11 QUESTIONS FOR
In Marin / Q&A
Race Car Driver
Born on a sailboat in La Paz, Mexico, 46-year-old Jose Guillermo “Memo” Gidley grew
up as a Sausalito “anchor out” before his family settled in San Rafael. Bicycle motocross
led to dirt bikes, go-karts and finally cars. He ultimately rose to Indy car and endurance
racing, meanwhile still sailing and also winning go-kart and Jet Ski
championships. A near-fatal accident during the 24 Hours of Daytona in
2014 left him with major injuries, but after a lengthy recovery he is back
in the driver’s seat for 2018, working with professional road racing teams and teaching
karting to aspiring drivers. While racing is his passion, his day job is running his Sausalito-
based boat charter company, Sailing Memo Boat Charters. We caught up with Gidley
over coffee, not far from the Sausalito Community Boating Center at the Cass Gidley
Marina, named for his late father, a fixture of Marin’s boating scene. WILLIAM P. FREED JR.
support network. I had to sleep on my stomach for
five months. Sleeping on my back again was a win.
Small victories, like tying my shoes, showed there
was more coming. The really big deal was medical
clearance to drive again.
7 Any advice for those facing similar circum- stances? Find motivation to recover and give
your body time to heal. For me, it was a case of telling
my body that I planned to use it again.
8What’s your favorite place to sail? The “Slot,” where the wind really howls in the summertime. It is
very exciting — fast boat speed and challenging to sail.
9What’s your ideal day in Marin County? A mountain bike ride followed by a sail. Of course,
I like going to Sonoma Raceway. But just being here
— living in Tiburon and enjoying the views — and
spending time with my wife, daughter and mom.
10 What are your favorite spots to eat in Marin? Las Guitarras in Novato. I also like F3
and Bar Bocce in Sausalito, as well as Barrel House
Tavern. I like visiting Avatar’s for a fusion burrito.
11 What is your favorite road to drive? And what’s the fastest you’ve ever driven? I like
Highway 1 here in Marin. And over 250 miles per
hour in an Indy car. m
1 Why car racing over sailing? I was into speed from the get-go. My dad always sent me out in
our El Toro dinghy on the windiest days, and for some
reason I was also into vehicles. When my uncle took
me to a car race, I thought, “This is it!”
2 When was your first chance to drive an Indy car? At Long Beach in 1999, I met a team owner
with an available seat. I got my first taste of 950
horsepower a week later.
3 When did you find your place in top-level racing? Indy car opportunities came in 1999. In
2000, I led my first laps and got noticed for being
fourth fastest at a test session. I did nine races that
year and 15 races with the Target team in 2001, leading at Michigan and nearly winning Cleveland.
4 What makes teaching racing and sailing rewarding? I love both, and my true passion
has become sharing with people experiencing these
sports for the first time.
5 Why do racing fans connect with you? Car rac- ing is hard for an average person to get into, and
people saw that as someone with no financial backing, I pushed and didn’t give up.
6When did you turn the corner in your recovery?
Having family, friends and fans
reach out and cheerlead was a
big help. I thought about how
much more difficult it would
be for someone with less of a