David Hobbs is a former racing driver from England who lives in the US. He was active from the late 1950s to early 1990s, trying all sorts of racing, from formulas and sports cars to touring cars and stock cars.
He recorded seven starts in the Formula One World Championship between 1967 and 1974, without notable results. His peak in the open-wheel racing was a title of the American Formula 5000 champion in 1971 and fifth place at Indianapolis 500 in 1974.
Hobbs participated twenty times at 24 Hours of Le Mans, scoring two overall podiums in 1969 (in a Ford GT40) and 1984 (in a Porsche 956). He also scored two class wins at Le Mans, in his first attempt in 1962 and then in 1982.
Starting to race in mother's Morris Oxford
Born in June 1939 in Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, David Wishart Hobbs make his racing debut in 1959, driving mother's Morris Oxford.
In 1960, he started to race in a Lotus Elite and Jaguar XK140 in national sports car events. He won fourteen of eighteen races in a Lotus Elite equipped with Mecha Matic automatic transmission, invented by his father. He also scored a class victory at 1000 km of Nurburgring.
Class victory at Le Mans 24h debut in 1962
In February 1962, Hobbs traveled to the US to compete in the inaugural Daytona 3 Hours, the race which later became Daytona 24 Hours. He didn't finish the race in a Jaguar E-Type.
A few months later, he made a debut at Le Mans 24 Hours, sharing factory-entered #44 Lotus Elite with Frank Gardner. They finished eighth overall and won the GT1.3 class.
In 1962, Hobbs also tried single-seaters and touring cars. Next year, he finished third in British Formula Junior Championship. He continued to race in a Lotus Elite in sports car races but at Le Mans, he was sharing a Lola Mk6 GT with Richard Attwood, not finishing the race.
Becoming a professional racer in 1964
David Hobbs became a professional racer in 1964, spending a season in Formula 2 and with different cars in sports car races. He also participated in one F1 non-championship race, the Aintree 200, in a Merlyn-Cosworth F2 car, not finishing the race. At Le Mans 24 Hours, he was sharing the #50 Triumph Spitfire with Rob Slotemaker, finishing 21st overall and third in P+3.0 class.
In 1965, he continued to combine F2 and sports car commitments, spending the most of the season in the British Sportscar Championship with Harold Young's Lola T70. At Le Mans, he and Rob Slotemaker were partners again in a Triumph Spitfire, not finishing the race.
Podium in the Syracuse Grand Prix F1 race
In 1966, the highlight of the season was a podium at Syracuse Grand Prix, the non-championship Formula 1 race at Sicily in May. Hobbs was driving Reg Parnell Racing's Lotus 33-BRM, finishing third behind John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini, both in Ferraris.
For the rest of the season, Hobbs participated in F2 and sports car races. At Le Mans, he and Mike Salmon retired in the #36 Ferrari Dino 206S. At the end of the year, in December, Hobbs won two races in Ford GT40, the Rhodesia Grand Prix and Roy Hesketh 3 Hours.
Three starts in the 1967 Formula 1 World Championship
The season 1967 was marked by Hobbs' debut in the Formula 1 World Championship. His first race was the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Driving the #20 BRM P261 for Bernard White Racing, he finished eighth, three laps behind race winner Jim Clark.
In the next round, the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring, Hobbs was driving the #27 Lola T100-BMW F2 car, finishing tenth overall and third among F2 drivers. His third F1 race that year was the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport Park. Driving BRM P261 again, he finished in the ninth place.
Parallel to his F1 commitments, Hobbs raced in sports car events alongside John Surtees, but without notable results. They had fast but unreliable Lola T70-Aston Martin, recording many DNFs, including at Le Mans 24 Hours where the car stopped after just three laps.
Four Formula One starts in 1968
In 1968, Hobbs recorded three F1 non-championship starts with Bernard White Racing's BRM P261, participating in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch (9th), BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone (6th) and International Gold Cup at Oulton Park (6th).
Later he joined Honda Racing as a test driver and made a start with their Honda RA301 in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He retired with a broken engine after 42 laps.
Helping Ford to take world championship title in 1968
In sports car races, Hobbs became a regular driver of Ford GT40 for John Wyer Automotive Engineering. After DNFs at Daytona 24h and Sebring 12h, he finished fourth at Brands Hatch 6 Hours and then won Monza 1000, sharing a car with Australian Paul Hawkins.
After that, they were fourth at Spa 1000 and second at Watkins Glen 6 Hours. At Le Mans 24h, held in September, Hobbs and Hawkins retired in the #10 Ford GT40. In November, Hobbs and Jacky Ickx triumphed at Kyalami 9 Hours. At the end of the season, Ford captured Manufacturers' title in the World Sportscar Championship.
Third place at 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours
In 1969, Hobbs reached his first overall podium at Circuit de la Sarthe. He and Mike Hailwood were sharing the #7 Ford GT40, ending the race in the third place, four laps behind race winners and their teammates Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver in the #6 Ford GT40.
