Didier Theys Announces His Retirement as Driver
Didier Theys, one of the most successful and popular endurance sports car drivers on either side of the Atlantic, today announced his retirement as a professional race car driver.
Theys, 52, will continue to work in the sport as a consultant and driving coach, both for individual drivers and teams and for World Class Driving, where he is the driving director.
A native of Nivelles, Belgium and that country's Driver of the Year in 2002, Theys came from modest means and a family with no connections in the sport. He took out a bank loan for his first Formula Ford championship, and with his driving talent, expertise on set-ups, tenacity, perseverance and friendly personality, he built a career as a professional race car driver at the top of the sport for more than 30 years.
A long-time resident of Scottsdale, Ariz., he has finished on the podium 61 times in sports car racing all over the world, with 18 victories, 22 second-place finishes and 21 third-place finishes. He was the Grand-Am Rolex Series driver champion in 2002. He finished third in that series in 2001, and was runner-up in 2000.
He is a two-time winner of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. He won that race in 1998 in the MOMO Ferrari and then he won it again in 2002 in the Doran Lista Dallara Judd.
In 1998 he also won the American Le Mans Series' biggest race, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, in the MOMO Ferrari, as well as the Six Hours of Watkins Glen. He has the most victories of anyone in a Ferrari 333 SP, with 10.
Just last year he was fifth in the LMP2 class at Sebring in the debut of Horag Racing's Porsche RS Spyder sponsored by Lista Office. Most recently he's been driving that car in the Le Mans Series in Europe, placing third in the tough LMP2 category last year with co-drivers Fredy Lienhard and Jan Lammers while driving for team owner Markus Hotz.
"I enjoyed working with friends like Fredy Lienhard, Markus Hotz and Jan Lammers in the last few years," Theys said. "I was planning on retiring in 2009 anyway, but I was hoping to do it at the end of the season, not in March. Unfortunately due to the downturn in the global economy we weren't able to put together a program for 2009. But I'm certainly thankful for everything Fredy has done for me in my career. He became a true friend, not just a co-driver and sponsor."
Theys also made his mark at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His first appearance there was in 1982, and his last start in that race came 20 years later in 2002. He finished third there in 1999 with Audi Sport Team Joest. He started from the pole there in 1996 driving a Joest TWR Porsche LMP1 car.
When asked what his favorite race was, he always replies, "The last one I won!" Now that will be the 1,000 Kilometers of Monza in Milan, Italy, which he won in 2007 in the Horag Racing Lola Judd LMP2 car.
Before focusing on endurance sports cars Theys had a very successful career in formula cars in the eighties and early nineties. He competed in 47 CART Indy car events, and he is a three-time starter of the Indianapolis 500 (1989, 1990 and 1993). His best finish in CART was third at the Miami Grand Prix.
He won the Indy Lights driver championship in 1987, the same year he won the 24-hour race at Spa in a factory BMW. He won the Bosch Super Vee championship in 1986 after racing in the European Formula Three and Formula Two championships. He also won two Formula Ford Championships prior to winning his first of six overall championships, the Belgium Karting Championship, in 1977.