Hagerty Race Team: ‘Crazy’ or not, Webster just can’t resist racing’s rush

When Larry Webster talks about racing, he sounds a lot like a chef who spends endless hours in the kitchen creating a meal that will be gobbled up in minutes—and can't wait to do it all over again.“It takes so much time and effort. Hours and hours and hours. If you said I was crazy for doing it, you’d be right. I can only imagine what it’s like for the guys who are really good at it — they live, breath, eat and drink it. It’s nuts. So why do it? It’s a cliché, but it really is a rush. Most people have no idea.”

Webster, Hagerty’s Vice President of Content, said he has always been “completely crazy about cars and motorcycles and engines,” and he ditched an engineering career to write for Car and Driver in 1994. The following year he got his first real taste of racing. “I didn’t know that you could race Go Karts, but when I found that out, I bought one and I’ve been racing ever since. Go Karts, Viper, BMW, Miata, CRX, Caterham … I’ve built, towed, raced just about everything.”

Webster later served as Automotive Editor at Popular Mechanics and was Editor-in-Chief at Road & Track before coming to Hagerty.

THE VETERAN

Driver: Larry Webster, 46; Ann Arbor, Mich.

Position at Hagerty: Vice President of Content

Race car: 1978 Dan Gurney All-American Racers (AAR) Eagle

Dan Gurney is a hero. Over a span of 10 days in 1967, he won LeMans in a Ford GT40 and then won the Belgian Grand Prix in an F-1 car he built. Just think about that for a moment. And by all accounts he is a guy with loads and loads of character, too. In 1978, his company built 10-12 Formula Ford cars to compete in the FF class. Guys like Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt got started in that class.

I’ve always loved those cars. They’re like a cigar with wheels. When I found one in Michigan I thought, “Holy smokes, I’ll never get another chance to own one of these.” The guy had a Lola for sale, and he was really pushing me towards that one. So I told him I’d buy the Lola if I could buy the Gurney car too. So I ended up with both.

Family: My wife (MaryLinda) and kids (John, Abby, and Sam) aren’t really into it, but hey, it’s tough for me to sit around all day at the track, so I don’t expect them to do it. The 8-year-old (Sam)—maybe someday.

Events per year: It varies. Last year it was two. The year before it was five or six. This year? I’d be happy for three.

Favorite track: I love Laguna Seca (in Salinas, Calif.) It’s a flowing, dramatic track with big hills to climb, and the turns feel pretty good. Watkins Glen (N.Y.) is great too, but if I had to pick just one, it would be Laguna.

Most memorable moment in racing: There have been so many great moments. I raced in the Mazda Cup at Laguna Seca, which felt about as close to professional racing as I’ll ever get. I finished fourth in a race with about 25 cars, which isn’t a spectacular result in itself, but it kind of confirmed that hey, I’m competent. I can compete. The turns at Road America (Wis.) are a lot of fun. As you exit you slide to edge of the track as far as you can without sliding off, and if you do it just right you hit the serrations in the asphalt. It’s difficult to explain, really, but that’s pretty poetic right there.

What about racing keeps you coming back? Humans weren’t meant to go 100 mph, but you’re connected to a machine that takes you there. And once you have a certain confidence level, the machine will respond to you and do exactly what you ask it to do. It’s surreal.

When you get into this flow and really feel the machine and the G-Forces, you have to be precise because things happen so fast. At the same time you react without even thinking about it. You really become a part of the machine. You get into a state that you can’t really define. It’s an extremely thrilling and satisfying thing. Afterward you realize you’ve just done something you didn’t know you could do.

There are times when you’re sitting at the track waiting your turn, missing your family and thinking about all the time and effort and money you’ve spent, and you wonder, “Why am I doing this?” Then you drop the visor and hit the gas and it all rushes back to you.

What’s it like to race on a team? I’ve been part of endurance racing teams where you race 6-25 hours with 3-5 drivers. You really count on each other. It’s a lot of fun. There are always crashes in those races, so you just hope you’re not the guy. The Hagerty Team is a bit different in that we don’t compete together, but it’s great being connected to those guys.

How does Hagerty fuel your passion for cars and racing? Hagerty has my back—everything from inspiring me to protecting my car. The company, the people … we’re all striving to be the best, and we get to enjoy it all along the way.