A likeable and enormously versatile driver, Hobbs could turn his hand to anything from F1™ to sports cars and from touring cars to Indianapolis machines. He cut his racing teeth in the mid-sixties maelstrom of frenzied activity on the UK club racing scene, dabbling in Formula Junior, F2 and endurance racing in machines as diverse as the Team Surtees LoLa T70-Chevy GT and the JW Gulf Racing Ford GT40s.
In F1™ he briefly tried his hand in privateer Bernard White’s 2-litre BRM P261 and also had an outing in one of the Honda V12s as a second entry alongside John Surtees. In 1971 he gained his first Championship success when he won the US Formula 5000 title at the wheel of a McLaren M10B-Chevy fielded by Cark Hogan’s team.
In 1971 he was invited to drive the works-prepared McLaren M19A fielded by the Penske team in the US GP at Watkins Glen where he finished a disappointing 10th one race after Mark Dononhue had driven it to third place in the Canadian race at Mosport Park.
Hobbs remained on the fringes of the McLaren family for a few more years yet. In 1974 got a couple of drives in the works Yardley McLaren M23 in the Austrian and Italian GPs. He had been drafted in to replace Mike Hailwood who had suffered serious leg injuries in a shunt during that year’s German GP at Nurburing, but Hobbs was frustrated in that the two tracks on which he was given this opportunity – Osterreichring and Monza – were both venues where he lacked recent experience.
“I was also frustrated by the fact that Henri Pescarolo, the French F1™ driver, spent much of my Austrian GP practice session lurking in the back of the McLaren garage muttering ‘I am quicker than ‘Obbs’ which may well have been the case, although I was damned if I was going to give him the opportunity to demonstrate it,” he recalled many years later.
The 1974 season also saw Hobbs deliver his best result at the Indianapolis 500, driving a Carling Black Label-backed McLaren-Offenhauser to fifth place in the race which saw Johnny Rutherford score the first of his two works McLaren victories in the classic American event. Now retired, he has a prosperous car dealership near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has for many years made his home in the USA.
Share this article
- Born 9 June 1939, Warwickshire
- Grands Prix 7
- Wins 0