Sunday, 30 April 2017

Deborah Gregg

Deborah Gregg raced sportscars in the States in the 1980s, and ran Brumos Motorsport after the premature death of her husband, Peter Gregg, in 1980.

The Greggs first met at a party, and initially bonded over a late-night road race they held with friends. Deborah had never actually raced. Peter competed internationally, as well as owning four car dealerships.

Their relationship progressed quickly, and they married within a few months. However, just five months after they met, Peter drove out into the desert and shot himself. He had changed his will in favour of Deborah, and left her a note telling her not to blame herself for what he had done.

She was now a widow, and went through the normal grieving processes, but she was also, now, a very wealthy woman, with the resources at hand to go racing, an ambition she had always harboured. According to her mother, she had been interested in cars since the age of five.

Her first IMSA event, in 1982, was the Daytona Finale. She drove a Porsche 924 with Elliot Forbes-Robinson. They were 22nd overall, and eleventh in the GTO class.

In 1983, she started racing for the Brumos team, which now technically belonged to her, as it had been owned by Peter since 1965. Hurley Haywood, a former team-mate of Peter’s, was on hand to help. Deborah ran a Porsche 924 for an all-female team of herself, Bonnie Henn and Kathy Rude. Their first event together was the Daytona 24 Hours, and they were thirteenth overall. The trio reunited for the Sebring 12 Hours, in which they were 35th. Deborah and Kathy then did the next three rounds of the IMSA series together, with a best finish of 17th, at Charlotte.

Mid-season, Deborah travelled to Germany for the Nürburgring Grand Prix. She shared a car with Lili Reisenbichler and Jürgen Hamelmann, but they did not finish. Back at home, she did the last two rounds of IMSA in two different Porsches 924s, driving alongside Elliot Forbes-Robinson and George Drolsom.

1984 was a much quieter season. She raced with the El Salvador team, in another 924. Her team-mates were Jim Trueman and Alfredo Mena. They were meant to do the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours together, but Deborah never got to race at Sebring. The team did not finish either race anyway.

1985 saw her back in a Brumos car for the Road America Trans Am round. This time, it was a Buick Regal. She was 23rd. She also drove an Alba AR4 for Malibu in the Watkins Glen 500km, and was fifteenth.

She returned to IMSA in 1986, driving a Tiga GT286. For Daytona, she was part of a four-driver Rinzler Motoracing team with Mike Brockman, Steve Durst and Jim Trueman. They qualified in 28th place, but the car’s engine failed. Sharing with Jeff Kline, Deborah was eleventh at Laguna Seca, then ninth at Charlotte, with Jim Trueman. This was her best finish of the year. Later in the season, the car was taken over by Brumos. This particular team’s best result was a twelfth place at Palm Beach, before another Tiga was brought in, which did not run as well.

Her fourth Daytona 24 Hours was the best of her career. She got a ride in a Roush Racing Ford Mustang, with Scott Pruett, Scott Goodyear and Bobby Akin. They were ninth overall, third in class. This was more remarkable considering that they were unable to set a qualifying time, and started from the back of the grid.

Deborah remained a Roush driver for the rest of the season, and tackled the Trans-Am series in a Mercury Capri. This car seemed to suit her. She was eighth in her first race at Long Beach. By the third round at Portland, she was into the top five. Her first podium happened at Road America, and was quickly followed by another third place at Memphis. She was fifth in the championship, and won the Rookie of the Year award.

In 1988, she joined up with another Roush driver, Lyn St. James. They drove a Mercury Capri at Daytona with Mark Martin and Pete Halsmer, but crashed out quite late on. Deborah and Lynn had more success as a duo, finishing eighth at the Sebring 12 Hours in a Mercury Merkur XR4Ti. They were second in the GTO class.

Deborah had not always had such good relationships with other female drivers. Shortly before her 1988 Daytona run, she had appeared on a speaking panel with Janet Guthrie, who said, in front of her, “as for Deborah Gregg, I don't know how much money Peter Gregg left her, but it was evidently enough for her to buy herself a ride.'' It is unclear what her grudge was, or what the context of her remarks was. Others were more complementary. Including former team-mate Elliot Forbes-Robinson, who praised her progress that year.

Deborah’s Trans-Am season was not quite as strong as her 1987 run, although she remained a solid competitor. Her best result was at Detroit, where she was fifth in the Merkur. This was one of four top-tens she earned that year.

During her time at Roush, Deborah also did some truck racing in a Mitsubishi and a Jeep Comanche, although results are proving hard to track down. Lyn St. James used a Ford Ranger.

After the 1988 season, Deborah took a break from racing, although she came back to Trans-Am in a Chevrolet Camaro, in 1991. She was 18th in the 1991 championship, and tenth in 1992. A part-season in 1993 gave her a 21st place.

Her last IMSA race also occurred in 1993. She was twelfth at Miami, in her self-entered Camaro.

Shortly afterwards, she sold her interest in Brumos, and concentrated on other things, including family.

(Image copyright Mark Windecker)

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