David Porter: An Understated Champion

VENU Magazine, Fall 2015

David signals a confident thumbs up from his Pescarolo at Sebring in 2013. Photo by Michael Geng
David signals a confident thumbs up from his Pescarolo at Sebring in 2013.
Photo by Michael Geng

David Porter’s genuine, humble and unassuming nature belies his automobile-related accomplishments. With his keen eye for car collecting and good-natured competitive spirit, David modestly clinches awards at car shows and racing events. He consistently commands the racetrack, securing a career 10 racing championships, nine in the United States and one in England.

Vintage car racing is David’s passion. “The concentrated pursuit is character-building and instructive on how to be a better driver, not only a faster one. While winning is the goal, victory is achieved through fair-and-square sportsmanship,” he explains. David embraces the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s mission to “promote the historical preservation and use of racing cars” with their caveat that “the pleasure of ‘Taking Part’ must exceed the desire to ‘Win at All Cost’.”

A September 2014 outing at Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, New York, garnered David three wins from pole position in his 2007 Pescarolo Judd LMP1; he dominated the Historic Enduro competition in the Glenora Wine Cellars U.S. Vintage Grand Prix in the same car that João Barbosa, Stuart Hall and Martin Short steered to fourth place (highest places privateer) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007. David states, “such cars are intended to be driven. To put this car away and not drive it would be a crime.” He shares Robert Daley’s sentiment in his book Cars at Speed that the car is “for racing only. It is the ultimate. It is bred for speed and glory.”

It was a 1953-54 die-cast Cadillac Eldorado Dinky Toy that initially sparked David’s penchant for all things automotive as a young boy in northern England. A gift from his father, the Matchbox-type vehicle whetted his interest and poised him for the excitement of a family friend’s purchase of a 1958 Renault Dauphine and a trip to the Charterhall races in northeast England. Thrilled by single-seater racing, which he viewed from behind protective barrier straw bales, David determined that he, too, would one day master the circuits.

David rounds a turn in his Pescarolo on the way to first place victory in a 2013 Daytona Historic Sportscar Racing outing. Photo by Michael Geng
David rounds a turn in his Pescarolo on the way to first place victory in a 2013 Daytona Historic Sportscar Racing outing.
Photo by Michael Geng

Basement slot racing was his first venue, competing among like-minded early teen enthusiast friends with their hand-built, electric cars. He zipped through the back roads of Scotland at the age of 12 in a friend’s brother’s Morris Minor. Finally legal at 17, David’s father lent him money to buy a 1961 Ford Popular, which he equipped with an accelerator stop to limit David’s speed to 45 mph. David quickly removed the device prescient of his racing endeavors.

David’s quest for speed was fed by his daily-driver Minis and Lotus Cortinas and Elans, which also saw some track action. His Formula Ford debut in a single-seater, 120-horsepower Royale RP16 Formula Ford netted him a respectable 21st place out of 125 entrants at Mallory Park, England. He secured the National British Champion title at the 1987 British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC) championship in an Elden Mark X.

In 1988, David was a sponsored Argo JM6 driver on a Formula 3 team. Regrettably, his professional career ended after five races when the team owner withdrew funding due to an economic downturn.

A business-related relocation brought David to Connecticut in 1989 and to the track at Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Conn. An adept rain driver on the English circuits, David outpaced his competitors by 71 seconds in the pouring rain in his Hawke DL20 to win the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), North Atlantic Road Racing Championship Runoffs that year. David and his “wings and slicks” FF2000 car saw United States Auto Club and SCCA action from 1992 through 1994.

David charged onto the vintage racing scene in 2005 after a 10-year racing hiatus, competing in an open-wheel 1979 March 79B Formula Atlantic car in the tradition of racing greats Bobby Rahal and Gilles Villeneuve. The March and his 1971 Lotus 69 Formula Ford, one of only 19 built, have continually been favored cars for David in the Lime Rock Park Historic Festival races. His powerful Lola T97/20 Indy Lights car brought David wins in the 2011 and 2012 Historic Indy Lights Championship.

David won first place in the Sebring Historic Sportscar Racing endurance event, 2013. Photo by Michael Geng
David won first place in the Sebring Historic Sportscar Racing endurance event, 2013.
Photo by Michael Geng

David and his 2007 Pescarolo Judd LMP1 captured first place in a two-hour, endurance Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) event at Daytona International Speedway, Florida, in November 2013. A month later, he handily finished first in the Sebring HSR endurance race at Sebring International Raceway, Florida, in the same car.

He has logged laps and achieved additional success at the challenging Circuit Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentian Mountain, northwest of Montreal; Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin; Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia; and Mid-Ohio, Lexington, Ohio.

On- and off-season finds David maintaining and servicing his road cars, a labor of love and time. With no formal training, he has mastered the track and garage, drawing inspiration and his proclivity for Lotus cars from fabled racer Jim Clark, a Scot who hailed from 10 miles from David’s hometown.

Winning and camaraderie draw David to his motoring pursuits. Focused, determined and competitive, he fondly recalls a contest with Paul Wallace at the 1987 BRSCC Pre-74 Formula Ford Championship. After racing closely for 16 rounds, David and his Lotus 69 snatched first place in the final race to beat Paul and his Crossle 16F by one-tenth of a second. Tied for the Championship, David captured the title with an extra point earned for driving the fastest lap, a record that stood unbeaten for many years.

A 2012 meeting at the HSR Daytona against Andy Wallace, Paul’s brother and 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex 24 At Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring winner, brought sweet victory for David and a shared hearty laugh for them both as they emerged from their cars at the race’s end. Tightly pitted in first and second place in the qualifying rounds, David and his Pescarolo won the feature race, passing Andy and his Audi R8 LMP1 during the second-to-last lap.

Friends gather and socialize at each race to then go flat out against each other on the track. A tight-knit community, vintage racers share tips and lend each other parts—even spare engines—as needed. Children crowd around and climb in the racecars to their and David’s delight.

“The social aspect of the car-related community is fantastic,” shares David. David and his wife Patricia participate in motoring enthusiasts club dinners and rallies. The scene shifts from Connecticut to Sarasota, Florida, for the winter months where David and his colleagues continue their automotive conversations.

David's road cars are often invited to concours shows. Photo by Max Itin
David’s road cars are often invited to concours shows.
Photo by Max Itin

David is a welcomed entrant at car shows and concours events with his spectacular 1958 Jaguar XK150S, 1970 Lotus Elan and 2008 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, earning awards at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, Greenwich, Conn.; The Alden Sherman Classic car show, Weston, Conn.; the Lime Rock Park Sunday in the Park Concours, Lakeville, Conn.; British Wheels on the Green, Madison, Conn.; and the Scarsdale Concours d’Elegance, Scarsdale, New York.

No trailer queens these beauties, as they get exercise on Sunday mornings and as occasional daily drivers on runs to Whole Foods and Starbucks.

David is well-liked as well as respected and admired by his peers for his achievements on the racetrack and show field. His modest and gracious demeanor in his success, however, is what most distinguishes him among champions.