On February 4, 2004, the vintage racing community lost one of its members, Charles Taylor Gibson, to an untimely and tragic accident.
Most of us probably never realized that Charles T. Gibson, Charlie to his family and friends, held a Master of Science in Engineering degree, and earned a coveted MBA from Harvard University as well. He was recently inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 2001 honoring many of his exploits that included among numerous others his contribution to United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), founding director of the U.S. Ski Coaches Association and ski representative to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
As a recent winner of the Monoposto Racing Formula 70 Gilles Villeneuve Memorial Trophy, Charlie additionally raced Formula Atlanta racecars and was the 1967 G-Modified SCCA National Champion, in what else, one of his favorite weapons, a Lotus 23. Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA) members will always remember Charlie for his guidance as Race Director, making Lime Rock's Labor Day Vintage Festival one of the finest vintage racing events under his tutelage.
But while Charlie may have been all the above, his vintage racing family and friends will remember him as a tall slender competitor who was quick, smooth, fierce, and always a gentleman. For Lu and me, Charlie will always be the guy who warmed up a cool April morning with his gentle smile as he walked among the vulcanized rubber in Lime Rock's "A" paddock.
At the traditional International Motor Racing Center's Friday night reception and silent auction during the SVRA Zippo Vintage Grand Prix weekend at Watkins Glen (September 10, 2004), the 2004 Road Racing Drivers Club's (RRDC) Bob Akin Motorsports Award was presented posthumously to Charlie Gibson. Longtime friend and business associate, Dave Handy, accepted the award.
Our hearts and prayers go out to all his friends and family who were lucky to
be part of Charlie's life. He'll be sorely missed.
Louiseann and Walter Pietrowicz
Ten years ago, when the new timing and scoring building was finished at Lime Rock, Sam Posey asked me to put together a list of "Special Friends of Lime Rock" whose names would be engraved on a plaque permanently installed on the wall. Along with Lime Rock luminaries like Skip Barber, John Fitch and Sam Posey himself, one of the first names I put on my list was Charlie Gibson, Organizer of the Vintage Fall Festival.
I have to admit that for years, my relationship with Charlie was mostly confrontational. Either I was complaining about practice sessions that were only five laps long or Charlie was passing along complaints about the apparent width of my Kellison V-8 (known to my fellow competitors as 'The White Whale").
Eventually, I came to realize that Charlie fielded similar complaints from hundreds of other racers every Fall Festival weekend, always with the same slightly bemused expression, quiet voice and patient composure. Simultaneously, he was keeping half the field supplied with Dunlops and Goodyears from his tire trailer, tuning customer cars prepared by his Sascosports shop plus racing his own Lola Mark I and McLaren M6B.
According to my Lime Rock history, Charlie first appeared in a race at Lime Rock on September 12, 1959, driving an Austin Healey Sprite in a Long Island Sports Car Club event. To put Charlie in context, other neophyte racers at Lime Rock that summer included John "Skip" Barber, Timmy Mayer and Roger Penske!
In 1959, Charlie had already graduated from Deerfield Academy and Williams College and was about to earn both an MS in engineering and an MBA from Harvard. Like so many other young engineers who raced cars at Lime Rock, Charlie started working at nearby IBM in 1962. He stayed at IBM until retiring in 1988.
More important to our story, however, that old Sprite gave way to a state-of-the-art Lotus 23, with which Charlie won the G-Modified National Championship in 1967. After that, he spent four years sharpening his skills in the fiercely professional caldron that was Formula Atlantic in the Seventies.
In 1977, Charlie retired from Pro Atlantic, opened a race shop called Sasco next to his Fairfield, CT house, bought a Lister-Chevy and began vintage racing. Over the years, Charlie and his young friend/partner Dave Handy expanded Sascosports into a full-service race shop, as well as the East Coast source for Avon, Dunlop and Goodyear racing tires.
After Charlie retired, he took on the added burden of organizing the Vintage Fall Festival for the Vintage Sports Car Club of America. He was also on the board of directors of the VSCCA and instrumental in founding the Monoposto Racing group. No longer a kid, Charlie hadn't lost his touch. Driving a March 79B, he twice won the Monoposto Racing Formula 70 Gilles Villeneuve Memorial Trophy.
In 2000, Lime Rock decided to hand its Vintage Weekend over to professional Monterey Historics impressario Steve Earl rather than the volunteer-run VSCCA. Simultaneously, vintage racer Harvey Siegel sunk a fortune into rebuilding Virginia International Raceway. Charlie and Dave moved Sascosports to a new infield complex at VIR, from which they continued supporting tire customers and vintage racers at some thirty-five events a year. On February 3, 2004, Charlie returned from the Daytona 24 Hours and by himself, in the dark, unhitched the trailer full of tires from Sasco's Class 8 truck. Somehow, probably due to fatigue as much as anything else, Charlie failed to set the brakes on the truck. It rolled over him. In an instant, Dave Handy, hundreds of vintage racers including myself and Lime Rock Park lost a special friend.....Rich Taylor-Vintage Rallies
(Sam Posey added Rich Taylor, Author of Lime Rock Park's 35 Years of Racing, to the timing tower plaque listing Special Friends of Lime Rock)