There was something soothing about the way Jim Pace would narrate his onboard laps which always kept me glued to the screen. As it turns out, I wasn't alone. Many racing fans came together in commiseration last Friday after Jim passed away due to COVID-19. He was 59 years old.
The jovial, enthusiastic, supportive racer's life revolved around racing; gathering friends, helping others' careers, and building a reputation as a determined, kind-hearted gentleman—but not a gentleman driver. Far more serious than his "nice and smooth" demeanor might suggest, Pace was only weeks from getting his medical degree when he decided to shift careers and become a full-time racer.
His career began in the Barber Saab Pro series in 1988, after which he quickly moved into sports car and won the GTU class at the 1990 24 Hours of Daytona. His successful decades in IMSA eventually led to vintage racing.
Alternating from 962s to 911s to Can-Am cars takes a level of level-headedness that not every driver has, but Jim, even up through his fifties, had that ability. To jump from such varied cars was just one thing which made him a stellar driver—so was his ability to share the finer points of getting quick laps in these cars.
A smooth, sensible, patient approach to driving helped him win the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona—and also what helped him into the seats of some valuable vintage racers. Among those are the rare JLP-HD1: a commemoration to the aluminum-monocoqued, 820-horsepower, one-ton, wing-laden monstrosities which John Paul Sr. and Jr. developed in the early eighties to dominate IMSA GTP. In a vehicle like that, it's necessary to soothe oneself with simple cues, such as "eyes up" or "nice and steady."
The onboard footage above is from his 3 AM stint at Daytona in a Porsche 962. There too, the man makes it look easy and reminds us just how mentally taxing driving a powerful prototype in the dark is.
Pace famously flipped a Shadow Can-Am earlier this year and miraculously walked away unscathed, but was not as fortunate with the virus.
Instead of flowers, his family has requested that donations be made to Wounded Warriors or Alzheimer’s Research in his name. A commemorative service has not yet not been made, but a celebration of life service will be announced at a later date.