Jennifer Tumminelli Makes WGGT Team

Mountain View, CA., February 11, 1999 -- On February 4th, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Jennifer Tumminelli, 33 of Los Gatos, California and Star Formula Mazda Pro Driver received word from Lyn St. James that she had made the team. The...

Mountain View, CA., February 11, 1999 -- On February 4th, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Jennifer Tumminelli, 33 of Los Gatos, California and Star Formula Mazda Pro Driver received word from Lyn St. James that she had made the team. The team that is, the Women's Global GT Series. A history-making, inaugural race series sanctioned by the American LeMans Series that is being executed by Executive Director, Lyn St. James (Six time Indy 500 Driver) and series owner, Don Panoz.

Tumminelli posted the 12th fastest race lap out of 58 women at Road Atlanta on January 28th. The Women's Global GT Series, a televised race series, will consist of two qualifying sessions with 16 drivers in each. The top 8 from each qualifying session will start the race in identically prepared Panoz GT-RA race cars with 305+ HP Ford 4.6 liter dohc Mustang Cobra V-8 weighing 2500 pounds and riding on Michelin Street tires.

"It's quite astonishing to think that I grew up watching Lyn St. James race in the Indy 500 on TV and wishing I could be just like her." Tumminelli observed. "My parents dismissed my aspirations to be a race car driver and thought I was going through a phase." Tumminelli adds. "Now it's several years later and I have just qualified, and selected, to drive in a series that she has created for us. I am so excited to be a part of the team and very thankful to Lyn for her commitment in creating more opportunities and exposure for women in racing globally." Tumminelli stated further.

Tumminelli, a determined racer, sought out her own racing aspirations. With little money, Tumminelli, a young, single mother at the age of twenty, waited until her daughter was eight to pursue her passion. Starting out as a crew person, Tumminelli worked her way up to become a mechanic on a Formula Mazda team. Gaining respect over two years her hard work paid off. Tumminelli earned a single ride and won. Winning her first Autocross, Time-trial, and taking the pole at her very first wheel to wheel race, her father enrolled her into SCCA Driver's School of which she took the pole and won. Tumminelli's winning streak continued.

Discovering that she could no longer stop thinking about racing, Tumminelli left her Fortune 500 job and went to work for Della Penna Motorsports as Richie Hearn's Marketing Manager and later went on to support hot Toyota Atlantic rookie, Chuck West of World Speed Motorsports with his public relations efforts.

"I enjoyed what I was doing, working long hours, making lot's of friends, and traveling to races I had never been to before - I loved it. I learned a lot from both positions which in turn made me more of a complete racer." Tumminelli adds.

Her friendly persona and lively personality has put her in front of Jacques Villenueve, Damon Hill, Butch Leitzinger, Alex Zanardi, Parker Johnstone, and Don Panoz to name a few.

In 1997, Margie Smith Haas, an accomplished California racer in ACRL and PPG Pace Car Driver for 14 years put in a recommendation that Tumminelli join the PPG Pace Car Team in the CART Series. Her recommendation paid off.

Tumminelli's racing almost came to a screeching halt. On her birthday, Sunday-May 4 1997, Tumminelli received a phone call from her dad in Portland who was watching his son-in-law, Rich Stephens, 32 of Los Gatos, California race in the Formula Mazda Series. Stephens, the '96 Formula Mazda Champion had just set the track record the day before and won the race. Running in first place throughout the race, Stephens fell back into second with less than five laps to go. His life was about to change. Stephens crashed head on into a concrete wall at 100mph spinning him around backwards and into the pitwall on to the straightaway at Portland International Raceway. Jennifer's father only a few feet away witnessed the horrific crash. Stephens was transported to Portland Emmanuel Hospital where he lay in a coma, on life support, with a broken jaw, both legs and feet broken, and an internal head injury. Stephens remained in a coma and on life support for a month. Tumminelli's father asked that she never race again. Tumminelli and father, along with Stephen's wife and newborn baby moved temporarily to Portland while SCCA workers, Formula Mazda drivers and series workers, CART drivers, and the PPG Pace Car Team prayed and sent get well wishes. Stephens, a champion Formula Mazda driver, was the first driver in the series to ever suffer a near fatal accident.

Stephens would soon stun his doctors and family with his complete recovery. Stephens was determined to learn how to walk, talk and live life all over again in less than six months and he did just that. Tumminelli encouraged her father to join her at Road America to watch her perform her pace car duties and race in the PPG/Neon Celebrity Race. In a torrential downpour, Tumminelli got all the way up to second place, taking her PPG/Neon Celebrity race car to a remarkable fourth place finish with fogged up windows, a broken steering and alternator belt and a flat tire. Tumminelli's father watched with amazement on a hillside covered with CART fans as he proudly waving his hat in the air in hopes that Tumminelli would she him as she drove by for the checker. Tumminelli's determination paid off and her father gave her the approval she needed from him to be ok with her racing. Rebuilding the Star Formula Mazda using only two pieces from the car that was still useable, Tumminelli and Stephens worked diligently over the winter to rebuild her a new car to race in 1998. Stephens now acts as Tumminelli's driving coach.

An experienced marketer, Tumminelli's other strong suit has been her ability to secure her own sponsorship from large corporations. Located in the heart of the Silicon Valley she understands that racing isn't just about how fast you are. Tumminelli was the first to secure sponsorship in 1998 in the Star Formula Mazda Series with financial backing from Vantive (A Software Corporation)and recently acquired sponsorship from Silicon Graphics for her participation in the Women's Global GT Series before she even qualified for the series.

In 1999, Tumminelli will be one of only two women who will race both in the Star Formula Mazda Series and the Women's Global GT series during a single race weekend. Both series are sanctioned by the American LeMans Series.

The Star Formula Mazda Pro Series is a spec Mazda Rotary 13B-170HP race series that showcases driving talent not financial means. Recognizably the fastest growing, most competitive, and popular race series in 1998, a typical race features 35-45 competitors vying for position with loads of action for their spectators to watch. The series is televised by ESPN2.

The 1999 schedules for the Women's Global GT Series and Star Formula Mazda Pro Series includes events at Sebring (March 20), Road Atlanta(April 18), Mosport (June 27), Sears Point (July 25), Portland (August 11), Petit LeMans (September 18), Laguna Seca (October 10) and San Diego (November 7).

For further information on the Women's Global GT Series contact Lyn St. James or Michelle Buddenhaum at 317-244-9790 or www.americanlemans.com. For further information on the Star Formula Mazda Series contact Mark Rodriguez at 818-909-5455 or www.starmazda.com For more information on Jennifer Tumminelli refer to her website at www.jennifertumminelli.com or jtummine@aol.com

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About this article
Series IMSA Others , Pro Mazda
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Alex Zanardi , Richie Hearn , Lyn St. James , Damon Hill , Don Panoz