Al Holbert was born, Alvah Robert Holbert, on 11 November 1946 at Abington in Pennsylvania. This legendary American NASCAR driver, won the IMSA Camel GT series five times. Al Holbert’s father, Bob Holbert, was a racing car driver himself, and he ran a Volkswagen-Porsche dealership, out of Warrington, which is close to Philadelphia.
Al Holbert, during his studies as Lehigh University, worked for Roger Penske, where Mark Donohue started to influence him to drive. His very first victory was behind the wheel of a Porsche, in 1971. Holbert turned professional racing driver in 1974, and walked away with the IMSA title in 1976 and again in 1977, whilst driving a Chevrolet Monza. Holberts’ 19 career races, in the NASCAR series, was raced between the years of 1976 to 1979. He primarily drove for James Hylton during the nineteen races, in which Al Holbert had finished in the top ten, four times.
In 1983, Holbert took the Cam-Am championship title, together with the IMSA GTP title, whilst driving a March83G, powered by Porsche, as Porsche were not able to get the 956 ready for that year’s competition. In the 1984 Indianapolis 500, Holbert took fourth place. During the years 1987 to 1988, he led the Porsche Indy Car initiative. Holbert also took the 24 Hours of Le Mans title in the years 1983, in 1986, and again in 1987. He secured the 24 Hours of Daytona in the years 1986 and in 1987, and also won the 12 Hours of Sebring title in 1976 and again in the year 1981.
By this time, and with so many successes under his belt, Al Holbert headed up the Porsche North America’s Motorsports Division, and was also the racing team owner of Holbert Racing. Holbert had realized, in 1988, that the Porsche 962 had carried him through his early years of racing, and that they had become outdated with the new generation racing cars, like the Electramotive’s Nissan GTP racer and the Jaguar XJR-9. This inspired Holbert’s idea to produce an open top Porsche powered racing car, for the customer teams.
Al Holbert had visited the IMSA Columbus Ford Dealers 500 in Ohio, on 30 September 1988. Just after takeoff, Holberts’ plane started to develop engine problems. He was heading towards residential houses, but managed to steer his plane away, just before he crashed. Holbert did not survive the crash. His team was to be disbanded at the end of the racing season, and his race number, number 14, was to be retired by IMSA. Kevin Doran was recruited as the chief mechanic for Holbert Racing, an later became the team owner.
In 1993, tribute was paid to this brilliant driver, and competitor, who’s death left a gaping hole in the racing community, but also left behind a racing career that is still spoken about today. Alvah Robert “Al” Holbert was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, in 1993.