How Porsche Racing Legend Alex Job Came Back From His Worst Loss

Steven Cole
By Steven Cole Smith
Feb 17, 2021 | Porsche, Alex Job | Posted in Features | From the Feb. 2021 issue | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy AJR

The flame finally flickered and died on April 29, 2017. Nineteen months earlier, Holly Job had visited her dentist, who saw something in her throat he didn’t like and suggested that she reach out to a specialist. Thus began a valiant battle against a cancer that creeped and stretched and eventually conquered her. She passed at a hospice just about the time her husband, Alex, hurried the few miles home to shower and change clothes and return for the vigil that everyone knew would end in tears.

Holly worked in the medical field, had a master’s in health administration. She knew how these things worked. Several times she had edged very close to death while Alex was away on a quick errand. “I believe,” he said, “that she didn’t want, you know, it to happen when I was there. I believe she wanted to spare me that. I believe she knew.”

Two flames failed that April 29: the one that burned inside Holly Job, and the one that burned, sometimes roared, inside Alex, that fired his passion for competition. That was over. After a record 10 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring sports car victories, Alex Job didn’t want to fight anymore, on or off the track. He seemed drained, distant, somehow smaller, with a hundred-yard stare that looked at you, through you and beyond.

Of course, everyone said the Right Things. “Her warm smile and engaging personality will be missed in our paddock,” then-IMSA President Scott Atherton said. 

I will never forget the time she raced me home in her Pinto, shifting those gears perfectly, and initially scaring the crap out of me until I realized what real driving was,” wrote Jeff Hord, her younger cousin, in a remembrance.

Alex did all the expected things, seeing to the details that must be addressed after you lose your wife and best friend of 34 years. Then he went home and sat alone, accompanied by the cats he and Holly loved. He thought about what might come next.

Then what?

Stay tuned. This story turns out okay. 

Alex Job Racing fielded two cars in the inaugural American Le Mans Series in 1999, finishing the year with class wins at Daytona, Sebring and the Petit Le Mans. The team’s pro racing career was just launching. Photograph Courtesy AJR

Job (pronounced Jobe), now 70, was working for car dealerships when he and Holly married in 1983. On the side, Alex raced sports cars, and he was pretty good. He liked all the makes but had an affinity for Porsches; most of his 20 years in the retail auto business had been for the manufacturer.

Which is why, when he went racing himself, it was usually in a Porsche: “We went from running a Porsche in local SCCA enduros to winning the 12 Hours of Sebring race 10 times as both a Porsche factory team and independent operation.” He raced part-time, participating in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring–no big deal, because for a Central Florida SCCA racer, those two venues count as home tracks–competing in a Porsche 914/6 for Spirit Racing.

It was late in life for a career change; Alex and Holly both knew that. But in 1988, they went for it. In their two-car garage at their home in Casselberry, a suburb of Orlando, Alex Job Racing was born. Porsche didn’t sell customer cars then, so Job built his own, then built them for other people. He had essentially retired from driving but figured the best way to show confidence in his products was to race them himself.

In 1989, he raced in the Rolex 24 in his own Porsche 911. A year later, he finished second in class at Daytona. A year after that, his team finished second in class at the 12 Hours of Sebring. They finally had the money–barely–to move the operation from their garage to a small but proper shop.

Still, it was a struggle, and Holly spent plenty of late nights at the kitchen table trying to balance invoices against income–somehow never quite failing to do it. That freed Alex to do what he does best: work on cars, not on deals. 

Even at the height of Alex Job Racing, he said, “Every winter, it’s as though I have to interview for a new job.” Every season, and the contracts he had, seemed to end with the final checkered flag–even the association with the Porsche factory. At best, it was draining; at worst, agonizing.

There were times when he reached outside the world of sports cars, considering even oval track racing, thinking it might be time for a change. But always he found business–or, more often, business found him.

Alex and Holly saw their hard work pay off starting in 1995. Alex Job Racing won its class (GTS-2, formerly GTU) at the 12 Hours of Sebring with drivers Joe Cogbill, Charlie Slater and Bill Auberlen–Job’s first of those record 10 Sebring wins. Cogbill was a multi-time SCCA national champion who always preferred Porsches. Slater, who made millions in the medical supply business–in part as co-inventor of disposable biopsy forceps–spent a few of those millions in 1994 buying, and propping up, the then-struggling IMSA. He sold it in 1996.

