In 1971 the future seemed bright indeed for a soft-spoken 21-year-old driver who was itching to get his hands on a Grand Prix car. Fresh from Driver of the Year honors in Canada and a phenomenal 21-29 record in one season of Formula Ford racing in the U.S. and Canada, David Loring of Concord, Mass., was in England, ready to take on the British Formula Ford circuit. He did so with style. In '72 Loring won five Formula Ford races—outdriving a youngster from Kentucky named Danny Sullivan, among others—en route to a fifth-place finish in the series championship, and was named Most Talented Foreign Driver.
The British Formula Ford series is the first rung on the ladder to Formula One, and young Loring was obviously on his way up. But he never made the next step. Now, at age 40, Loring is in his second season behind the wheel of a Nissan 240SX in the undercard GTU class of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) circuit. He is too old, and too far down the road, to hold out hope for a chance at Formula One. And it remains to be seen whether he can parlay his success in the GTU—he won four of 14 races last year, and through June has won three of the first eight events this season—into a ride in a more glamorous IMSA class. For all his driving talent, Loring is profoundly lacking in one thing required of any driver who expects to make it to the bigs nowadays: the ability to sell himself.
The following conversation is a case in point.
Journalist: "How many races have you won in your career?" (The correct answer is more than 60.)
Loring: "I have no idea."
Journalist: "O.K., how many times were you on the pole last season?" (Eight.)
Loring: "Haven't a clue."
It's no act. Loring doesn't know. And he doesn't mind not knowing. The way he sees it, rattling off his impressive stats would be bragging, and civilized people don't brag. When Loring does have something to say, he speaks in a half-whisper and stretches out the ends of sentences in a New England/Canadian/British accent. He says, "I went to Quaker meetings with my parents when I was growing up, and the message was 'You don't go around telling people how good you are; if you're good, you'll get recognized.' That's...the...way...I...was...brought...up." He is sitting in an unpolished antique chair in the study of Graycroft, his family's 103-year-old summer home in eastern New Hampshire. A civilized race car driver. Sounds like an oxymoron.
But not to those who know Loring. They wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that for an international-style rally from Hong Kong to Beijing four years ago, he painted the name of his father's employer, Cabot Corp., in Chinese characters on his car. Charles Loring had told his son that Cabot—which makes carbon black, a component of tires, and was building a plant in Hong Kong—would not sponsor him. "I just painted the car for my dad," Loring says. "He had gotten a lot of technical information about tires for me through his connections over the years." An additional payback came when Loring won his class in the 2,800-mile event.
"David's got a different personality from most drivers," says Frank Honsowetz, motor sports manager for Nissan. "A lot of them can be really obnoxious." Phone calls and glossy p.r. kits from eager drivers flooded Honsowetz's Carson, Calif., office in December 1989 when word spread that Nissan would be adding a second car to its GTU team for the following season. Loring wasn't among the callers, of course, but he earned an audition on the strength of recommendations from race car designer Trevor Harris and former driver Carson Baird.