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Willy T Ribbs Budweiser Racing Suit
Willy T. Ribbs Waiving at crowd
Willy T Ribbs Carlos Sainz Formula 1 Ferrari

Willy T. Ribbs is a legendary African American race car driver who defied barriers and made history in motorsports. Known for his determination, and unyielding spirit, he shattered racial stereotypes and became a pioneer in a predominantly white sport.


Born and raised in Northern California, Ribbs developed a deep love for racing from watching his father. His father, William "Bunny" Ribbs, Sr., was a plumbing contractor and amateur sportscar racer and was friends and neighbors with Indy Car driver Joe Leonard. As a teenager, Ribbs would take his car out in the California mountains at high speeds, frequently stopped by police for reckless driving. 


Ribbs proceeded to enter a racing school at the age of 21 and moved to Europe to compete. In 1977, at 22, Ribbs won the Dunlop/Autosport Star of Tomorrow FF1600 in his first year of competition, winning six races in eleven starts. 


Notable Achievements:

  • 1977 Dunlop Formula Ford Championship

  • 1982 Long Beach Formula Atlantic Pole Winner

  • 1983-85 most winning Trans Am driver in the series during his reign

  • 1985 first and only African American to drive a Formula One Car 

  • 1987-88 International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Driver of the Year 

  • 1991 The first African American to race in the Indianapolis 500 (75th running)

  • 2020 Documentary "UPPITY: The Willy T. Ribbs Story." UPPITY is an in-depth profile of the life and career of Willy T. Ribbs - a Black racecar driver who shattered the color barrier of professional auto-racing and became the first Black qualifier & participant in the storied history of the Indy 500.

  • 2021 Inducted into the Long Beach Grand Prix Hall of Fame

  • 2022 Named Formula One Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion


Beyond his racing accomplishments, Willy T. Ribbs has left a legacy as an inspiration to aspiring drivers from all backgrounds. His courage and resilience in the face of adversity have forever changed the landscape of motorsports, making it more accessible and diverse. 


Today, Ribbs works tirelessly with organizations like Formula One, advocating for diversity and inclusion in motorsports. When he is not at the racetrack, Ribbs is a professional shooter specializing in sporting clays. His son Theodore Ribbs is a professional sport shooter who is one of the top competitors in the sport. 

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