Willy T Ribbs became the first African American racing driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.
Ribbs attempted to qualify for the 1985 Indianapolis 500 with the support of boxing promoter Don King who helped Ribbs secure sponsorship from Miller/Coors, however the car was uncompetitive and Ribbs withdrew from qualifying.
In 1991, Ribbs became the first African American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 where he started the race from 32nd place but was forced to retire due to mechanical problems, Ribbs returned to the Indianapolis 500 in 1993 with Walker Racing and finished the race in 21st place.
The Californian was invited by Bernie Ecclestone to test a Formula One car where in December he became the first African American to test a Formula One car when he tested for BRM in Estoril in Portugal and although he was extremely quick, Ribbs missed out a getting a full time drive in Formula One for 1987 due to BRM sponsor Olivette wanting an Italian driver.
Ribbs had a great career in the Trans Am championship and was well known for his great rivalry with David Hobbs.
Uppity – The Willy T Ribbs Story is available on Netflix now.