This edition of ‘The Torque Tube’ features Bruce Ledoux and his wife Linda from Guardian Angel Motorsports (GAM), a team of racing drivers who are racing for a higher purpose besides podium finishes and racing fuel. Moved by personal experience and inspiration, Bruce and Linda are using GAM to improve the lives of children with disabilities and illnesses by donating money to charities and causes that support them. Be sure to visit the Guardian Angel Motorsports website HERE.
It’s mid-November 2011, and I’m still slightly starstruck as I walk through the paddock at the wildly exclusive Monticello Motor Club (MMC) in Monticello, New York, wondering what supreme stroke of luck landed me at this incredible place. Parked in one of MMC’s garages is an immaculate Ford GT, and lining the pit wall are veritable acres of Cadillac CTS-Vs in coupe, sedan and wagon form, a pair of stunning Ferrari 458s, a Corvette ZR1, and more Porsche Caymans and Lotuses than an average person will see in a lifetime. As I pinch myself I realize two things: 1.) It’s going to be a ridiculous day, and 2.) I didn’t think it was possible to love cars as much as I do right now.
What got me here was more than luck. I’m spending the day at MMC on an invitation from Bruce and Linda Ledoux, the founders of Guardian Angel Motorsports. They brought their race-prepped Lotus Exige Cup to the track to race in the final member race day of the season and were kind enough to invite me along. As you can well imagine I jumped, nay, lept, at the chance. As I wander through pit lane ogling the machinery, I think about the significance of what Bruce and Linda are doing with GAM, and what an incredible impact it can have.
As the latter part of the name implies, Guardian Angel Motorsports is a team of racing drivers that compete in a range of different races, classes, and events throughout the country. As for the first part of the name, Bruce and Linda were inspired by their son Colin, who was born with a chromosome defect that causes global learning delays amongst other challenges, to create a charitable organization that brings awareness and assistance to kids like Colin; to be a child’s “guardian angel.” Since its inception in 2009, GAM has donated over $160,000 to nine different charities, all the while competing in major races like the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
What is the inspiration behind Guardian Angel Motorsports? How did it start?
“It came around because of the experience that Colin has brought to Linda and I… Professional racing is a passionate undertaking of mine, but I struggle with the time investment and the dollars required when I have a child that is affected the way that Colin is. What I was looking to do was also payback the system or ‘pay it forward’ if you will because we got so many great things from the social services that we consumed as we have been progressing with Colin. It occurred to me that if Colin didn’t have the advocate that Linda represents for him, he would be a complete victim of the system.
One of things we learned in the process is that you can see an injustice or a problem in the system and you can point it out and talk to people about it, but nobody really wants to change it or fix it or do anything about it… Implementing that change is incredibly powerful. So, you show up with a checkbook. Then you can make change, significant change, as quickly as it takes you to write out a check. So… If you want to get something done, you need to do your thing and get it done.”
It was from that desire to enact significant change that GAM was born. Through their organization, Bruce and Linda have married their passion for racing and donating resources to challenged kids, and the opportunity for impact on children’s lives with GAM is enormous. Another fundamental inspiration for GAM were “pledge-per-mile” or “pledge-per-lap” events like the Pan-Mass Challenge. The Challenge, a bicycling event founded by Billy Starr, brings in over 4,500 participates and donates tens of millions of dollars to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“I thought, ‘Why can’t we do a pledge-per-lap race?’… There are 76 million NASCAR and motorsports fans, if I could get half to give a dollar every year, now we have something. We have something with some major range to it.” After learning about the Pan-Mass Challenge, Bruce decided to apply that kind of fundraising concept to GAM. “And I thought, ‘Well, if [Starr] can do this on a bike ride and we use all the TV and media and high profile things that come with [racing], we ought to be able to do that.'”
Where did the name Guardian Angel Motorsports come from?
