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John Dimmer
Tacoma, WA

Team Tyrrell

1967 Brabham BT-24

1971 Tyrrell 004

When you see John Dimmer and John Delane blast by in their twin Tyrrell Formula Ones, you've got to ask yourself is it live or is it Memorex? After six months of painstaking research, the two have carefully recreated the 1971 Elf Team Tyrrell down to the last detail, from specially made decals on the cars to the patches on their powder blue vintage looking suits. (The only detail lacking is Jackie Stewart's and Francois Cevert's trademark flowing 70's hairstyles... which you wouldn't notice under the helmets anyway.) The show the two put on at the 2001 Monterey Historics earned them the inaugural Pete Lyons Cup for evoking the most potent memories of Formula One racing.

For Dimmer, it's a far cry from racing his dad-built go-kart around his neighbor's circular 3/8 mile driveway, when his mother made him wear an old football helmet. "She used to say, 'If you're going to go out there and do this, you have to wear the football helmet.' I think I was the only kid in the neighborhood to drive a go-kart with a football helmet. But we raced around the neighborhood; I loved doing that," remembers Dimmer.

The Tacoma native grew up watching the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix on TV, but had no idea how to actually get into racing until meeting Parker Johnstone at the 1986 Tacoma Grand Prix. "Parker and I subsequently became very good friends. I used to go to the races with him. Finally, I just said, 'Look, I want to do this.' I think if you talk to most people that have an interest in racing, the concept of going from having this interest to actually driving a racecar... it's very difficult to make the connection there. Fortunately for me, Parker was there and when I said I want to do this, he said, 'Okay, here's what you need to do.'"

Dimmer went through the Bondurant School, then got his SCCA license and started racing Club Formula Fords in 1987. The first year he rented a Formula Ford from Motorsports Engineering in Portland, subsequently buying his own Crossle 32F when he knew he was " really hooked." He raced for three more years, finishing second the first year, winning the championship the next year, and finishing second his final year. Club Fords were particularly competitive in the Pacific Northwest, fielding large grids of 25 to 35 cars. "I was very fortunate the years I ended up finishing well in the championship because there were some terrific drivers that came out of here. John Hill and Ken Cannon continue to race Club Ford and are two of the finest drivers you'll find anywhere. I was lucky to be able to run with such great competition and really learn the race craft." Dimmer also won an endurance race in a Sports 2000.

While he competed in the Pacific Coast Road Racing Championships at Sears Point, because Club Ford is a regional category and not a national one, he never went to the SCCA Runoffs. "I have thought about doing Formula Ford racing so that I could go to the Runoffs, but the reality is that you could get yourself a Swift DB1 and run the races and your race group would probably consist of about three cars. You could qualify and go to the Runoffs, or you could continue to run Club Ford where there were 20-plus cars. I'd much rather be going out and enjoying the race event than just going out and trying to win a championship. For me, starting in my late 20's, I was never going to pursue a professional racing career. That wasn't in the cards." He still toys with the idea of getting a Formula Ford and going to the Runoffs, but to his mind, it's not necessary right now. "Now that I'm doing the Historic Formula One stuff and having such fun with it, I doubt that will ever happen. I think the thing that's so fun about the Historic Grand Prix group is that you get to run terrific cars with great guys and have more fun than is humanly possible."

Things changed when family expenses (Dimmer and his wife Diane have two sons and one daughter) "crept into the equation."  "I thought, 'I'm having a hard time justifying the racing program, but I love racing so much, I don't want to stop. How can I keep doing this, but knock the cost down a little bit?'" The answer was historic racing. (His choice of personal car, a 1995 MR2 reflects that same pragmatism. " I think it has probably got to be the greatest value in all of the automotive world because it didn't cost me a lot of money and it's huge fun.") Dimmer's father, John Dimmer, Sr., an engineer by training, loved projects and was looking for something to do, so the Dimmers restored a Lola T200 FF and started running it in '92. John did very well in the Lola and had a lot of fun with it, but then the Formula B's started putting him down a few places on the grid. "My dad said, 'Gee, how come you aren't winning anymore?' I said, 'Because I'm giving up about 80 hp here.' 'Gee, maybe we need to look at another car.'" They acquired a Lotus Climax Type 35 Tasman car with a 2.5 liter, 4 cylinder, twin-cam Coventry Climax  FPF that puts out 240 horsepower. Dimmer liked driving the car, but admits, "That was quite the project. By the time (my dad) finished with that he decided that was the last race car he was going to restore." 

