Legends of Riverside

 

Pete Lyons

One sunny day at a sports car race on the old public road course at Bridgehampton, NY, a very young boy who at that time had no interest in automobiles was invited to step into the cockpit of a tiny Cooper-Norton F3 race car. “This one fits me!” he remembers exclaiming in his mind. Today, he remembers that as a life-changing moment.

Cars that seem to fit are larger now, but the excitement that springs from them is just as fresh. And to his delight, Pete Lyons has been able to devote the intervening decades to happily wandering the raceways of the world, writing about, photographing, and very occasionally being allowed to drive some of the most beautiful and thrilling machines ever created by human genius. Even better, he’s been privileged to know some of the geniuses.

It’s all thanks to his father, Ozzie Lyons, an engineer, photographer and lifelong automobile enthusiast who put Pete's feet on this road. Ozzie was long the USA correspondent for Autosport magazine, and helped his youngster begin shooting and writing for that British bible too. Gradually, but inevitably, covering motorsports became a career.

For several years Pete reported on the North American scene for Autosport, regularly attending great events like the Daytona 24-hour and 500-mile races, the Sebring 12-hour, the Indy 500, and the annual Formula One Grands Prix in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. A special favorite was the Can-Am, the Canadian-American Challenge Cup series for essentially unlimited big sports racing cars. Those glorious years from 1966 to 1974 are the basis for two of Pete’s books, CAN-AM and CAN-AM PHOTO HISTORY, both from MBI Publishing.

Pete then went international, and spent four wonderful years as the F1 correspondent for both Autosport and and the American publication AutoWeek. From 1973 through 1976, at a time before live television or the internet, when fans had to wait for their magazine to arrive to learn the results of a race weekend, Pete tried to put the reader into his shoes at such exotic locales as Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Japan and all the great circuits of Europe.

After several years on-staff as editor of a US racing monthly, which at first was called Formula and later renamed Racecar, Pete chose to become a freelancer once again. Today he contributes to a wide variety of automotive publications, including AutoWeek, for whom he is now a Senior Contributing Editor, and Vintage Racecar Journal, which carries his regular column, "Fast Lines." He also serves as editor of MilePost, the monthly organ of the Motor Press Guild (MPG). Other prestigeous publications in which Pete's byline has appeared include Racer, Road & Track, Corvette Quarterly, Car and Driver, Vintage Motorsport, Cycle, Cycle World, Private Pilot and many others.

To date Pete Lyons is the author of six books. His work has been honored with the Dean Batchelor Award of the Motor Press Guild, an Award for Journalism given by the Road Racing Driver's Club, and the International Motor Press Association's Ken Purdy Award. The Historic Grand Prix Association periodically awards its Pete Lyons Cup to owners of vintage F1 cars whom Pete feels best recreate the spirit of the historic times he remembers so vividly.

To scratch that old F3 itch, Pete has attended several competition driving schools, including the Bob Bondurant School, Skip Barber School, British School of Motor Racing, Jim Russell School and Jim Hall II Kart Racing School. He has test-driven many high performance cars, including several Ford GT40s, Lola and Shadow Can-Am machines, a Porsche 935 Turbo, a March-BMW GTP, and a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. He has competed in Formula Ford open-wheel racing, on go karts, and as a navigator in rallies (class winner with World Champion driver Denny Hulme in Tour of Britain, 1976).

No Cooper-Norton has come his way, but Pete has owned a Norton motorcycle and several other bikes, including Honda, Suzuki, Triumph, Triton (Triumph-Norton special) and Vincent, and has ridden all across the United States, deep into Mexico, and throughout much of Europe. His most interesting personal car was a 1973 Corvette, a bright red coupe which he drove from race to race in Europe during his F1 years. The flying bug bit, too: he earned his private pilot's license in 1976, and has owned Cessna, Mooney and Piper aircraft. At the extremes of the flight envelope, he has proudly logged pilot time in the Goodyear Blimp and at the (back seat) stick of a Navy Blue Angels jet.

With his wife, Lorna Fitts Lyons, two dogs and two cats, Pete is at home today in a small mountain community in Southern California.

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