Alvah Robert Holbert was the International Motor Sports Association Camel GT career victory leader with forty-nine wins at the time of his death in 1988. His sixty-three race wins, spanned over a fourteen year career, was in the top five of all North American professional racers since 1963.
Holbert grew up around racing in his hometown of Warrington, PA, a Philadelphia suburb. His father, Bob, owned and operated his own Porsche dealership and was a professional sports car racer himself during the sport's beginnings in the 1960s. As a student at Central Bucks High School, young Holbert was a varsity wrestler. He went on to receive his bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Lehigh in 1968. While at Lehigh, he worked for Penske racing and became friends with Indianapolis 500 winner Mark Donohue. Holbert was an active participant in Lehigh's social fraternity scene. He was known to boast about being one of the few people his age who could design, build, race, and sell a car. Later in life he would reminisce about how his studies would wander because he was daydreaming about how to make cars go faster.
With Donohue as a mentor and his father to support him, Holbert began his accomplished career in the sports car industry. He drove an impressive list of custom-built models in his competitions, including a number of Marches and Chevy Monzas, but his first race win came in 1971 in a Porsche. In 1974, at Road Atlanta, he entered the professional racing scene and two years later received his first IMSA title. It would be his first of five such titles, the last one coming in 1986, an astounding achievement for any racer.
From 1976 to 1979, Holbert entered nineteen NASCAR races and finished in the top ten four times. In 1984, he raced in the Indianapolis 500 and finished fourth. He was victorious at one Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Trans-Am event and had ten SCCA Can-Am racing wins, which is third all-time. In 1983, 1986, and 1987, Holbert won the 24 Hours of LeMans, sports car racing's most grueling competition.
Holbert was also an accomplished businessman. He was Vice President and General Manager of his father's Porsche and Audi Dealership, a full-time job in addition to his busy racing season. He was president of the Miller High Life Porsche 962 sports car racing team and was head of Porsche North American Motorsports Division. In addition, he formed his own racing team and garnered a reputation as a class competitor.
Holbert was the first $1 million winner in IMSA history. In 1993, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Friends and colleagues characterized him as a gentleman, a professional, and a leader. He was deeply religious and considered himself a born-again Christian. Motorsports Ministries, a group created to provide chapel services to racers and their families during competitions, was an important part of Holbert's weekend-long races.
On September 30, 1988, Holbert was killed on his way home to Pennsylvania when his light plane crashed near Columbus, Ohio. He was forty-one years old. Following his death, the IMSA retired his racing number 14 with the help of his wife Joy, son Todd, and daughter Laura.
Links to further information on Al Holbert.
Birth: November 11, 1946
Birthplace: Warrington, PA
Died: September 30, 1988
Degree: B.S. mechanical engineering
Notable Achievement: Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame