While doing research for this story, I found a 1988 interview with Stu Hayner in the Los Angeles Times. The headline reads “Motor Racing: At Age 39, Stuart Hayner Hardly Rates as a Driver of the Future.” At first I scoffed at the headline. Surely they couldn’t be talking about the same Stu Hayner who is still rippin’ 25 years later.
At the time of the interview, Stu was the reigning champion of the SCCA Corvette Challenge—a race supported by Chevrolet in which 50 drivers in identically prepared Corvettes raced door to door for a $1 million purse. Furthermore, he had earned the distinction of winning two races (1 hour sprint and 12 hour endurance), in two different series (Corvette Challenge and SCCA Endurance Championship), in two different countries (U.S. and Canada), in two different type racecars—all within a single 24-hour period. Sound like “driver of the future” to anyone else out there?
As I read on, I came to find that even though it seemed Hayner should have been on top of the world, he had experienced what a lot of racers encounter at some point in their career; money wars and politics… oh and lots of broken cars. Because of this, drivers often realize that becoming a “driver of the future” is not just about winning races—but even in light of this realization, many racers conjure up a way to keep on racing.
The R7F C4 Corvette came direct from the factory with safety equipment installed. Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.com
By 1989 Stu was looking forward to another season where he would defend his championship title in a ring of heavy-hitting contenders like Tommy Archer, Bobby Archer, Jeff Andretti, Bill Cooper, Juan Fangio, and Lou Gigliotti. It was during the last lap of the second race at Dallas that Stu would experience the accident captured in this video.
As Hayner barreled around the corner vying to maintain his 2nd place position, the #27 car driven by John Brandt, Jr. would lose a wheel that would roll into the path of the #1 car driven by Stu. In an instant, Hayner launched off the tire into a nosedive, then went end over end, thus earning his R7F Corvette the nickname “Flipper.” Thanks to the factory installed safety equipment, Hayner walked away unscathed.
Although the car never saw another race with Hayner as the pilot, the team would sell the Corvette to a competitor who rebuilt it and raced it at the last race in Sebring. Today the car is still around, and as one of only 28 original 1989 Corvette Challenge cars remaining, it lives on as a legend. The same could be said about Stu Hayner, who didn’t win the 1989 championship, but went on to enjoy a full-fledged career in racing that is still in motion today.
Which brings us back to the old LA Times headline that could now read, “Motor Racing: At Age 64, Stuart Hayner Proves He Was Always a Driver of the Future.”