Thread: Mike Follmer-Endurance PWC Racer
08-19-2009, 10:48 PM #1
Mike Follmer-Endurance PWC Racer
Date of Birth: November 16, 1955
Residence: Fountain Valley, California
Occupation: Business Owner - Mike Follmer Specialties
Business Type: Motorsports and Corporate Promotional Products
Growing up in the fast paced world of professional motor sports has proven to be an excellent training ground for Mike Follmer. Coming from a racing family that includes his Uncle, the world famous Auto Racing Hall of Famer, George Follmer, and Mike was not even able to drive when he started receiving his hands-on experience as a crew member for a variety of motor racing teams. At the age of sixteen, his desire to compete drove Mike into the bruising, physically demanding and ultra competitive sport of motocross racing. Immediate success as a high school motocross champion was pivotal to his being asked to ride as a professional with the Maico Motorcycle - Motocross Racing Team.Completion of the Jim Russell International Driving School in England launched Mike into his auto-racing career. A fourth place finish in the competitive E-Production Class of the Sports Car Club of America (“SCCA”) firmly established Mike as a serious competitive driver.
Opportunities soon arose for Mike in the field of racing management. He worked with Roger Penske’s - International Race of Champions (“IROC”), the U.S. Racing Team and The American Spirit Racing Team in the SCCA Can-Am series, in addition to several Super-Vee teams. Mike also possesses unusual experience for a driver in that he has worked for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, a major racing supplier and sponsor. Due to this record of involvement, Mike has first hand awareness and experience on all facets of the motor racing coin, representing familiarity with the motivation behind sponsorship and the racing industry.
In 1978, Mike returned to racing, immediately scoring impressive victories, winning eight of eleven races in Formula Super-Vee. That record secured the SCCA - Formula Super-Vee - Regional Championship for Mike. The next season, progressing to the new Formula Continental Class, Mike again proved his racing heritage and prowess by winning five of the seven events, and earning the SCCA - Southern Pacific National Championship title. The mantle of this championship qualified Mike to compete for the 1979 SCCA National Championship at the annual Runoffs at Road Atlanta in Georgia. Mike finished an impressive third in a field of the finest drivers in America.
Graduating to professional racing in 1981, Mike ran for the Bosch/Super-Vee Championshiptitle. This same year, Mike expanded his behind-the-wheel experience to sedan racing, where he proved that sedan racing was not an obstacle to success either. Among a variety of sedans, Mike co-drove with his uncle in a factory-backed Toyota Celica, competing in the IMSA - Camel GT series.
The pair finished fifth in the Pabst 500 at Road Atlanta in 1981. During this year of professional competition, Mike decided to apply his vast knowledge of motorsports and utilize his many connections garnered from years of traveling the racing circuit, to found his racing-oriented specialty promotion company, Mike Follmer Specialties. In 1983, Mike was invited to compete in the Toyota; Veteran-Rookie Race at Riverside Raceway driving identically prepared Toyota Celicas against a field of veteran race car drivers and rookies.
He finished fifth in the field of twelve.Specializing in the custom design and production of cloisonné pins, Mike has turned his company into a highly recognized world-wide supplier of not only collector pins, but has diversified to include other promotional items such as embroidered hats, T-shirts, key rings, neck straps and credential holders, just to name a few. Always active in the sport, Mike has established a firm market niche and some notoriety for his cloisonné pin business activities along with his driving career.Seeking an outlet for his recreational activities in 1994, Mike found a personal water craft (“PWC” or “Jet Ski”) to be the perfect vehicle for exercise and fun to fully satisfy all of his needs, but with his competitive heritage, soon found that they were also able to be raced.
He entered and won his first race as a beginner on a YAMAHA 701 Raider in San Felipe, Mexico on October 29, 1994. Starting in 1995, Mike founded Mike Follmer Watersports, and campaigned in the International Jet Sports Boating Association (“IJSBA”) Region 1 - Offshore Championship Series where he finished second in the novice class. In 1996, utilizing his past automotive team experience, Mike formed a team and jumped up in class to race as an expert and finish second overall in the LongCourse series, fifth overall in the 785 GranPrix series and third overall in the 1200 Open GranPrix series.