In other sports car races that year, Hobbs recorded DNFs at Daytona, Sebring and Nurburgring, and finished fifth at Brands Hatch 6 Hours. Late in the season, he recorded two starts in Can-Am Series in a McLaren M6B-Ford.
Starting a successful Formula 5000 career in 1969
Parallel to his sports car racing career, Hobbs started a new adventure in 1969 by entering the Formula 5000 Championship in North America and Great Britain, driving a Surtees TS5-Chevrolet for Team Surtees. He won six races in the American championship, finishing second in the final standings, just one point behind Tony Adamowicz.
In 1970, Hobbs added two US F5000 wins to his account, finishing third in the points, behind John Cannon and Gus Hutchison. He also made few starts in the British F5000 and one start in the F1 non-championship race, driving for Team Surtees at BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone.
In sports car races, Hobbs returned to Le Mans with John Wyers Automotive Engineering but in a Porsche 917 K. He and Mike Hailwood retired after 49 laps because of an accident.
American Formula 5000 champion in 1971
The season 1971 turned out to be the best for Hobbs in an open-wheel racing career. He triumphed in nine out of fifteen races of the US Formula 5000 Championship, driving a McLaren M10B-Chevrolet for Hogan Racing, taking the championship title with a big advantage over runner-up Sam Posey.
In 1971, Hobbs also made a debut at Indianapolis 500, driving the #68 Lola-Ford for Penske Racing. He crashed out after 107 laps. In 1971, Hobbs also returned to F1 World Championship, driving a McLaren M19A-Cosworth for Penske-White Racing in the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, finishing in the tenth place.
Third place at 1971 Daytona 24 Hours
In 1971, Hobbs also gained some success in sports car racing. He was third at Daytona 24 Hours in Penske-White Racing's Ferrari 512 M, sharing a car with Mark Donohue. The same duo finished sixth at Sebring 12 Hours.
At 24 Hours of Le Mans, Hobbs and Donohue didn't finish the race in NART's Ferrari 512 M. They recorded one more DNF at Watkins Glen 6 Hours.
Racing in Formula 5000 until 1975
In 1972, Hobbs scored three wins as a defending F5000 champion in Hogan Racing's Lola T300-Chevrolet and finished third in the points, behind Graham McRae and Sam Posey. In the same year, he raced in Tasman Series in a McLaren M18B-Chevrolet, scoring one victory.
In 1973, he was without wins in the US F5000 Championship, finishing fifth in the points. He was a race winner again in 1974, winning one race to finish third in the points. He also clinched two wins in the European F5000. The last season in the American F5000 Championship, when he scored no wins and finished sixth in the points.
Two last F1 Championship starts in 1974
Parallel to F5000 commitments, Hobbs raced in other open-wheel competitions, including F1 and Indy Car. In 1973, he recorded two F1 non-championship starts with Hogan Racing, driving a Lola T330-Chevrolet at Race of Champions and BRDC International Trophy, not finishing both races.
In 1974, he recorded two last starts in the Formula 1 World Championship, joining Yardley Team McLaren in the Austrian Grand Prix and Italian Grand. He was driving McLaren M23-Cosworth, finishing seventh at Österreichring and ninth at Monza.
Three more starts at Indianapolis 500
After his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1971, Hobbs returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1973. He was driving the #73 Eagle-Offenhauser for Roy Woods, finishing in the eleventh place.
His career-best result at Indianapolis 500 followed in 1974, at the wheel of the #73 McLaren-Offenhauser. He recorded his last Indianapolis 500 attempt two years later, in May 1976, stopping very early, after just ten laps, in the #33 McLaren-Offenhauser.
Unsuccessful Le Mans attempt with Matra
While racing in Formula 500 during the 1970s, Hobbs reduced his sports car racing activities in Europe. He was a member of Equipe Matra-Simca at 1972 Le Mans 24 Hours, sharing the #16 Matra-Simca MS660 with Jean-Pierre Jabouille and not finishing the race. After that race, Hobbs didn't return to Le Mans until 1979.
In the meantime, he was a regular in the Can-Am Series for two seasons driving for Carl Haas in 1972 and for Roy Woods in 1973, but without notable results. In 1974, Hobbs recorded one-off appearance in the World Sportscar Championship, taking GT class victory at Watkins Glen 6 Hours in a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, together with Sam Posey and Elliot Forbes-Robinson.
Hobbs also tried stock car racing in 1976
In 1976, David Hobbs added stock car racing experience to his CV. He recorded two starts in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He made NASCAR debut at Daytona 500, driving the #73 Coca-Cola Chevrolet for DeWitt Racing. Starting 16th, he was even in the lead for two laps, crashing out on lap 69.
In August, he was driving Coca-Cola sponsored #9 Ford for Elliott Racing at Michigan International Speedway, completing 187 laps and finishing 17th.
Racing with BMW from 1976 to 1981
In 1976, Hobbs joined BMW Motorsport in two classic endurance races, driving Coca-Cola sponsored #24 BMW 3.0 CSL at Daytona 24 Hours (10th) and Sebring 12 Hours (DNF). His partner was Benny Parsons.
