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Janet Guthrie

A Thirst For Adventure

Janet Guthrie was born in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 7, 1938, the oldest of five children. At the age of three, she moved with her family to Miami, Florida, when her father accepted a job as an Eastern Airlines pilot. Her love of adventure, and fast machinery in particular, started early.

Guthrie earned a pilot's license at the age of seventeen, and even before she graduated from the University of Michigan in 1960 with a bachelor's degree in physics, she worked as a commercial pilot and a flight instructor. After graduation, she began a career as an aerospace engineer, working on forerunners to the Apollo rockets. She also applied for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) first Scientist-Astronaut program. She passed the first round of eliminations but lacked the Ph.D. necessary to advance. Meanwhile, the tug of competition, something that flying did not provide, led her to buy a Jaguar XK 120. She disassembled then reassembled the engine, with the goal of turning it

Janet Guthrie

into a race car. She started competing soon after, and in 1964 won two Sports Car Club of America races and finished sixth in the Watkins Glen 500 in New York. Her work in the aerospace industry began to give way to sports car racing.

She explained the lure of competitive racing to Margie Boule of the Oregonian, "All these wonderful machines developed in the 20th century …made the difference for a woman who had the same sense of adventure as a man but didn't have the broad shoulders and the big muscles.… The good old boys weren't happy to see me coming."

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Famous Sports StarsAuto RacingJanet Guthrie Biography - A Thirst For Adventure, A Pioneering Racing Career, Few Women Followed Her Lead, Chronology - CONTACT INFORMATION