Champion Driver John Paul Jr. Now Drives Home A Cure
The following post, written by Tom Stahler, details a "where are they now" encounter with a motor culture icon this last weekend, a weekend that had many a Porsche owner and fan visit Southern California for literature, restoration/race-team open houses, and specialized Porsche commemorations using the LAX based 30th annual LA Lit and Toy Show as the excuse.
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The hardware earned throughout a career that spanned 19 years. Image Credit: Tom Stahler (2013)
Many race fans around the globe remember John Paul Jr. He was the youngest ever Champion in the IMSA GT series, Won at the 24 Hours at Daytona, scored a podium finish at the 24 Hours of LeMans, Led the Indianapolis 500, and won races in both CART and the IRL -- but then in 2001 he vanished, almost without a trace ...
John Paul Jr. would discover that his skills were rapidly deteriorating. “My crew kept radioing to me that I was braking too early and decelerating into the corners.” said John Jr. “I was always a late braker..” John Paul Jr. didn’t notice how erratic his driving had become. Sadly, as it would turn out, he would be diagnosed with the debilitating genetic disease, Huntington’s.
This would lead to his stepping out of the driver’s seat -- forever. Like so many before him in the passionate world of big-time racing, the vortex of his career closed and the sport marched on with a new set of heroes. But this hero has re-emerged to come forward with a message that he hopes will help many others.
John Paul Jr. (L) shares a moment with Vintage Motorsports magazine's Tom Stahler and John Morton at HD awareness event. Image Credit: Tom Stahler (2013)
On Saturday March 2, John Woerheide, a long-time friend and racer, gathered a number of notable race drivers, including IMSA legend John Morton, Indy star Kevin Cogan, collectors and friends of the embattled former racer to unveil the JLP-HD1 Porsche 935 -- encompassing all the great 935s that John Paul Jr. notably drove with so much success in IMSA. The car will be campaigned throughout the year to raise awareness of the rare disease -- related to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Similar to Parkinson’s, Huntington’s effects the brain and motor skills. John Paul Jr. would step out of the racing seat and begin a new race -- one to fight for quality of life and find a cure for the degenerative condition.
Dr William Yang, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at David Geffen School of Medicine, and head of the Yang Research Group at UCLA explained, “Huntington’s Disease is genetic and is present in 1/10,000 people. if you have the gene, you have a fifty-fifty chance you will be effected. The disease causes the degeneration of cells in certain areas of the brain leading to uncontrolled movements, loss of intellectual faculties and emotional disturbances.”
UCLA research Scientist Dyna Shirasaki has dedicated many hours and written many papers to finding the cause of the disease and reports, “We have isolated the gene and the protien that causes the disease. We hope that though treatment of the cause that we will be able to develop treatments that will not only help with Huntington’s, but positively contribute to the treatment of Alheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”
Heads ... no longer in the game. Collectors and friends of the John Paul Jr. gathered in Van Nuys to raise awareness to Huntington’s disease. Image Credit: Tom Stahler (2013)
Since HD is not as well-known as Alzheimer’s (AD) or Parkinson’s (PD), funding and research have lagged behind. However, while they are all different diseases, they share some pathological similarities. As a result, it is hoped that breakthroughs in the treatment of one disease may shed light on the others.
The JLP-HD1 that will promote John Paul Jr.’s cause is built on a chassis that attempted the 12 hours of Sebring six times, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona three times and the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen twice, but never finished on the podium.
While it may never achieve the collectability status of the cars John Paul Jr. previously drove, it hopefully will help underscore the reality that it is the people who made previous victories possible, and it will again be the people who make the difference in the battle against HD that lies ahead. As for John Paul Jr., he continues to make history as he competes against the toughest opponent he has ever faced: Huntington’s disease.
The car will make its competitive debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring, March 13-17, and during the year will be driven by a host of celebrity drivers including Brian Redman, John Andretti, Elliot Forbes-Robinson and racer/instructor Jim Pace.
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This life is finite with infinite paths that can be taken. John Paul Jr. stands as an example of always braking late, at keeping the peddle down, and making the most out of the road ahead, no matter where the path leads.
Please follow champion driver John Paul Jr. on this path creating awareness and a finding cure for Huntington's Disease at www.johnpauljrhd.com.
... notes from The EDJE