 sportscar racing

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 great.

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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.

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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 race….

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.

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KM: Do you remember the Columbus 500 track?
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 hope not!

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 track?
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 differences?

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 together?
PH: Yes, but they need to work together…..

KM: Do you hear comments like that with other drivers or is it just from fans?
PH: Both.

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.
Ken May

 

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