1997 found Mike finishing fourth overall in the GranPrix series and second overall in the LongCourse series, and was recognized for his organizational and team building expertise by being awarded the prestigious “Image Maker of the Year Award”. In 1998, Mike signed a contract and became a factory rider with YAMAHA MOTOR CORPORATION. With his new factory backing, he competed in three separate series and placed fourth overall in the LongCourse series, second in the GranPrix series and fourth overall in the Oval series, as well as placed second in class at the Laughlin Challenge. In 1999, Mike, again under contract with the YAMAHA Factory, finished the year third in the GranPrix Series, seventh in the LongCourse Series and thirteenth out of one hundred and twenty riders for the absolute overall competition. 1999 also saw Mike being awarded the “Image Maker of the Year Award” for an unprecedented second time.Signing again with YAMAHA in 2000, Mike stepped up his racing with a grueling sixteen race schedule.
After seven, 90-minute, LongCourse races Mike was crowned Series Champion, and finished the eight, 2-hour race GranPrix Series in second place, a scant 5 points back of the champion. After racing in only one of the three Team Endurance Series races, Mike still had enough points to finish eighth in the absolute overall championship and earn the number 8 number plate for the following year.For the 2001 season, Mike signed with YAMAHA Motor Corporation for the fourth consecutive year as a Factory Sponsored Rider. With a desire to compete in all three series, LongCourse, GranPrix and Team Endurance, Mike solicited the support of several long time and new sponsors to field the very best equipment to capture championships.
At the conclusion of the year, Mike was crowned GranPrix Series Open Expert Champion and GranPrix Series Overall Champion. He also was crowned LongCourse Series Open Expert Champion, and Team Endurance Series Open Expert Champion and in the final race of the year, the “World’s Longest Personal Watercraft Race” – the Team Endurance 300, Mike won the six-hour race overall and was crowned the IJSBA National Team Endurance Champion. With four championships and a national title, Mike earned the number two position in the season long absolute overall point race and carried the # 2 plate for the 2002 season.
With the #2 plate as a constant reminder during the season that he had missed being number one by a scant 4 points in 2001, Mike pulled out all the stops during the off season to ensure that he would capture the #1 Plate for 2003. The help of several sponsors and friends coupled with a personal training regimen and an exhaustive testing schedule gave Mike the fast start in 2002 that he needed. Winning his class and the overall championships at the first race put Mike in the top spot from the onset. From his winning start, Mike continued on through the season winning class and overall championships at a record setting pace. At the close of the nine race season Mike had earned an unprecedented 7 Championships. In the LongCourse Series Mike won the Series Overall Championship and Open Expert Class Championship with 1 overall win and 2 class wins. In the Gran Prix Series Mike won the Open Expert Class Championship and was Overall Runner-Up with 2 overall wins and 3 class wins. Mike Captured the Team Endurance Series Open Expert Class Championship and was the Overall Runner-Up with 1 overall win and 2 class wins. Mike also was crowned with 2 IJSBA National Class Championships for his winning performances in the Long Beach – 2 – Catalina & Back Gran Prix and the Team Endurance “300” 6-hour. Winning 8 out of 9 class races during the year vaulted Mike ahead of the competition for the point’s race for the coveted #1 Plate.
Along with his Overall Championship, Mike was awarded the Racer of the Year Trophy and the Image Maker of the Year Trophy for the third consecutive year. This also marked the first time in history that these two awards were captured by one individual in the same year.With the season end demise of the promoter that he had raced with since he began in 1994, Mike decided to venture into a different PWC racing format and Pro-Am 1200 Super Stock Class offered by BULLETT Racing at Lake Havasu, Arizona. Signing a fresh contract with YAMAHA Motor Corporation for factory backing, Mike reconfigured his boats to compete in the twelve – 40 minute sprint races that made up the BULLETT Westcoast Jet Jam Endurance Series.
After experiencing initial problems with the transition to this ultra fast, short course, limited time with no pit stop races, Mike made the necessary adjustments and finished the season placing third in the Overall Championship standings and Second Place in the Pro-Am 1200 Super Stock Class. For the season ending BULLETT - Havasu 300 – 6-Hour Endurance Race, Mike once again represented the YAMAHA Factory well by entering two boats. After leading the first half of the race on his Team’s YAMAHA GP1200R, Mike switched over to their YAMAHA FX140 Four Stroke entry to finish the race. His Second Place in the 4-Stroke Class marked the first podium finish for this new category of PWC for the YAMAHA Motor Corporation.
