Over the course of a three-plus-decade career as a racing driver, David Hobbs – “Hobbo” to his friends – piloted everything from sports cars to Can-Am cars, Formula One cars and even NASCAR stockers. He’s shined as a motorsports broadcast journalist as well, his wit and insider knowledge making him a fixture on CBS, ESPN, Speedvision, and NBC over four decades. Working with coauthor Andrew Marriott, Hobbs has penned his autobiography, Hobbo – Motor Racer, Motor Mouth, now available from Evro Publishing.
Hobbs got his start racing cars behind the wheel of his mother’s Morris Oxford, equipped with an automatic transmission designed and constructed by his father’s company, Hobbs Transmissions, Limited. At his first event, the non-homologated automatic put him in the “sports car” category, though a Morris Oxford (at stock ride height and on street tires) stood little chance of running with the Austin Healeys, Lotuses, and Jaguars in the class. It mattered little, since Hobbs’s first race ended early with a blown engine.
Another blown engine – this time at a Goodwood test day – followed, but eventually, Hobbs amassed enough points to obtain a racing license. In 1960, his second season as a competitive driver, Hobbs piloted his father’s Jaguar XK140 drophead coupe, at least until rolling the car during the opening race at Oulton Park. Unhurt, Hobbs repaired the car and – soon enough – began winning races in it. A Lotus Elite followed, and by 1961, Hobbs was collecting victories in Europe as well as England.
His debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans came in 1962, where Hobbs managed a very respectable eighth-place finish with co-driver Frank Gardner in a Lotus Elite Mk 14. A year later, he was back on the Circuit de la Sarthe, this time behind the wheel of a Lola Mk 6 GT, the predecessor of the Ford GT40. It was, perhaps, a bit of foreshadowing, as Hobbs would be piloting a Ford GT40 Mk 1 for the J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. team before the decade was out. Over the entirety of his career, Hobbs would make 20 starts at Le Mans, earning two class wins and three class podiums.
Sports cars and endurance racers were just a subset of Hobbs’s career, which also included drives in Formula 1 (1964, ’66-’68, ’70-’71, and ’73-74) and Formula 5000, the no-holds-barred open-wheel series where Hobbs earned his first championship, in 1971. That was the year Hobbs joined Penske Racing, too, and qualified for his first (of four) Indianapolis 500s. Of the experience, Hobbs writes, “Although I had witnessed huge crowds at Le Mans, it was awesome to experience Indy’s 350,000-strong full house on race day.”
Hobbs raced in the legendary Can-Am series from 1969-’73, and three years later made two starts in the NASCAR Winston Cup series. In the 1976 Daytona 500, he drove a Chevy for DeWitt Racing, starting 16th and finishing 34th, the victim of a crash on lap 69. In August 1976, he ran a Ford in the Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan for Elliott Racing, starting 22nd and finishing the race in 17th place.
To many fans, however, Hobbs has long been the voice of racing in the United States. His career in broadcast journalism began in 1976, when he covered the Pocono 500 Indy Car race for CBS with Ken Squier. A one-race deal turned into two, and following the 1976 Trenton 200, Hobbo remained a motorsports commentator with CBS for the next 20 years. He joined ESPN in this time as well, since the sports network offered more frequent – and more diverse – racing coverage. Speedvision replaced ESPN, and later still, Hobbs signed with NBC. It was a dark day for U.S. Formula 1 fans in 2017, when NBC opted to walk away from Formula 1, bringing Hobbs entertaining and informed commentary on the sport to an end.
For fans of Hobbo – or motor racing in general in the 1960s-’90s, Hobbo – Motor Racing, Motor Mouth is a must-have addition to the library. The hardbound book runs 304 pages, and includes over 300 color and black-and-white photographs, covering the impressive depth of his career in racing and in journalism.
The book is available from Amazon, where it’s currently priced at $56.16.