John Kirtland Colgate Jr. (January 27, 1935) was an American automobile dealer, race car driver and descendent of William Colgate, who founded the Colgate toothpaste company.
John Colgate mainly competed in SCCA regional races but won two of the world’s biggest endurance sports car races in his class – the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring. In 1962, he drove the 12 Hours of Sebring with actor Steve McQueen.
Colgate got his start in SCCA regional racing in the 1950s, competed at tracks in the Northeast United States like Lime Rock Park and Bridgehampton. In 1959, he competed in his first of six 12 Hours of Sebring races, the first round of the World Sportscar Championship, finishing second in the GT1.0 class and 38th overall in an Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite.
In 1960, he debuted in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and took the class victory home with British driver John Dalton in an Austin-Healey Sprite Spyder. Colgate also competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring with Fred Spross in the Grand Touring 3000 class, but the pair retired after a significant accident forced them out after 54 laps.
Colgate competed in two races in the 1961 FIA World Sportscar Championship. He finished 25th in the 1961 12 Hours of Sebring, with Canadian driver Ed Leavens, but failed to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans after the engine let go in the eighth hour. He shared his Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite with Australian driver Paul Hawkins, who went on to compete in Formula 1.
In 1962, Colgate partnered with actor Steve McQueen in an Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite in the Sports 1150 class. The pair led after seven hours and completed 71 laps before a connecting rod broke and forced their retirement with Colgate at the wheel. The race was McQueen’s first at Sebring and led to McQueen being recruited to join the British Motoring Corporation as a professional driver, before he turned it down.
Colgate competed three more times in the 12 Hours of Sebring (1963, 1964, and 1969), with a best finish of 25th overall and fourth in class in the 1964 race, driving an Austin-Healey.
A graduate of Colgate University, named after his great-great-grandfather William Colgate, John Colgate was the owner of Silver Star Motors, an automobile dealership in Long Island, and a licensed pilot.
In 2011, he served as Deputy Mayor of Mill Neck, New York.
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- "The Bridgeport Post from Bridgeport, Connecticut on March 10, 1962 · Page 7".
- Goodwin, Carl (21 July 2011). "They Started in MGs: Profiles of Sports Car Racers of the 1950s". McFarland – via Google Books.
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- "Sebring 12 Hours 1964 - Race Results - Racing Sports Cars". www.racingsportscars.com.
- "FAA recognizes John Kirtland Colgate Jr". aviation-business-gazette.com.s3-website-us-west-1.amazonaws.com.
- Bleyer, Bill (3 August 2011). "New mayor appointed in Mill Neck".
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