And Auberlen, of course, has become the winningest driver in the history of IMSA. “Alex and Holly were a wonderful team,” Auberlen recalls. “He would tell you she was every bit as integral to the success of Alex Job Racing as he was. They really helped put me on the map.” The next season, Auberlen moved to BMW, a connection he retains now, 25 years later.In 1996, Job became involved with Team Seattle, which was an association between AJR and several Seattle businessmen who pledged donations for the Children’s Hospital of Seattle. The program, after three years, raised $500,000 for the hospital. In 1996, there was another interesting program afoot, with a Fabcar-built, mid-engine, 911-bodied car that was driven by the legendary Porsche factory shoe Hurley Haywood and Tom Hessert. It won the Six Hours of Watkins Glen.

“I’ll never forget Alex and Holly,” Haywood tells Grassroots Motorsports. “Anyone would love to have had a partnership like they had. They brought the whole package to the table.” 

By 1998, Alex Job Racing had come to the attention of Porsche Motorsports North America, which began building engines for AJR, relieving the team of considerable expense and responsibility. There was finally enough money for a two-car team, and the wins were adding up.

The next year, Dr. Don Panoz, another millionaire who made his money in the medical field, this time as co-inventor of the nicotine patch, was busy spending many of his millions on racing; he bought IMSA and started the American Le Mans Series. Job signed on with the ALMS and stuck with it for all 14 seasons, until it was folded into the NASCAR-owned Grand-Am series at the end of 2013.

Check out the statistics for Alex Job Racing’s Cort Wagner, the 1999 champion, in the GT class: Sebring, first; Road Atlanta, second; Bowmanville, first; Sonoma, second; Portland, first; Road Atlanta, first; Laguna Seca, second; and Las Vegas, first. Average start: 2.5. Average finish, 1.375. 

That, not surprisingly, put Alex Job Racing on the radar of Porsche’s European racing headquarters. Big wins in big races followed–Daytona, with Job’s soon-trademark No. 23 Porsche 911 Carrera, with drivers Wagner, Kelly Collins, Anthony Lazzaro and Darryl Havens. Then Sebring. Then Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. 

The team had a nearly perfect 2003 championship season (top), winning every round less one while also capturing every pole and setting every fastest lap. Another team title followed for 2004 (above). Photography Credits: Juha Lievonen (top), Courtesy AJR (above)

Clearly Job had a knack for long races, and all the most important races were long. Porsche made sure Alex Job Racing received the first new Porsche 911 GT3-R. The team won three races with the car in 1999 after solving some teething problems, and Wagner won the ALMS GT Drivers’ Championship.

Meanwhile, factory support ramped up. Two wins came in 2000, along with second in the driver standings. In 2001, Porsche sent Job future superstars Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen. “Alex and Holly did a wonderful job seasoning many of our drivers, preparing them to win on the world’s largest stage,” former President of Porsche North America Alwin Springer tells Grassroots Motorsports. “We were very lucky to have them.” Others would follow: Timo Bernhard, Randy Pobst, Patrick Long, Jörg Bergmeister, Romain Dumas, Darren Law, Mike Rockenfeller, Joey Hand, Butch Leitzinger, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Gunnar Jeannette and Mario Farnbacher.

The 2002 season again saw support from Porsche as well as continuing primary support from California dealer McKenna Porsche. Two drivers from 2001 returned (Maassen and Luhr) and two new ones joined the team full-time (Bernhard and Bergmeister). The team collected eight wins (Sebring, Sears Point, Road America, Washington, D.C., Trois Rivières, Laguna Seca, Miami and the Petit Le Mans) as well as seven other podium finishes. Alex Job Racing also earned pole position at nine races and set the fastest race lap at all 10.

Unbelievably, 2003 was even better. The team saw a level of success not before experienced in any class of ALMS competition. The driver lineup was the same as in 2002, with Dumas joining the team at Petit Le Mans. Alex Job Racing won every round of the ALMS season except Road America. To cap it off, AJR also won the GT2 class at Le Mans with Petersen Motorsport.

