Kevin Kalkhoven, whose motorsport involvement included co-ownership of racing series, teams, events and suppliers, has died at the age of 77 after a short illness.
Born in Adelaide, Australia, Kalkhoven first built his reputation as a highly successful CEO and venture capitalist before emerging onto the motorsport landscape in 2003 when he partnered with team owner Gerry Forsythe to bid on the assets of CART, which had declared bankruptcy at the end of that season. After seeing off a higher bid from Tony George of the rival Indy Racing League – who was only interested in acquiring CART’s supply of Cosworth engines and sanctioning deal with the Long Beach Grand Prix – the new ownership group faced a scramble to get the new Champ Car World Series up and running in time for the 2004 curtain-raiser at Long Beach.
To help shore up the CCWS car count, Kalkhoven partnered with Jacques Villeneuve’s then-manager Craig Pollock to form PK Racing, which made its debut in 2004 with driver Patrick Lemarie. After a couple of years and some ownership (and driver) changes, the team had evolved into PKV Racing, with Dan Pettit replacing Pollock, and 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser taking his first steps into team co-ownership.
“Kevin Kalkhoven lived life to the absolute fullest,” said Vasser. “He showed how life was to be lived. He was a great partner and dear friend. I will always miss his mischievous smile and uproarious laughter. Rest In Peace dear friend.”
Kalkhoven’s efforts to reinforce the foundations of his new racing series didn’t stop at team ownership. He also bought a stake in the blue-riband Long Beach GP (later earning a place on the Long Beach Motorsport Walk of Fame), and acquired Cosworth and performance electronics/data company Pi Research from Ford.
We're incredibly saddened to learn the company’s former COB Kevin Kalkhoven, sadly passed away this morning, at the age of 77, following a recent illness. Read more: https://t.co/JJfM19Kjeu pic.twitter.com/GDlMQa00AG
— Cosworth (@Cosworth) January 4, 2022
Kalkhoven and Forsythe reportedly spent tens of millions of dollars trying to keep Champ Car afloat, but the writing was on the wall for both series, and in early 2008 an agreement was reached for what was now called the IndyCar Series to acquire Champ Car’s sanctioning deals, the series history and other assets, reuniting American open-wheel racing under a single umbrella. Champ Car signed off with a single race at Long Beach in 2008, which was fittingly won by Will Power for the team that had by then evolved into KV Racing.
That was the second-ever victory for the team in its various guises – the first came in 2005, when Cristiano da Matta took PKV to the top step of the podium in Portland – but better was to come. Tony Kanaan won the Indy 500 for KV Racing in 2013, and Sebastien Bourdais brought further success for what became KVSH with four victories between 2014 and 2016, which was the team’s last season as a standalone entry.
“Motorsports has lost one of its true leaders,” said Roger Penske. “Kevin Kalkhoven had a great passion for open-wheel racing, and his vision and support helped guide the sport through some turbulent times. As a leader of the Champ Car World Series, Cosworth Engineering and the KV Racing Technology team, Kevin had an incredible impact on IndyCar. Our thoughts are with the Kalkhoven family and Kevin’s many friends and colleagues that are coping with his loss.”
Away from the track, Kalkhoven remained Chairman of the now-merged Cosworth and Pi Research and oversaw the construction of Cosworth’s North American base in Michigan. He was also an active philanthropist who served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps, which benefits children with serious medical conditions, was a benefactor to the Mayo Clinic, and also made significant donations to organizations such as the Canary Foundation, which focuses on early detection of cancer.