Forging Ahead, Chapter 6: Strap in

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Forging Ahead, Chapter 6: Strap in


Forging Ahead, Chapter 6: Strap in


As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of RACER magazine and the 25th anniversary of this year, I’m once again reminded that racing is ultimately an inspiration business, rather than a contrived entertainment business as some would lead us to believe. This is the central theme of Chapter 6 of our FORGING AHEAD series that chronicles the pre-history of RACER and my unlikely 51-year personal journey through the sport.

This sixth chapter of the series covers the year 1976 with a focus on perhaps the greatest Formula 1 season in history. I was truly inspired by the epic rivalry between 1975 world champion Niki Lauda and F1 bad boy James Hunt. The lessons learned from witnessing their heroic battle shaped me to find a way forward in life and in the sport.

I’d begun the year as a cocky 21-year-old working as the art director and managing editor for FORMULA magazine, which I’d helped create in 1973 and then helped save from oblivion in late 1974. However, my immaturity and personal shortcomings soon proved to be my undoing as I struggled to find professional traction in the turbulent and ever-changing world of racing and media.

Pfanner at the wheel of his 1972 Elden Mk-8 at Riverside in July of 1976.

1976 was also the year that I began to race Formula Ford in the SCCA. I started under the watchful eye of my lifelong friend and mentor Mike Hull, who was a driving school instructor and has since become one of the winningest team managers in the history of the sport with Chip Ganassi’s great organization. The lessons I would learn about life, teamwork, commitment and managing my mindset would put me on the path that would ultimately lead to the creation of RACER and to the moment we now share.

I’ve been so focused on sharing the stories of racers with others, that I’d not really shared my own personal story or the tale of how RACER went from a dream to a reality. But now, as I celebrate my 50th year working professionally in racing and in media, we are nearing the halfway point in this film series that will eventually take the origin story of RACER all the way to the present day.

In creating the FORGING AHEAD series, I’ve been struck by how perilous and challenging the journey was for those participating in racing at all levels — just as it was for our small but mighty RACER team. Along the way, I’ve learned that racers are far better than most at dealing with risk, managing change, and learning faster than the competition. These traits will become even more important as this storyline evolves from my immature trial-and-error antics in media and in racing, to the story of how RACER came to be as the result of the vision, talent, courage, and commitment of the brilliantly creative and dedicated people whom I am fortunate to know and work with — and whom you will soon see in the upcoming chapters.

In 1976, I first realized that I work for you — and others who share our passion for the sport. Since RACER’s launch in April 1992 through to today, you have been our reason for being. The phenomenal growth we’ve recently seen on underscores that racing is entering a new age wherein the audience’s energy, passion and devotion directly drives the growth of the sport. You truly are the medium in new media.

I hope you enjoy this chapter and please don’t judge my various 1970s hairstyles that are on full display — along with my delusional behavior. You are reading this now because people who are much more talented and far savvier than me saw past both flaws and agreed that you deserve a great American racing magazine and a vibrant racing website to connect you with our exciting and heroic sport.

Thank you for being a racing fan and for supporting RACER.

Catch up on previous episodes below.