While in Australia participating in the Formula Adelaide Race of Legends -- an event set up specifically for 3 liter, pre-wing F1 cars and Formula Tasman cars -- Dimmer found that running against Cosworth DFVs, the Lotus was "coming out on the short end of the stick." He was intrigued by the historic Formula One cars and while surfing the net, came across a Brabham BT24 for sale. It was the '67 spare works sister car to the '67 world championship winning Brabham driven by Denis Hulme (Sir Jack Brabham finished second in the championship) becoming  Jochin Rindt's ride for the first part of '68. Dimmer ended up buying and restoring it, and bringing it back down to Australia in April 2000. Dimmer drove his Lotus Climax again and invited Sir Jack Brabham himself to drive the Brabham BT24. "That was a huge thrill," recalls Dimmer. " I had a couple of instances where I could be fairly close to him, although that was less an issue of my capabilities behind the wheel  -- we subsequently found out that the Repco engine in the (Brabham) was way down on power. So the power output of the BT24 was about the same as the power output in the Lotus 35."

"I had a lot of fun down there. The Lotus ran particularly well. It was a good track for the Lotus. They use a standing start down there. In one race, I made a great start and went from fifth to second going into the first corner. I was thrilled." He subsequently had a nice dice with Robs Lamplough in his '69 BRM Grand Prix car who squeezed by him. "Unfortunately, about three laps into the race, the BRM started spitting fluids all over the place and I got into one corner behind him which has some pretty substantial lateral loads. He spit fluids at the wrong time, I drove over it at the wrong point, and ended up looping the car. So I did a 180 right in the middle of the track. As the car came to a stop, I looked up the road from where I'd just been and the first car that came into my view was Jack Brabham in the Brabham. I thought, 'Oh, this is not going to be pretty.'" Luckily, everybody got past the Lotus, and Dimmer refired the car and continued on. "It was really funny because after the race, Sir Jack came up to me and said, 'Well, you brought two cars down to Australia and you almost lost them both in one corner.' We kind of chuckled about that a little bit." Dimmer says the Brabham is a spectacular car to drive. "The (slide injection) engine was very friendly. The gearbox was very nice. The car handled exceptionally well. I think that's what you would expect from a car that won a world championship.

Last year was Dimmer's first time running the Monterey Historics. "I was thrilled to be there," says Dimmer. The memory of his first sight of the Historic Grand Prix cars is still vivid: "All the cars were lined up in the tent and it was just fabulous. It was almost overload to see 35 of the most significant Formula One cars ever built. I walked up and down the row and after I got done looking at all the cars, I turned around to my crew chief and said, 'Wow, these are spectacular cars, but you know, if I could have any car here, it would be the Tyrrell.'" 

Dimmer's passion for the Tyrrell runs deep. "This car is representative to me of what Grand Prix racing is. When I think about what epitomizes Formula One for me, it is Jackie Stewart in the tartan helmet driving a Tyrrell Formula One car. When I saw this thing, it just clicked. It was automatic. Before acquiring the car, I don't know if ever consciously thought about that. But once I actually saw the car, physically saw it, all of a sudden everything came flooding back and I went, 'This is it. This is Formula One racing.' The fun thing about Formula One racing is that it depends on when you first fell in love with that form of racing and who was driving the cars, who was your hero, what teams did you like. And you find that the great thing is because of the variance of ages; that runs the gamut. I have a friend in the series, Richard Griot, who just acquired a Ferrari 312T4 that was Gilles  Villenueve's car. And you talk with Richard and he is just as passionate about his Ferrari as I am about my Tyrrell. What an absolute thrill to be able to acquire the racing car that for you epitomizes the sport."

The Tyrrell that caught Dimmer's eye was chassis  #002 owned by John Delane, run by François Cevert in '71 and '72. Dimmer's crew chief happened to have a Christies catalog and showed him the picture of  Tyrrell # 004 up for auction that weekend, an ex-Jackie Stewart car (#001 is owned by the Tyrrell family and  #003 -- the car in which Stewart won the '71 championship, presented to Stewart when he retired in 1973 -- is on display at the Donington Museum). Tyrrell  #004 was a  spare car built for Stewart in late '71 and was driven by Stewart in the Monaco GP in 1972 and  Patrick Depailler in the 1972 U.S. and French GP's. "I had no intention of buying a Formula One car when I came down there. I already had the Brabham. But I looked at this Tyrrell and it was a spectacular car."

However, his opinion changed when he saw it at the auction. "This car looked like it was right out of the back 40 of somebody's junkyard," says Dimmer. The front tires were not inflated, the engine was not mounted to the tub, the gearbox was not mounted to the engine, the rear wheels were not on the car. On one side an upright was not mounted on the car and the rear wing was in a crate. "There were plenty of rumors floating around the auction that it was not a complete car. We did our research; we thought that there was a complete car there. We thought that everything looked like it was in pretty good shape. So I bought the car." 

