On Monday, January 7th, 2013, Daytona racing legend George S. Waltman of Honesdale, Pennsylvania passed away at the age of 87.
Most endurance racing fans were unaware of exactly who George S. Waltman was unless you heard mention of him on the Speed Television broadcast of the recently concluded Rolex 24 At Daytona.
George was a very special man in many ways. Not only did he serve with the Army Air Corp as a B-29 pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II but following the war he worked as a pilot for British Air. Later he became an engineer for Jaguar-British Leyland and in that capacity dabbled in auto racing in the Bahamas, Sebring, Daytona, Bridgehampton, Lime Rock and Watkins Glen.
His greatest claim to fame and what has endeared him to anyone who has ever watched a sports car endurance race or ever dreamed of driving in one is that George S. Waltman is the only person of his time to drive and complete the 24 Hours of Daytona without benefit of a co-driver.
The year was 1968 and not only did George drive solo in the Daytona 24 but he also did it without benefit of a pit crew. And, as they say on TV, “But, that’s not all!” George drove, did not trailer, his Aztec Racing Morgan Plus 4 to Daytona from his home in Great Neck, New York, a distance of over 1,000 miles.
During the 24 hour race George complied with FIA driver rules requiring a rest break of one hour after every four hours on the track by servicing the car, taking a nap or getting a bite to eat. When leaving the pit area to “take care of business” he would place an “Out to Lunch” sign on the car.
With no pit crew he had to fuel the car himself, change tires and do other maintenance or repairs. No doubt he took advantage of all the freebies being offered to racers from the automotive vendors at the track in exchange for placing their decal on his car. It was also reported that some of the other racing teams may have assisted the intrepid driver where they could.
George’s Morgan Plus 4 was one of the last race cars running when the checkered flag fell and he is listed as finishing 30th overall, 335 laps behind the winning Porsche Works Team 907. Even more amazing was that he was only five laps behind actor James Garner’s AIR team Corvette that had four drivers including the likes of Ed Leslie and Scooter Patrick.
This was not George’s first attempt at a solo drive in an endurance race. In 1963 he completed the 12 Hours of Sebring without a co-driver finishing 37th overall out of 42 finishers driving a Triumph TR4. No doubt this gave him the confidence to tackle the Daytona 24 alone.
Regardless of what era of racing you might be thinking of, to enter and finish a 24 hour endurance race alone is nothing short of amazing and George S. Waltman will forever remain a legend from the “Golden Age of Endurance Racing” and for all of us a Daytona 24 legend.
One last amazing tale about George. After the 1968 Daytona 24 was over he posed for some photos, got himself cleaned up, changed the oil in the car, checked the tires and drove the car back home to New York. Rest In Peace George S. Waltman, my hero.