Even to those with only a passing interest in vintage sports car racing, Jim Pace became well known in late July when the Shadow DN4 he was driving did a backflip during the WeatherTech International Challenge event at Road America in Wisconsin.
Driving up the track’s straightaway at nearly 180 mph, Pace was behind another DN4, driven by Craig Bennett, when at the crest of the hill Pace’s car became airborne, flipped over and skidded along on its roll bar until stopping.
Pace walked away from the wreck.
But what the crash couldn’t do, Covid-19 did. Pace died November 13. He was 59.
“We are saddened and heartbroken by the untimely loss of Jim Pace to Covid-19,” Byron DeFoor, founder of the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival said in a statement. “Jim was my dear friend and racing partner with the Fifty Plus Racing Foundation that helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Alzheimer’s research.
“Jim was the President and Chief Operating Officer of our most recent fundraising event, the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival. Not only was he an outstanding race-car driver, he was one of the nicest, most gracious gentlemen in the sport and car collector world.”
DeFoor added, “This is a terrible disease that should be taken seriously. Jim was a strong, vibrant and healthy man.”
Pace was a native of Monticello, Mississippi. Pace was a pre-med major at Mississippi State University and entered the University of Mississippi Medical School in 1983, but after 3 years left school to pursue a racing career.
He began racing in 1988 in the Barber Saab Pro Series, and won the GTU class of the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1990. Six years later, he joined Scott Sharp and Wayne Taylor in driving a Riley & Scott Mk III to overall victory in that same race.
He also drove with the same team in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
During his career, Pace competed 18 times in the round-the-clock race at Daytona.
In 1996, Pace joined Taylor and Eric Van de Poele in driving the Riley & Scott car to victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring. In 2015, he became a partner in the ownership of Historic Sportscar Racing, a vintage racing sanctioning body.
“The HSR family is shocked and deeply saddened by Jim Pace’s passing,” David Hinton, HRS president, said in a statement. “Jim to me was the ultimate gentleman who had time for everyone he came across in his life. He made us all better people for knowing him.
“The outpouring we have received from around the world tells a lot about the respect and love people held for JP. Everyone from Formula 1 drivers to ex-Skip Barber school students he taught over the years all have echoed the same message.”
“It is shocking, to be honest,” Wayne Taylor told HSR officials. “Last night, I was at Chicanes Restaurant at Inn on The Lakes (in Sebring, Florida, where IMSA was staging the delayed 12-hour race) and I was sharing with Scott Dixonthe picture of our car that we won with here in 1996. It was Jim in the car, and 20 minutes later I heard the news.