Their assessment was right; the car was complete. Pete Lovely Racing spent last year restoring it, which included taking the tub down to bare metal, replacing rivets and a stress panel. Butch  Dennison heads up that operation and Dimmer says, "I have a hard time thinking that there is anybody in the world that does a finer job than Butch Dennison." The Tyrrell's first outing was the 2001 Pre Historics the weekend prior to the Monterey Historics. "When we rolled it out here at Monterey it was really interesting to see the number of people that came up to talk with me and said, 'Wow, what a great car. I was bidding on it last year.'" Dimmer found out that bidders included Danny Sullivan and HGP's Jim Busby. "Now that they've seen it all restored, people were coming up to me and saying, 'Gee, that car looks beautiful, are you interested in selling?'" No way. According to Dimmer, not only did it look good, it was "fabulous to drive." 

"Hands down, the Tyrrell has been the easiest car I've ever driven," effuses Dimmer. "The Cosworth DFV engine is phenomenal. When you get to 8000 rpm, it's like slicing through butter. All of a sudden, everything comes on full song and the engine goes, 'this is where I like to run.' It feels so good. The second session I was out in the car, I set the fastest lap of my entire race weekend. So I came to grips with it very quickly and just absolutely love it." Dimmer adds that because he and Stewart have very similar physiques, "I fit unbelievably well in the Tyrrell (the seat was made for Stewart and even has Stewart's name on it). The car just fits me like a glove."

Dimmer had gone to the auction with John Delane and shortly after the gavel fell, they started talking about how fun it would be to recreate Elf Team Tyrrell -- complete with the proper suits, helmets, etc. "The objective of the whole program for John and me is when we run together on the race track, we want people to view a scene that hasn't been in existence for 30 years. We want people to see what it was like when Jackie Stewart and François Cevert drove these cars during the '72 season." Dimmer was thrilled that their efforts garnered them the Pete Lyons Cup at the Monterey Historics for evoking the best memories of Formula One racing.

So how does Dimmer choose between the Brabham and the Tyrrell? "I think the Brabham is an outstanding car whenever they end up doing 3 liter, pre-wing races.  The Repco engine is a little down on power compared to the Cosworth DFV, but the Brabham chassis is such a good chassis. The car handles so well that I think it's very competitive in that grouping.  However, when you start moving into something along the lines of some of the Historic Grand Prix events where we've got a significant number of winged cars on slicks or something like a thoroughbred grand prix event in Europe, you find that the grids are heavily weighted towards the winged, slicked cars. Which means only one question for you in the race: do you get lapped once, twice or three times?"

Between races, Dimmer runs a private investment firm, FIRS Management, with his father. The firm invests in real estate and does some venture capital type financing. Prior to that, Dimmer founded Free Range Media in 1994, an internet company in Seattle, which he ran for five years before selling in 1999. The firm designed and implemented websites and internet technologies. They focused on corporate clients including Keybank,  Dain Rauscher, and the NFL, providing all the technology to do the first webcast of the Super Bowl. Currently, FIRS Management has a number of investments in technology companies, many focused on internet technologies.  "I know the marketplace right now doesn't necessarily think that's a great place to be, but my perspective on the whole thing is that the internet is not a fad, the internet is for real," says Dimmer. "It is having a meaningful and significant impact not only on the way we do business, but the way we live our lives. The ability of the internet as a medium to communicate your message to a gigantic global audience is unmatched." 

The Tacoma native's roots are deep in the community. He lives five blocks away from the house that his maternal great grandparents built (it's now a bed and breakfast). Dimmer's great grandfather laid the cornerstone on the capitol building in Olympia. His great great grandparents had emigrated from Ireland and founded McCormack Brothers dry goods store in Tacoma in the late 1800's. Both Dimmer's parents were born and raised in Tacoma; Dimmer graduated from the same high school as his father.

An avid skier and golfer growing up, Dimmer was a high school All-American golfer and made the University of Oregon golf team as a walk-on. "Tacoma was a hotbed of golfing talent (Freddie Couples from neighboring Seattle was a year or so ahead of him). Three or four of my best friends are professionals." Dimmer thought of being a pro golfer himself, but that changed during his year on the golf team. "I didn't end up enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I had a great time playing junior golf and golf in high school. Terrific camaraderie, great competition. When I got to the college level, that was kind of the minor leagues of golf at the time, and there just didn't seem to be any camaraderie. I really felt that the other guys on the team -- because I wasn't on scholarship and they were -- were kind of looking at me going, 'So let's see, you're the guy that's here to try and take my scholarship away.'" Dimmer still plays in tournaments occasionally, but says he "would choose being in a race car over golfing every time." 

"I'm here to tell you that I am fully addicted and I kind of sit here in my office and count down the days as to when I get to go and have my next fix."

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