Boost! Roger Bailey’s Extraordinary Motor Racing Career
by Gordon Kirby
“Once upon a time an automobile race team consisted of precisely four elements: the car, the driver, the team owner, and the mechanic.” That’s the era when the subject of this autobiography began his working life. Roger Bailey’s talents and abilities were such that he would become “one of the most sought after racing car mechanics in Europe and, thanks to Roger Penkse, also in the United States.”
Later he transitioned to business executive; first as IMSA’s Technical Director, then in 1986 he co-founded with Pat Patrick and then ran the American Racing Series which, in 1991, morphed into Indy Lights. Not to be overlooked, ARS also made possible Firestone’s return to racing. Not inconsequentially ARS/Indy Lights is considered one of, if not the, most successful open wheel development series ever.
Author Gordon Kirby is as accomplished and about as legendary as the racers he writes about. Consider that he’s now authored 18 books and thousands of articles since beginning his career in 1968 during which time he’s attended and reported on more than 1000 major automobile races of all types. His byline has appeared in magazines everywhere, not just in the Americas.
Roger Bailey’s stellar career began in his native UK turning wrenches on the variety of cars in the Jim Russell School garages before being snapped up by the Cooper Car Company to maintain and present the car that won the 1961 championship, followed by doing the same with Jackie Stewart’s 1964 Formula 3 championship winning car. Next was Bruce McLaren’s F1, followed by Ford adding Bailey’s abilities to the Shelby GT Le Mans effort specifically to work on fellow Brit Alan Mann’s entry. The image immediately below shows Bailey “installing a Ford V-8 into one of Alan Mann’s Ford GT-40s at the Shelby-American shop in California.”
Then Penske came knocking, hiring Bailey to maintain and present George Follmer’s Can-Am entry only to have Bailey hired away by Ferrari specifically for driver Chris Amon’s F1 312. Imagine being the only English speaking mechanic amongst all those Italians!
As the 1970s dawned, so did Bailey’s five year stint at Detroit-based McLaren engines where he netted two Indy 500 wins paired with driver Lone Star JR. McLaren next gave Bailey responsibility for David Hobbs’ IMSA BMW. And, it wasn’t long after that the series appointed him its Technical Director which set the stage for the aforementioned teaming with Pat Patrick.
As an executive, Bailey’s decisions and rulings clearly reflected he’d “been through the ranks” even as his manner earned him all and only praise from those he worked with or ruled over. Readers also learn how he earned his nickname “Boost!” and thus explaining the book’s title.
Kirby relates Bailey’s life and career chronologically from that time when a race team was those four elements mentioned at the outset to current days with their considerably larger staffs of which Roger has observed, “The relationship between the people involved in a racing team has become divided rather than unified” especially compared to the “era when the teams were smaller and more intimate, [a time] when there was very little differentiation between mechanics and drivers.”
Racers may retire, but that doesn’t mean they leave racing. As Kirby writes, “In his retirement, Roger continues to dabble in racing. In 2016 he was appointed a commissioner of IMSA in partnership with Teddy Mayer’s son Tim. Roger and Tim are the court of last resort for any IMSA competitor appealing a decision.” And then there are always events to attend. One such was a 2010 vintage event in New Zealand where Roger was photographed admiring Chris Amon’s 1968 Tasman championship-winning Ferrari.
Gordon Kirby’s Boost! tells of Roger Bailey’s Extraordinary Motor Racing Career as it also gives a reader insights into just how greatly racing has changed over the decades.
Copyright 2023 Helen V Hutchings, SAH (speedreaders.info)