The 2004 season started off with a coveted invitation to participate as a Pro in the Toyota Pro Celebrity Race at the Long Beach Grand Prix. With the week long racing school, press day and charity events in the months leading up to the race, even the rain on race day couldn’t dampen the impact that this race has made or the importance it has richly deserved over the past 28 years. Mike went on to finish third in the Pro category and proved himself to be a worthy standard bearer for the PWC racing community by his outstanding performance on and off the track.
Mike also became the first PWC racer to be endorsed by a model company when Revell Monogram introduced a 1/25th scale model and action figure in the likeness of Mike and his YAMAHA GP1300 race boat. In 2004, Mike finished 2nd overall in the BULLETT Jet Jam Series and also took home the 2nd place trophy in the Pro/Am 1200 Super Stock Class. He was also invited to participate in the inaugural SuperCourse Endurance Exhibition race during the 2004 IJSBA World Finals at Lake Havasu in Arizona.
Mike was instrumental in the inclusion of PWC Sprint Races during the APBA/Southern California Speedboat Club’s many boat racing events throughout Southern California and Arizona and his 2nd place finish in this series identified him as the one to beat in the ’05 season and was the primary reason he was featured on The Outdoor Channel’s Speed Zone program that covers Southern California Speedboat Club boat racing events for National broadcast.
The rapidly changing world of PWC’s to the newer 4-stroke supercharged technology found Mike one of the last riders clinging to the 2-stroke engine for the 2005 season. Despite the enormous horse power disadvantage, Mike competed in nine rounds of racing in the Everclear Promotions and SCSC series with an impressive 6 first place and 3 second place ProAm 1200 Class finishes and 4 first place and 3 second place Overall finishes. Mike was also crowned the Overall Series Champion of the JetJam Lake Havasu Endurance Series by his unprecedented sweep of all ten rounds in 1st Overall. As a personal gesture to remember his friend and fellow racer Mark Hahn who died during a race in 2004, Mike took on the responsibility of creating, organizing and promoting a six hour endurance race in his honor.
The inaugural Mark Hahn Havasu 300 Memorial was contested at Lake Havasu by 28 teams and gained international recognition as the new standard by which endurance races will be judged. Taking just 5 hours and 13 minutes to cover the 300 mile race distance, Mike and his team mate, Billy Womack, finished first overall and first ProAm 1200 to win this very emotion charged event. All his success in 2005 resulted in Mikes being crowned the 2005 APBA High Points Endurance Series National Champion and earning him the right to race with the Number 1 plate for the next year.
For 2006 Mike back to backed the APBA high point’s championships and once again giving the Yamaha GP 1300R the #1 plate for endurance racing. Winning the Pro/Am 2 stroke class with 6 wins. Mike has been active in promoting the Mark Hahn Havasu 300 6 hour event for the 3rd year now something that Mike is very proud off. For 2007 Mike was re signed with his long time sponsor Yamaha and competed in the (SCSC) endurance series events winning the Pro/Am 2 stroke class and capturing the #1 plate for the third straight year. For 2008 Mike will be changing to the new Yamaha super charged SHO 4 stroke unit and will be moving up to the Pro /Am 4 stroke open class .
And once again will be promoting the 4th annual Mark Hahn Havasu 300 event. He gave Yamaha there first overall win on the all new FX SHO waverunner . Finishing the season 3rd in the APBA national points for the season. Mike is also a (APBA) PWR board member and (SCSC) Southern California Speed Boat Club board member working to help the sport grow.Starting his 17th year in the sport For 2009 Mike will once again racing for the Yamaha factory aboard an all new FX FZR supercharged waverunner .
With a full race schedule in the APBA , SCSC endurance sprint series as well as the 5th annual Mark Hahn Havasu 300, and Long Beach to Catalina events. Mike will be carrying the #3 plate going into the 09 season.When not at home in Fountain Valley, California tending to his extensive collection of automotive memorabilia, valuable models and toy race cars, Mike can be found riding mountain bikes to stay in top physical condition or cruising California on his Ducati 1098 SP motorcycle.
He can also be found at racetracks all over the world promoting his specialty product business to IRL, CART, NHRA, NASCAR, F1, Grand Am, USAC & Outlaw Sprint Car, AMA and Moto GP drivers, teams and sponsors, and all the while performing public relations functions for his many sponsors.
08-22-2009, 06:59 PM #2
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