Bill Evans was a founder and life member of C.A.R.T. Paul Omichinski wrote a great eulogy for the man who was so important to the club for so many years.
Fellow members and friends of CART,
With sadness I have to report I learned today our friend and last active founding member of CART, Bill Evans passed away Monday 1/12. For the past couple of years Bill had been dealing with a cancer which finally got the better of him. This past year he was not able to come out and enjoy the people and the sport he loved. For those of us with a few years with CART, we will sorely miss his contributions to our day.
Bill was my introduction to CART and the great group of people that perpetuate it. Today I’ve spent some time recalling the great times spent in Bill’s company, doing what we loved, racing. I’m still trying to recall what he was driving when we first met, way back when gasoline had just been invented. Some British thing of course, I think it was a Triumph Spitfire and me with a Talladega Torino. It was on the Berlin Turnpike at the long gone Two Guys store parking lot, the center of auto crossing in CT at that time. I believe I was at my 3rd event ever when Bill came over to Debbie and me and said with a car that size I needed to come to a CART event at New Departure in Bristol where there was room for it. That was the beginning of years of friendship. Needless to say I followed him there and stayed for the duration.
So many years and cars! His 2.0L Formula V that couldn’t be beat at ND. We took that to Bridgehampton for many great weekends of racing and adventures there. A vivid memory of that car, on the trailer, towing out on Long Island at dawn in Bill’s El Camino when I opened an eye and saw the trailer passing us as we passed through a tunnel! “Bill, that car looks familiar”! From that on to his Formula Ford. A great B Mod autocross car, he was pretty competitive in Formula Ford with it too. Until the day at Lime Rock when, in qualifying he broke something in the front suspension as he took the uphill and collected the steel barrier (no tire walls back then). I was his “crew” that day as they carried the remains of the car back to the paddock, and Bill off to Sharon Hospital. I was driving my race car that day (you could actually drive a GT car to the track then, race and drive home) a Pinto. So I drive off to the hospital and wait. Several broken bones in his leg and a few other injuries. It’s determined, after a call home to his wife Dee, a nurse that he needs to be at the hospital in Waterbury, closer to home for what’s going to be some repair work and down time. Sister-in-law Anita’s an ER nurse there. By now Bill is in a temporary cast and I get to see him. He’s got a big smile on his face, telling me about the lap he was running. The hospital is trying to make transportation arrangements and Bill decides I can get him there quicker than waiting for a ride coming from Waterbury, so… off we go. Bill’s loaded into the back of the Pinto (no seat of course) and we head off. Approaching Torrington he’s starting to feel some pain due to the rough ride no doubt. We stop for a six pack in Torrington and he’s feeling better as we arrive at the hospital. Dee and Anita are waiting in emergency, and notice we are both feeling pretty good, considering. Lots of screaming and bitch’n. Bill spent a couple of weeks as a guest there with Anita having at him at will. I stayed away.
Bill and I spent a couple years co-driving my Pinto. A great track racer and autocross car. We worked each other over event after event and found ourselves going quicker than everyone around us just because of the competition between us. We even rallied the poor thing. Shift it when the valves float. Bill beat me in that car more times than I care to recall.
I think next was his purchase of the first Miata anyone ever saw. The Miata had just been introduced and he had to have one. It looked British but started every time! Drove and autocrossed it for many years until an unfortunate meeting with a large truck. Some minor injuries but he was ready for more when we had the idea of running karts. Bill created some rules for the class that we agreed made sense to us, and we could talk the insurance company into accepting. So, we ran karts for the next several years, competing with each other for FTD event after event. Bill determined I had a weight advantage at one point and dieted himself down to my 150 lbs. to beat me. Real dedication that guy. Really liked to win!
While all this was happening we were supporting the races and Time Trials at Lime Rock and Thompson. Bill was determined to have CART take over from Bonnet & Boot, the traditional club running the Time Trials. And so he began the CART track events. Bill talked the management into giving us a couple of dates and kept it going. Promoted the ventures to Pocono and New Jersey.
In this time frame the Fiero came to be. His first is the red 4 cylinder that many have never seen. He sunk a fortune into building a 2.8L engine for this with every trick part there was. A special fuel injection system and the first Halltech engine management system anyone ever saw. Unfortunately the car didn’t handle all that well and when Pontiac built a second generation car he bought one of those, the familiar white one with the blue stripe. And he went out and found other people who thought that was a good idea (?) to come and play with him. I stayed away from those but Bill soon had a Fiero class with his brother Tom, Joerg Bode, Gary Frankel, Bob Doiron, Bob French and about 6 others. Fieros everywhere. We still can’t rid ourselves of them. Despite a fair amount of success with the Fiero, his secret desire was another Corvette. When our friend Brian bought a Z06 Bill had to have one and so, finally landed in the ride he thought was the best of the best. The last day at the track I recall with Bill, he was enjoying that Corvette.
So, that’s a brief history of my friend Bill and his race cars. But those who knew him know there’s much more. Bill’s role within CART has been complicated. I was thinking of all the positions he was elected to. All the tasks he took on and all the heated discussions he created. The hours of Rules Committee meetings. What Bill was to CART was the creative genius. He could create scoring systems that balanced course and driver variables like no one else. Long before SCCA “invented” Solo II, Bill was creating classification systems that resulted in time spreads within a class of a second or less. No one was ever better at autocross course design. For most of the existence of CART Bill created all autocross courses which were the very essence of a CART event. I believe his greatest creation is the Relay Race we hold at Time Trial events. I’ve never seen anyone leave one of those without a big grin on their face. Bill was always working on solutions to problems, some you didn’t even know you had. And he loved Rallies! If you haven’t been involved in creating a rally, it’s lots of work. Bill used to create a couple a year. Great challenges. And the most notorious of all, the CART Turkey Trot, Fox & Hound Rally. This wild event of a long gone era was finally discontinued due to the carnage, risk of losing members and concerns of litigation. The last of these I recall Bill and I playing the part of the Fox trying to avoid being stopped by the local constabulary or spotted by the lead car as we circled the watering hole in downtown Norfolk for a landing. There were countless Tri-State teams, trips to Pocono to watch the Indy car races and rub elbows with the likes of Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford and Bill’s favorite Linda Vaughn. Trips to the Indy 500 and F1 at the Glen.
And so, I’m really going to miss my friend Bill as I’m sure all that knew him will. I’ll be thinking of him at the autocrosses and the tracks, this year and next. I expect he’s working out a course design with Brian, Pete and Jim.