Greg Wilkins of Toronto, who won a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2000, has died of cancer at age 53.
The father of Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series driver Mark Wilkins, Greg Wilkins was executive vice-chairman of the world’s biggest gold-mining company, Barrick Gold of Toronto. He had been president and CEO until he fell ill several years ago.
Although the Le Mans victory, with co-drivers Scott Maxwell and John Graham, was undoubtedly the most important of his racing career, the one he was most proud of came in 2005 when he finished third at the 24 Hours of Daytona, co-driving with his son.
He made 39 starts in the Grand Am series and won the GTO class at Mid-Ohio in 2000. He was also a driver in the Continental Tire Challenge series and won races at tracks in Arizona and California in 2003 and 2004.
Wilkins was a guy who "fooled around" with auto racing until he realized that he could be good at it.
"I attended a driving school in the late 1980s," he told me once during an interview at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
"In fact, I took driving schools for about five years until one day somebody said that I could actually get out on the track and not embarrass myself. I was interested in (watching) Indy racing but it’s not in my nature to be much of a fan. I like to get out there.
"I’d rather play golf than watch golf. I’d rather drive cars than watch cars."
He revealed that he often took fellow executives along with him on race weekends because "racing and business are similar when it comes to performance culture in areas such as communication, planning and preparation, strategy and execution, and cost management."
He added that it was also a lot of fun.
Besides Mark, Greg Wilkins also leaves his wife Vera and a daughter, Lauren.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.