Throughout his career, John Buffum was known for his ability to take charge of the ever-changing conditions of a rally course. His photographic memory of roads and turns, and his ability to drive with abandon to post the fastest times at the finish, made him a legend in the world of Rally Racing.
For four years starting in 1977, Buffum drove factory Triumph TR-7s and TR-8’s and teamed with Doug Shepherd as his co-driver. The pair dominated the SCCA PRO Rally series and the North America Rally Championship until British Leyland dropped out of racing in the U.S. in 1981. They tried running Audi 80 and Peugeot 504 racers, but could not keep up with Rod Millen’s factory Mazda RX-7 rally entries.
In 1982, however, Audi supplied Buffum and Shepherd with its new Audi Quattro racers and they were unstoppable. Millen eventually showed up with a faster RX-7 but Buffum countered with the Quattro A2 and then a Sport Quattro to up the ante again. He would also rally occasionally in Europe where he became the first and only American to win a European Championship event (1983 Sachs Rally in Germany and the 1984 ERC event in Cyprus).
When Shepherd moved into a factory ride with Dodge, Buffum hired veteran co-driver Tom Grimshaw and the pair won back-to-back championships, including their 1987 undefeated season. During this period, Buffum became the world’s most successful rally driver ever, with 104 national championship wins, far surpassing anyone else. He retired after the 1987 season and became SCCA PRO Rally series manager, helping the sport maintain its stature through some lean years.
Since his retirement from active racing, Buffum has driven in an occasional rally and managed to bring his total victory count to 117 national championship wins. Not a man to sit on the sidelines, he remains as active as ever as a team manager for the Hyundai factory team, and builds and prepares rally cars through his Libra Racing operation in Colchester, Vermont. He is a past president of the American Rally Association, which handled the field administration and rules for the SCCA Pro Rally series in the mid 90’s. Buffum also rose to prominence as an event organizer in 1991 when he founded the Maine Forest Rally in Rumford, Maine, the only event in the U.S. to run a rally stage through a downtown area.
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