Tuesday 3rd January 1956
Born on this day, Willy T Ribbs, African-American racecar driver who competed in many forms of auto racing. After retiring he became a sport shooter in the National Sporting Clays Association. He drove Formula Ford in Europe winning the Dunlop Championship before returning to the States a year later where NASCAR owner Will Kronkite hired him to drive his Winston Cup car. However he was fired after skipping two practice sessions. He was a multiple race winner and Rookie of the Year in SCCA Trans-Am. Edsel Ford called and invited him to drive for Jack Roush in the works team. Willy won 17 Trans-Am races, before leaving the series at the end of 1985. In 1986, Ribbs became the first Black person to test a Formula One car, with the Brabham team in Estoril, Portugal. He continued in IMSA in 1987 and 1988 driving the Celica turbo for Dan Gurney’s factory Toyota team. He won four races and was named Driver of the Year in both seasons. Ribbs was the first African-American to qualify for the Indy 500.