|RIP Pete Lovely|
From the Tacoma WA News Times Tribune, May 19, 2011
It wasn’t the speed or danger that kept Gerard “Pete” Lovely, a Formula 1 and sports car driver, on the race track for more than 50 years.
It was the cars. From the time he was a boy growing up in Montana, Lovely was drawn to cars. He loved to tinker with them, study them, drive them.
When Lovely died Sunday at 85 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, he still had about a dozen cars stored at his Tacoma home.
“Life has centered around racing, that was his true love,” said his daughter, Laurie Lovely, of Menifee, Calif. “He was amazing, absolutely amazing.”
Lovely installed a Porsche engine in a Cooper sports car in 1955, nicknamed it the “Pooper” and drove it to a national championship in the Sports Car Club of America.
He once raced a hybrid made from a Lotus 69 Formula 2 car fitted with a Cosworth DFV V8 engine.
Lovely was behind the wheel of car owner Jack Nethercutt’s Ferrari when he placed third at the L.A. Examiner Grand Prix in 1960. That same year it finished third overall in the 12 Hours of Sebring sports car race in Florida.
He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation mechanic and briefly worked for The Boeing Co. before opening a Volkswagen dealership in Fife in 1954.
Although Lovely ran the business for 34 years, his focus was on the racetrack. He was a privateer, entering multiple races on his own, including the inaugural sports car race at Laguna Seca in California in 1957.
Pitted against bigger-name racers such as Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall and Richie Ginther, Lovely won the race in a 2-liter Ferrari Testa Rosa.
“Pete’s perseverance and keen race strategy earned him the historic win and permanent place in the record books,” said Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Lovely was inducted into the Legends of Laguna Seca in 2007.
Two years after winning at Laguna Seca, Lovely was invited to join Team Lotus and race in the Formula 1 World Championship. He participated in 11 grands prix and retired in 1971 but never finished high enough to score championship points.
He earned most of his recognition for racing Lotus cars in F1 events under the name “Pete Lovely Volkswagen” since he was sponsored by his dealership. He bought one of his F1 cars from World Champion Graham Hill and would drive to the track with his race car on the back of a Volkswagen pickup.
“I’m only racing for the fun of it now,” Lovely told The News Tribune in 1969. “If I hadn’t been reasonably successful in business, it would have been impossible for me to compete in racing on a first-class basis.”
Lovely also owned Pete Lovely Racing in Edgewood, restoring race cars from the ground up.
The racing world knew Lovely by his nickname, “Pete.” His father bestowed it on him before he was even born.
His mother grew so large during her pregnancy that the couple was expecting twins, and Lovely’s father joked that if they were girls, he’d name them Kate and Duplicate, and if they were boys, they would be named Pete and Repeat.
It was just Lovely, but he never shook the nickname.
His seven children grew up in the garage, at the racetracks and listening to bedtime stories that included a race in France driving through a cloud of locusts.
“He had a million stories,” Laurie Lovely said. “He was a really neat person, so into his life, just a character.”
Stephen Bayne of Seattle remembers his best friend as a thoughtful, successful racer and insightful businessman. They met at an automobile racing club when Bayne was 15, and their friendship unfolded over cars.
“When the cars grew old enough to be called vintage racers, he was good at racing those cars,” Bayne said.
Lovely participated in historic and vintage racing events until 2009, when Alzheimer’s put an end to his career.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653 firstname.lastname@example.org