John Horsman

John Horsman was known for his decades-long career in racing and as the man who “tamed the Porsche 917.” Born in Oldham, Lancashire, Horsman gained his place at Christ’s in 1955 to read Mechanical Sciences, graduating with honours. After leaving Christ’s in 1958, he was offered a graduate apprenticeship with Aston Martin Lagonda by Managing Director, John Wyer and, in 1961, Horsman became assistant to Wyer.

From 1963-1964, Horsman studied Business Administration at the London School of Economics. In 1964 he moved, with John Wyer, to Ford Advanced Vehicles Ltd.. This later created J. W. Automotive Engineering, at which Horsman became Executive Director and Chief Engineer. The company then went on to win Le Mans in 1968 and 1969. In addition to its back to back Le Mans 24 Hours victories, the team also won the World Sports Car Championships in 1968, 1970, and 1971. 

Horsman’s proudest accomplishment was his solution to the Porsche 917’s handling issues, changing its bodywork and shortening its tail. As a result, Porsche won the World Championship of Makes in 1970 and 1971, and the 917 became one of the greatest sports racing cars of all time. 

In 1972, he became the Managing Director of the Gulf Research Racing Company. In 1976, he moved to Scottsdale, Arizona and he then joined the GTC company and its GR8 finished 2nd at Le Mans in 1976 and again in 1977.

In 1983, Horsman moved to Tucson where he worked with Bib Stillwell at Learjet and with Bib’s amateur racing team, in historic racing events. During his career and retirement, Horsman wrote many notes of his engineering and development accomplishments, which were the basis of his book, Racing in the Rain, My Years with Brilliant Drivers, Legendary Sports Cars, and a Dedicated Team

Horsman had many star drivers in his team, which frequently excelled, winning both Le Mans and the World Championship three times. Some of his team records still stand, more than 40 years later. He was also immensely proud that, in a period when sportscar racing was notoriously dangerous, no driver was ever lost in one of his cars.

 
 

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