“The name came about because of frustration we felt when we brought Colin to preschool.” Bruce and Linda experienced significant shortcomings in the school’s ability to cope and adapt to Colin’s needs. “I said to Linda, ‘Damn, you know Colin needs a guardian angel just to go to lunch.’ Then about two days later I was staring at the ceiling and it hit me. It all kinda came together and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, why don’t we do a pledge-per-lap thing and why don’t we call our team Guardian Angel Motorsports?’ We’ll build in it a way that can be franchised much like breast cancer walk is. We’re going to create the package and the formula and then we’re going to franchise that out across as many motorsports participants as are willing to take it.”
Do you and Linda have separate roles in running in GAM?
“We definitely have distinct roles. She has some great strengths in terms of organization and planning and details, I guess I’m more the ‘deal’ guy. I have more relationships and seem to have an intrinsic skill to connect dots. So we try to divide and conquer that way so that one plus one is more than two.”
Are there particular charities that GAM tends to support or do you support any charity?
“I want to immediately relieve some of the pressures [that kids like Colin] are feeling and give them a chance.” Bruce and Linda’s focus with GAM is to create immediate impact and immediate change. This approach leads them to support groups like the Starlight Foundation, the Massachusetts Downs Syndrome Congress, and Friends of Bella, all organizations focused on improving the lifestyles of children in need.
“It’s not important that [Colin] wins, it’s important that he has the same opportunity that you and I have… If we could use people’s passionate interest and the huge public awareness that motorsports represents… then I think we left our own dent in the universe.”
How many drivers are racing with GAM?
“We have TransAm entry, a Rolex entry, two Continental Challenge entries, we have a World Challenge entry, I’m trying to cut deals right now for an ALMS entry, and I have three people that have stepped forward… [to compete in] SCCA, and the Playboy Cup.”
With the franchising model in mind, Bruce and Linda are out to create a vehicle that will allow people to pursue their passion and contribute to charity at the same time. From the GAM website: “Fast lap times feel good. Racing for a little boy or girl that needs your help—feels incredible. Join the GAM driver team and spread your wings for children’s charities. It doesn’t matter what car you drive, or what league you’re in. All are welcome. If you have a children’s charity that you’d like to raise money and awareness for, bring your charity with you. We’ll give you real estate on our site, we’ll help you advertise, do PR releases, get the word out with social media—we’ll support you with our fundraising engine.”
What’s in store for 2012?
“Our big fundraising campaign for 2012 is that we’re going to race 3,000 laps. So what we’re trying to drive awareness to and drive fundraising around is pledge-per-lap. We would like to get 30,000 people to pledge $.10 per lap, that would give us $9,000,000. Our big hurdle is awareness, keeping people engaged and excited about it… We need to get out and have people hear about us and understand what’s going on and start to follow the story and see the impact of our efforts for individuals.”
What is the most significant and impacting thing you’ve personally experienced through GAM?
In 2009, GAM was at a race in Florida where they ended up qualifying dead last. A reporter from a local newspaper pulled into the pits and told Bruce he was going to do a story on the car most likely to finish last and he wanted to write it about them. Clearly, not an exciting prospect for Bruce who had just finished driving the car, nor an intelligent thing for the reporter to say. Instead, Bruce told him about GAM.
“We talk for ten minutes and he clicks a picture and disappears. The next day, I’m in the meal tent and everyone’s coming over and whacking me on the back saying ‘nice job’ and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ They said, ‘You got the cover of the sports section for the local news.'”
A couple of hours later, Bruce is down in the garage for the meet-and-greet, an opportunity for fans to meet the drivers and get autographs. “So… this guy comes over to me with his baby who had some sort of genetic issue… and the 18 month old hands a check to me and it was a $10 donation for our effort. And I was like, ‘Oh man, we’re getting somewhere with this, we’re connecting with people.’ I have a picture of me accepting the check from the little guy… So, it was a little thing, but it hit me between the eyes that we’re up to something that has greater meaning and value.”
Welcome, Bruce and Linda, to The Torque Tube.
– Many thanks to Bruce for his time for this interview, and thanks to both Linda and Bruce for inviting me out to MMC to hang out for the day. Interested in supporting Guardian Angel Motorsports? Be sure to check out the website HERE. For supporters and donors, there are opportunities to attend one of GAM’s races and even help the fueling crew down in the pits, man safety equipment, work with the crew chief, or a number of other fantastic opportunities.