My next guest, Jim Downing, has had a decades-long career in racing, beginning with club racing in the early 1960s, leading into many years as a successful IMSA racer with a long string of endurance races. Owner of Downing/Atlanta Racing, Jim is probably best known by some as the co-inventor and developer of the HANS device, which has become one of the most important pieces of driver safety equipment in existence.
But Jim didn’t stop with this accomplishment; he has won or scored highly at endurance races at Daytona, Sebring, Nurbring and LeMans, among others. He was instrumental in the creation of the Camel Lights series, helped write the rules for the World Sportscar Championship, and designed and developed the Kudzu series of race cars. Jim has had a long association with Mazda, and the rotary engine, being instrumental in the development of 2, 3, and 4-rotor engines and a host of cars from his early RX-2 through his current sports racer, the Peach.
As you can imagine, Jim has won numerous motorsports awards, and is a member of the SCCA Hall of Fame, Sebring Hall of Fame, Road Racer’s Driver’s Club, and more. At 75, Jim continues to race his Peach sports racer; his next event is the American Road Race of Champions at Road Atlanta. Obviously, plenty has been written about Jim, his racing career, and his cars, and I encourage listeners to search the internet, where you will find many great sites, including his own business’ web site, www.downingatlanta.com.
We recorded our conversation a day and a half before firestorms hit my area in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, and Napa County. Not sure if we would be forced to evacuate last week (and with fires still burning in many areas, I’m sad to say), it’s taken me awhile to get to the task of editing, mixing and publishing this episode, but now it’s ready – Vintage Racing Podcast with Jim Downing! We talk about his start in racing, through development of his many cars, as well as many of his co-drivers, engineers, and collaborators over the years, the value of good race driving schools, restoring some of his historic race cars, even the future of rotary engines.
All photos below courtesy of and copyright, Jim Downing