Jacksonville, FL — Racer, writer, broadcaster, entrepreneur and motivational speaker Lyn St. James is the Honoree of the 26th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance scheduled for March 4-7, 2021.
St. James’ racing career began in a Ford Pinto — her daily driver — in the 1970s and had its grand finale more than two decades later in a special commemorative ceremony on the “yard of bricks” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Her first titles were a pair of regional south Florida road racing championships. She moved up quickly, racing a Corvette at Sebring, Palm Beach and Daytona. A brave class victory in the punishing 1979 24 Hours of the Nürburgring racing an AMC Spirit AMX sponsored by BF Goodrich is an exotic and sometimes overlooked line on her deep resume.
She graduated to the pro ranks in the 1980s as a Ford factory racer. In 1984 Autoweek magazine named her Rookie of the Year in IMSA’s GTO class. A year later she won IMSA’s Norelco Driver of the Year award. That was a very good year: an IMSA GTO victory came in August 1985 at Road America in the Lowenbrau Classic. A month later, on one of her favorite tracks, the full Grand Prix course at Watkins Glen, St. James scored an unprecedented and still unequalled solo IMSA GTO class victory in the Serengeti Drivers New York 500 racing a Roush Mustang. The ’80s also saw two class victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
In 1988 she set a closed course speed record for women at 212.577 mph in a Bill Elliott-built Thunderbird — one of 21 national and international speed records St. James authored. She earned another page in the record books with an Indy 500 qualifying lap of 227.32 mph that stood as a record for women until Sarah Fisher’s lap of 229.675 mph qualifying for the 500 in 2002.
It was a visit to the Indy 500 with her mother in 1966 that revealed St. James’ passion for motorsport. Her Indy 500 career began with a surprise test at Memphis Motorsports Park in a Dick Simon Racing Lola.
On Memorial Day 1992, she raced her JCPenney sponsored Lola/Chevy — the Spirit of the American Woman — to 11th place, becoming the first woman to win Indy’s prestigious Rookie of the Year award. She is quick to point out that she still holds the record as Indy’s oldest Rookie of the Year winner. Eight years and seven Indy 500s later St. James retired from Indy Car competition.