“I started working with Alex and Holly in 2004,” says Kyle Chura, who handled publicity for AJR, something he does now for Cadillac, WeatherTech and Brembo. “At the time, Alex Job Racing was the factory Porsche team in IMSA and winning everything. They weren’t the flashiest team, but all they did was win. They expected to. His amazing record in sports cars–over 70 wins, five championships, a record 10 class wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring as well as class wins at the Rolex 24 and Le Mans–it just doesn’t get any better than that in this sport.

“Alex and Holly were a complementary duo that ran a team of very dedicated crewmembers. You just wanted to work hard for them. They treated you right, did what they said they were going to do, and appreciated your contribution. That is why they garnered the loyalty among team members. You didn’t have a constant turnover, which is the norm in this business. Year after year, the same faces on the team. I still enjoy a working relationship with Alex and I value his friendship.”

Professionalism was key. “From day one, I had to prep the cars better than anyone else, make them look better, because I didn’t have a big checkbook. I had to work with what I had. I tried to model my operation after Roger Penske. I used one of my trailers for 17 years,” Job says. “It had a wooden floor, and every year we’d completely sand it down and revarnish it. Dave Maraj”— the late Audi dealer and Le Mans champion team owner—“used to say it looked like a bowling alley lane. It was all about attention to detail.”

The team won at Le Mans in 2005 and launched a Daytona Prototype program the following year. Photography Credits: Courtesy Porsche (911), Juha Lievonen (Daytona Prototype)

The 2005 season saw another Le Mans GT2 victory with BAM Motorsports, which won four times in ALMS. Job switched to the NASCAR-owned Grand-Am series in 2006, moving to a Daytona Prototype with Ruby Tuesday sponsorship. There were two overall wins in 2006–Job had been yearning for overall victories instead of class wins–with Rockenfeller and Long at the wheel. Long and Bergmeister scored the final win in 2007 for the Crawford-Porsche Grand-Am Daytona Prototype. Job also fielded a car for the ALMS GT2 class, with a win in Houston.  

The 2008 and 2009 seasons were rebuilding years, as Job returned to what he knew best: 911-based cars in the American Le Mans Series’ new GTC class, where Leitzinger, Juan Gonzalez and Leh Keen won the season opener at Sebring. AJR cars went 1-2-3 and won the second round at Long Beach. 

By 2011, the team’s relationship with Porsche began to sag, and Job fielded Lotus Evoras and Porsche 997 GT3 Cups in 2012. With four GTC-class Porsche victories, including a 1-2 at Sebring, Alex Job Racing won its fourth championship title–eight years after the last one.

With little factory support materializing, the Lotus experiment wasn’t successful, and it was gone in 2013, replaced by a Ferrari 458 GT2 that Job ran for West Racing in the GT class. The Lotus and Ferrari trials helped Job shift from running his own cars to running teams that paid the bills. In 2013, in the GTC class, Cooper MacNeil, accomplished amateur driver and son of the founder of WeatherTech, teamed with Bleekemolen for two wins (Sebring again and Mosport) and the drivers’ title. AJR even won the Rolex 24 in 2013, with an Audi R8.

In 2014, the first year for the merger of Grand-Am and ALMS, Job ran a pair of Porsches in the new GT Daytona class: one for MacNeil and Keen and one for Farnbacher and Ian James. Neither car managed a victory, but in 2015, the No. 23 with Farnbacher, James and Alex Riberas won Sebring and Belle Isle. That was the 10th Sebring win–10 wins in 20 years at what is arguably the toughest sports car race in the U.S. (And it should have been 11; see the sidebar to this story.)

In 2016, there was just one win between the two cars: Farnbacher and Riberas in the No. 23. MacNeil and Keen went winless for the third straight season.

But that was the year that Alex Job Racing was named to the Sebring Hall of Fame, which Alex says is one of his proudest accomplishments. By then, though, Holly was already too ill to attend. It was an unusually emotional moment for the taciturn Alex. 

2013 featured a mix of Porsche and Audi efforts, with wins at Sebring and Daytona. Photography Credit: Juha Lievonen

“I never, ever expected this,” he said, accepting the award. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams. To be part of the history here at Sebring going forward is just incredible. I’m very sad that Holly is not here to accept it with me because she’s 50 percent of this, if not more. She should be accepting the award. Unfortunately, she could not be here. But she’s here in our hearts.”

