Next year mark’s the 40th anniversary of the first ever IMSA-sanctioned race at Road Atlanta. Two drivers dominated those early IMSA Camel GT races at Road Atlanta: Peter Gregg and Al Holbert. Both drivers were meticulous in their preparation, very serious and very talented. And both died far too young.
Gregg has the distinction of being the first winner of an IMSA race at Road Atlanta, winning in 1973 while driving a Porsche Carrera. The Harvard graduate and former Navy Air Intelligence Officer was the owner of the Brumos Porsche dealership in Jacksonville, Florida.
Al Holbert, son of legendary driver Bob Holbert (owner of a VW-Porsche dealership in Warrington, PA) grew up in a racing environment. He studied mechanical engineering at Lehigh University. Holbert was on Roger Penske’s pit crew in the 1960s. He later started his own driving career, and in 1974 he teamed with Elliott Forbes-Robinson to win the second IMSA Camel GT race held at Road Atlanta.
In 1975, Holbert and Gregg each won a race in the doubleheader weekend. Holbert won the next two years at Road Atlanta driving his Chevrolet Monza. Gregg countered by winning the next two Road Atlanta IMSA races in his Porsche 935.
So, in the first seven IMSA Camel GT races at Road Atlanta covering a six-year span, Gregg or Holbert won EVERY one of them. Both drivers had stellar careers, with Holbert becoming a member of an elite group of drivers who have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona.
Holbert was a somewhat quiet and unassuming person. Gregg was often considered unfriendly and at times downright mean. In that respect, they were very different. But in terms of driving talent and the ability to organize a winning team, they both proved to be very successful.
Sadly, both drivers’ careers ended way too soon. Gregg’s life ended in 1980 on the sand dunes of Ponte Vedra Beach Florida, where he committed suicide. Holbert died in 1986 when the plane he was piloting crashed during take-off at Columbus Ohio during an IMSA race weekend.
When you are talking about Road Atlanta history, you must mention Peter Gregg and Al Holbert.
Author: Ken Breslauer