Longtime Historic Sportscar Racing competitor Larry Connor reluctantly withdrew his entry in this month’s HSR 44th Mitty at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta but the all-around adventurer literally has an out-of-this-world excuse.
Connor is currently part of a four-man crew that is making history as the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Connor and his “teammates” successfully launched Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) from Cape Canaveral on Friday, April 8 in a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket powered Dragon spacecraft to mark the beginning of a new era of privatized utilization of the orbiting ISS laboratory.
Lifting off from historic Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the mission includes Axiom Space astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegri — Mission Commander and a former NASA astronaut — and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy. Not surprisingly, Connor (pictured at front right, above) serves as Ax-1’s Pilot in an astronomical evolution of his race experience in both contemporary and historic and vintage competition.
“When we received the email that Larry was going to have to cancel attending the Mitty because of scheduling conflicts, I didn’t realize that he was going to be heading to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon a few days later,” said HSR President David Hinton. “We all wish Larry the best of luck with the rest of the mission and look forward to seeing him at an HSR event later this year when he comes back down to Earth.”
Connor’s most recent visit to the HSR paddock was at last December’s season-ending HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour where he broke away from his pre-flight training at Cape Canaveral — he put in nearly 900 hours of training in the six months preceding Ax-1’s launch — to join his team in shaking down its new Audi R8 LMP.
Connor purchased the ex-Rogers Motorsports 2005 Audi R8 LMP that has been driven to multiple HSR Classic 24 At Daytona victories, including 2015’s race with Doug Smith and Butch Leitzinger. The Audi’s previous Champion Racing livery has been swapped for a new “Audi Silver” hue but still showed its class-leading speed at Sebring. With Audi LMP aces Brad Kettler and Bobby Green tuning the R8, Connor watched Leitzinger set the fastest lap time in three different sessions before heading back to Cape Canaveral.
In addition to vintage and historic racing with HSR and other groups, Connor is a two-time Formula Atlantic SCCA Runoffs national champion, a SCORE Off-Road champion and class winner and has participated in both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Connor’s daredevil pursuits, however, are far from confined to the racetrack. Still going strong at the age of 72, he has won aerobatic flying competitions and climbed both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Rainier.
Connor also completed three dives in five days in May of 2021 in the Mariana Trench, an area of the Western Pacific Ocean that has a known depth of more than 36,000 feet — almost seven miles — and is thought to be even deeper in spots. Connor could very well hold the extreme record of being the only man to descend into the greatest depths of the earth and to ascend the more than 225 nautical miles beyond our planet to reach the ISS in space.
According to NASA reports, Connor and his fellow crew members are set to return to Earth no earlier than April 20 after approximately 12 days in space. The private astronauts of the Ax-1 mission, led by Axiom Space and SpaceX, will undock from the ISS at 10:35 a.m. on April 19 before beginning the journey back to Kennedy Space Center, where they will splashdown on Florida’s Space Coast no earlier than 7:19 a.m. on April 20.