In 2017, AJR was completely a customer team, running an Audi R8 LMS, finishing sixth in the championship standings with Townsend Bell, Sweedler, Pierre Kaffer and Frankie Montecalvo. 

And you know what also happened in April of 2017: Alex lost Holly. He had spent very little time at the track since her diagnosis in 2016, and by the end of the 2017 season, it was the last place he wanted to be. He kept on as many employees as he could and turned to restoring cars for both show and historic racing, but you seldom saw Alex at the vintage races–though his cars and often his crew attended. It was as though Alex had lost his way.

Cut to Today

It’s funny, time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it allows your mind to organize a massive filing cabinet, indexing your life with your loved one, so you can move on with your memories in place. (This may be a good, but uncomfortable, place to mention that, like Alex Job, this writer lost his wife of 34 years in 2017. Alex and I have talked about a great many things, and the vast majority will not appear here. But he would agree: Life goes on.)

And in 2020 it did, mostly thanks to Theo Ruijgh. Once Ruijgh opens his mouth, you know he is not From These Parts (“These Parts” being Tavares, north of Orlando, where Job has had his shop for years). “Theo and I are both Dutch,” Job says, explaining his partner’s accent. “It’s one reason we get along.”

Ruijgh founded TRI Aviation, an aerospace company headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, that services the Allison (now Rolls-Royce) T56 airplane engine. Since the T56 entered production in 1954, more than 18,000 copies have been built, powering planes ranging from the military C-130 Hercules to the Grumman Greyhound to the Aero Spacelines Super Guppy (Google it) to the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor. Ruijgh’s day job is overseeing TRI Aviation, but he’s also an accomplished vintage racer and collector.

Job’s shop did some work for Ruijgh, and the two struck a deal for Ruijgh to buy and manage Job’s company. The shop already had a solid restoration business operating under longtime ace mechanic Ken Davidson, and this left Job the opportunity to travel to shows and races, drumming up business. 

A tale of progress in two cars: Alex Job built the tube-frame Porsche 911 in his two-car garage in 1990. The team’s last professional season was in 2017, when it fielded the factory-built Audi R8 LMS. Photography Credits: Courtesy AJR (911), Michael L. Levitt LAT Images (R8)

“I’m proud to carry on the legacy that Alex and Holly and Ken have built here,” Ruijgh says. “We’re committed to keeping the past alive with the same attention to detail that made those 70 wins possible.” Alex Job Racing is now officially Alex Job Racing Restorations (ajrrestorations.com). And there’s money in vintage racing: One of the top teams reportedly has a $4 million annual budget to keep one car competitive.

Just as well, really. As big-league pro racing rules became tighter and tighter, Job found it less and less interesting. Job always looked up to Norbert Singer, Porsche’s greatest-ever race engineer. “He built legacy cars because he knew how to interpret rules. But those days are gone. You’re penalized now for being able to build the best car.”

But it never kept Job from trying.  

Through all the ups and downs, Holly Job was there with Alex. After her death in 2017, the pro racing effort faded away. Today, the company bearing Alex Job’s name restores old Porsche race cars. Photography Credits: Courtesy AJR (Alex and Holly, Alex with trophies), Debbie Swan Smith (workshop)

“Alex Job Racing was the pinnacle of GT competition,” says Patrick Long, Porsche’s only current American factory driver. “He was the car and the team you wanted to be with. I always looked up to the organization, and when I started driving for them, I saw just how much Holly was a big part of the team. It was truly a family organization. Alex is very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get gentleman who wears his heart on his sleeve. And it’s a big heart.”

And this is, several people have mentioned, the happiest they’ve seen Job in, well, three years. He sold his house and moved to a luxury motorhome community where he can pick up and travel any time he wants. And he met a woman who lives a few luxo-buses down the line who loves to do the same thing.

It isn’t the same as it was, but it’s pretty good. “No complaints,” Alex Job says. “No complaints at all.”

Like what you're reading? We rely on your financial support. For as little as $3, you can support Grassroots Motorsports by becoming a Patron today. 

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Porsche and Alex Job articles.
Comments
View comments on the GRM forums
Our Preferred Partners
vQrLl7qNpXNAunrASRbwa2SehXcdHTg5jh1j4e7Aji4KZjrXwaZxr0fiPSUifEdA