Pierce County newcomer Bill Gibbs has a need for speed — or, he did.
These days he’s settling into happily retired and newly married life with his bride, Pat Tucker, but it wasn’t too long ago Gibbs was zooming around a racetrack in his shiny Porsche.
Racing has been his passion for decades. Gibbs began racing Austin Healey Sprites in the 1960s. He moved on to motorcycles in the 1980s, and then took up Porsche racing after he bought his dream car in the early 2000s.
The dealership where Gibbs bought his first Porsche offered buyers a training day in Tallahassee with legendary American racer and Hall of Famer, Hurley Haywood. Haywood, now in his 70s, has won multiple events over his storied career, including five victories at Rolex 24 in Daytona, three at 24 Hours of Le Mans and two at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Actor Patrick Dempsey plays Haywood in the documentary film, Hurley. Haywood still teaches at the training school.
Haywood would drive Gibbs around the course and then Gibbs would take over while Haywood observed his process.
“He’d say ‘do this,’ or ‘do that’ while I’m driving,” Gibbs says. “I did well in the driving school and he (Haywood) wanted me to learn how to race so I got into racing.”
At the end of the training course students were required to stop within a 30 foot box.
“You really learn what the brakes will do,” Gibbs says. “It (the car) just squats … You can be going 90 (mph), hit it (the brakes) and squat.”
Gibbs raced mostly in Florida and Georgia at Porsche Club of America (PCA) events. He raced in Atlanta and on the Daytona 500 track. His best race finish was a third place spot.
“I didn’t do it for any fame,” Gibbs says. “I didn’t win any races, but it was fun.”
Gibbs attended an international reunion of Porsche drivers when he was in Daytona, and got to see cars from all over the world – an experience nearly as thrilling as racing the Daytona track.
Gibbs’ preference for Porsches over other racers is simple. They go fast, really fast. His Porsche would go 0-60 miles per hour (MPH) in four seconds flat. There’s no hesitation with a 355 horsepower engine in a car that weighs less than 3,000 pounds.
“It’s fast … you get up to 120 or so in just seconds,” Gibbs says. “They (Porsche) handle so well. Once you professionally learn how to take those curves at high speed, it’s a blast.”
It’s possible to reach speeds of 195 mph on tracks like the Daytona 500, but the fastest Gibbs ever drove was 180 mph.
Jetting down the track that fast in his 911S model was both scary and thrilling.
“You don’t want to make the wrong move. You want to make sure you’re in control of the car.” Gibbs says. “Things are going by pretty fast.”
Endurance and strength are a must for drivers to maintain control over a long race.
“People don’t realize how fit you have to be to do it … steering at those speeds takes a lot of upper body strength,” Gibbs remarks.
Gibbs last owned a Porsche in 2017, but he’s since sold it.
“I kind of outgrew that. I’m 76 years old,” Gibbs says with a laugh.
What does the retired wealth management expert drive now? A Cadillac SUV.
“(I drive) an old man’s car,” Gibbs says, chuckling.
When his bride of one year is riding along, Gibbs behaves. But, he couldn’t resist seeing what a Cadillac’s six-cylinder engine could do when he was driving solo.
“She doesn’t like to go fast at all. I have to watch myself,” Gibbs says.
There aren’t anymore racing cars in Gibbs’ future. He says maybe he’ll take up cycling next.
He’s ordered one of the new Broncho trucks and is expecting it to arrive sometime in the Fall. Tucker will ride in his new toy, no problem.
And, Gibbs has taken up painting and furniture restoration in retirement. Some of Gibbs oil and watercolor paintings are on display at the Patterson Art Gallery in Eagle Station.