The racing world has lost one of its finest photographers and friends. Art Flores, who resided in Alameda, California but whose passion for all of life and for racing reminded many of the heady, protest-filled days in nearby Berkeley, passed away at his home sometime this weekend.
The time and cause of his death are not definitive, but an apparent heart attack is blamed for Art's demise, which occurred either late Saturday or early Sunday. Flores' body was discovered by his sister and brother-in-law late Sunday or early Monday, as they were concerned after not hearing from their family member, who lived alone.
Flores was beloved by corner workers and course observers throughout the Champ Car, Indy Racing and sports car racing worlds for his fairness in setting up photo locations and cutting access holes through the fences at weekend venues. Always ready with a quip and ever the gentleman, it was Flores' compassion and regard to safety for all that stood out in his career.
He was the executive vice president of the Motor Sports Press Association and photo steward for the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. He always tried to fight for photographers' - and occasionally for writers' - rights and championed the civil liberties of all media members.
In addition to his exemplary motorsports photographic work, which appeared in every like-minded publication in this country and elsewhere, Flores had a passion for military campaigns and was in the process of interviewing World War II combat veterans for a book he hoped to publish. Flores traveled to air shows and wartime memorabilia events the world over in an attempt to capture stories that would otherwise die with the elderly soldiers who told them.
Flores was one of the great defenders of the Champ Car World Series and believed it to be the best challenge for drivers and teams. His abrasive commentary on the subject appeared primarily in letters to the editors of National Speed Sport News as he fought a personal battle to see the former CART series survive.
Art was one of the best travel companions I've ever had. When we worked the Champ Car race at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, England two years ago, Art and I spent a few days prior to the event traveling the British countryside in an MG-TF convertible, a mid-engine car about the same size as a Mazda Miata yet with far less luggage space, if that's possible.
We both had large soft-side suitcases - he was researching his WWII book at the time - and, of course, Art had the tools of his trade, camera bags and computer to schlep around, plus the many books and memorabilia he accumulated at each stop.
Somehow, by placing camera bags under his legs and using our wits to pack the mid-engine car's meager trunk, we managed to make it from Heathrow to Corby in one piece.
Life on the road with Art always required pub stops for pints of Guinness Stout and foraging through museums that dot the English countryside. It also meant making friends at every stop and engaging those new members of the Art Flores Fan Club in great conversation.
When the Champ Car World Series came to Brands Hatch a year later, Art managed to find a 14th century inn to house his friends, and we took over the complete Bulls Head Inn that lay maybe 15 minutes from the track. For procuring a fabulous hotel, Art always demanded a pint in return as his payment.
It's apparent one of the great raconteurs in motorsports, who also painted the history of the sport from the 1960s to today has left us. While I'm not sure of Art Flores' age, I believe he was in his late 50s.
A fabulous photographer, a wonderful friend and a superb cook (who took over my kitchen at the 2002 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and cooked for all his friends at the track, carrying on a tradition begun by my late love, photographer Ron Hussey), Art Flores will be sorely missed by his legions of friends, both within and outside the realm of racing.
One of the great originals who never wavered in his willingness to assist others in need, Art Flores never asked of others what he would not do himself. His death is an inconsolable loss for the sport and business of racing.