Master automotive craftsman Joe Cavaglieri was named the 2017 recipient of the Racing History Project’s Peter Bryant Challenger Award at the project’s “Tribute to IMSA Dinner presented by Mazda,” held last weekend at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California.
RHP’s Doug Stokes introduced the award by discussing the late Peter Bryant and the award’s intent to recognize outstanding service and personal dedication to motorsports engineering. Stokes emphasized the award’s intent by reading off the stellar list of awardees accorded the honor since its inception.
First presented at the 2010 Riverside Raceway Reunion the year after Bryant passed away, those honorees have been: Howden Ganley, Phil Remington, Bruce Burness, Trevor Harris, Tyler Alexander, Alwin Springer, Ike Smith and Dan Gurney.
Racer, author (Shelby American) and movie stuntman John Morton prefaced the award with a few words about his friend and one-time crew chief before announcing Cavaglieri’s name as this year’s awardee.
Expressing surprise, Cavaglieri said he was both honored and humbled by the award. He told the gathering that knowing his name is now listed with a number of his personal heroes on the perpetual Bryant Award was very special for him.
Cavaglieri’s career began with his early involvement with a pre-BRE Peter Brock on the Hino Contessa racing program. He then spent time working for racing engine builder Ryan Falconer and racing his own Lotus 69 in SCCA Formula Ford events. He subsequently worked with a couple of Formula 5000 teams, including the Krinett and Francisco Mir team with Morton as their driver. From there he went on to build Brad Frisselle’s IMSA GTO championship-winning Datsun and worked with Trevor Harris to develop Frisselle’s very successful second-gen “Frissbee” Can-Am car.
Cavaglieri also enjoyed great success working with a young driver named Al Unser Jr., winning the 1982 Can-Am championship with the Frissbee for car owner Rick Galles. He followed Unser into Indycars (above) as Galles grew his operation into a CART team. Upon retiring from racing, Cavaglieri opened a racecar restoration business, and is now considered one of the top Porsche experts in the field. He has a special affinity for restoring early Porsche Spyders along with many other historic racecars, listing among his customers such notable collectors as The Revs Institute in Florida and comedian Jerry Seinfeld.