DAYTONA BEACH – Not that we’d ever need an excuse to catch up with Lyn St. James, but the confluence of last Friday’s “International Women’s Day,” the fact that March is “Women’s History Month,” this Saturday is the 67th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, and the currently under way IMSA 50th Anniversary Celebration made this a perfect time to do so.
Of course, there’s also the fact that St. James was selected among the “50 Great IMSA Drivers” in the recently published “IMSA: Celebrating 50 Years” commemorative book – the only woman on the list. And also the fact that she co-drove to the GTO class victory in the 1990 Twelve Hours of Sebring alongside current NBC Sports IMSA commentator Calvin Fish and racer’s racer Robby Gordon in a Roush Racing-prepared Mercury Cougar XR-7.
“Because of the personalities of Robby and Calvin, it was certainly an entertaining race,” St. James recalled. “’Cause with Robby (especially), it’s always entertaining. It was part of that team effort. I can’t remember who all was on the other Roush team, but the fact we beat them, it’s always a good feeling when you not only win against your competition, but that competition includes your teammates from the team – not your co-drivers, but the team. You always like to be the ones that came out on top, which we did this time.”
St. James, Fish and Gordon led a 1-2 GTO class sweep in the No. 15 Mercury. Dorsey Schroeder and Max Jones finished second in the No. 11 Roush entry.
St. James admits that specific recollections of on-track happenings from a race that happened 29 years ago largely escape her. But her memories of racing at Sebring are vivid as ever.
“It’s the hardest track I’ve ever raced on,” she said. “Mentally and physically, it beats the (stuff) out of you. I know it’s better now, because I’ve been on it. I’ve gotten to go back and race in the vintage race there, and heck, they’ve smoothed it out, they put markers, it’s like, ‘This is a piece of cake compared to what it was back then.’
“It used to just beat the hell out of you. The bumps and the dirt, I mean, it’s not a good, happy description of driving a lap at Sebring and driving in the Twelve Hours. I mean, it’s brutal.”
And as one of the pioneers of Women in Racing – with six career IMSA victories, including becoming the first woman to win a race driving solo, which she did at Watkins Glen in 1985 – there’s one team in this weekend’s field she’ll be pulling for enthusiastically. It’s the all-female No. 57 Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Acura NSX GT3 co-driven by Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen and Ana Beatriz.
St. James has much in common with all three drivers. She was the 1992 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, a race that both Legge and Beatriz both have raced in as well. Nielsen also is a Sebring winner, having scored the 2016 GT Daytona (GTD) class win, the same class in which the No. 57 competes this year.
St. James will be following the action via NBC Sports coverage, which starts on CNBC at 10:30 a.m. ET and continues on the NBC Sports App and NBCSN.