Next year, Hobbs became BMW Motorsport's full-time driver in the IMSA GT Championship, driving a BMW 320i Turbo. He won four times, at Mid-Ohio, Sears Point, Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca, to finish fourth in the points. Next year, he added two more wins to his account, finishing fifth in the points. In 1979, he was a race winner two times, including a victory at Road American together with Derek Bell.
In 1980, Hobbs reduced his racing programme to few races and then returned full-time in 1981, driving BMW M1 or March 81P-BMW in the IMSA Championship. He was driving BMW also at Le Mans 24 Hours, not finishing the race in the #53 BMW M1 which he was sharing with Eddie Jordan and Steve O'Rourke.
Two Bathurst 1000 attempts in a BMW 635 CSi
While serving as BMW driver in the US, Hobbs also made a trip to Australia to participate at famous Bathurst 1000 race in October 1981. He was driving the #44 BMW 635 CSi for JPS Team BMW alongside Allan Grice, finishing in the seventh place.
Hobbs returned to Mount Panorama in 1982 for one more Bathurst 1000 attempt, again in a BMW 635 CSi. This time, his co-driver was Jim Richards and they finished fifth.
1982 – class victory at Le Mans in a Porsche 935
After many years with BMW, Hobbs joined John Fitzpatrick Racing to drive a Porsche 935 in 1982. He retired in three consecutive races, at Daytona, Sebring and Riverside, sharing a car with team owner John Fitzpatrick. Then, in June, a pair finished fourth overall at Le Mans 24 Hours and took a victory in IMSA GTX class in the #79 Porsche 935/78-81 Moby Dick. Later in the IMSA season, the results improved and they won races at Road America and Mid-Ohio.
In 1983, Hobbs stayed with John Fitzpatrick Racing and competed both in the US and Europe. Sharing a Porsche 935 K4 with John Fitzpatrick and Derek Bell, he won at Riverside 6 Hours. At Le Mans, he retired in a Porsche 956. The third driver alongside Hobbs and Fitzpatrick was Dieter Quester.
Trans-Am Series champion in 1983
Parallel to his racing duties with John Fitzpatrick Racing, Hobbs participated in the Trans-Am Series in 1983, driving the #29 Chevrolet Camaro for DeAtley Motorsports. He won four times in twelve races and took the championship title ahead of Willy T. Ribbs.
Hobbs stayed for one more season in Trans-Am Series, driving the #1 Chevrolet Corvette, scoring no wins and finishing 8th in the points.
1984 - third place at Daytona and Le Mans
In the 1984 sports car season, Hobbs continued to race with Porsches for different teams but also made a start with Group 44's Jaguar XJR-5 at Daytona 24 Hours, finishing third together with Doc Bundy and Bob Tullius.
Last full season in 1986 IMSA Championship
In 1985, Hobbs raced in the IMSA Championship and World Endurance Championship with five different teams. He was close to a podium at Le Mans, finishing fourth overall in the #33 Porsche 956B of Fitzpatrick Porsche Team, sharing a car with Jo Gartner and Guy Edwards.
In 1986, he joined BMW North American to drive the #19 BMW GTP in the IMSA Championship, with John Watson as his full-time co-driver. The results were pretty bad, with fourth place at Portland as their best results.
The season 1986 was the last full season for Hobbs in some championship. After that, he raced a lot but didn't compete as a full-time driver.
Last Le Mans 24h attempt in 1989
In 1987, Hobbs raced with four different cars - Ford Mustang Probe, Gebhardt JC853-BMW, Porsche 962 or Nissan GTP ZX-T. He returned to Le Mans with Joest Racing, driving the #7 Porsche 962C. He was sharing a car with Sarel van der Merwe and Chip Robinson, not finishing the race.
A year later, Hobbs was again a member of Joest Racing's crew at Le Mans, finishing fifth in the #7 Porsche 962C. This time, his co-drivers were Franz Konrad and Didier Theys. In 1988, he also raced in a Chevrolet Corvette GTP in selected races of the IMSA Championship.
In June 1989, at the age of 50, Hobbs recorded his last attempt at Le Mans, driving the #15 Porsche 962C GTi for Richard Lloyd Racing. Sharing a car with Damon Hill and Steven Andskar, he didn't finish the race. It was his only race in 1989.
Ending a racing career at the age 54
However, Hobbs didn't end his career in 1989 but four years later. In 1990, he recorded two starts in the World Sports-Prototype Championship, driving a Spice SE90C at Suzuka and Porsche 962C at Dijon, and then take a break from racing in 1991 and 1992.
Finally, in 1993, he appeared in the Fast Masters Championship, reserved for drivers aged over 50, and finished fourth in the points among fifty contestants.
TV comentator, Hall of Famer, book writer...
In a post-race career, Hobbs was working as TV comentator, pit reporter and racing analyst for different TV stations. In 2009, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame.
In 2018, Hobbs published his long awaited autobiography "Hobbo: Motor Racer, Motor Mouth - The Autobiography of David Hobbs". The book details over a 30 years of his career in racing. He he has written down all of his experiences and stories in an enjoyable memoir that commemorates the incredible career of an incredible man.