Bill Riley is a leading contender for the title of “Busiest Person in Sports Car Racing.” There are others who might assert themselves as worthy of the title, but Riley — currently running or helping run three race teams in three different categories in two series, building Trans Am cars, running a ChampCar endurance effort, building continuation Ford GT Mk IVs, or just being one of the most affable people in the paddock — is certainly in the running as he continues to build the empire that began with his father Bob.
“My wife says I’m pretty busy,” he laughs. “I think I’m pretty busy. You know, going to all the IMSA events and SRO races and other stuff in between — the vintage stuff, and Trans Am when I can, I’m pretty busy right now. I don’t know how much more we could take on, but I would say we could pivot and go to a bigger program here or there.”
Adding to the championship-winning LMP3 effort he runs for Gar Robinson (at left above, with Riley and Felipe Fraga) in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Crowdstrike Racing with George Kurtz and Colin Braun in Fanatec GT World Challenge America, Riley partnered with longtime Porsche Cup competitor Kellymoss for its two-car GTD effort in the WeatherTech Championship. That effort has already produced a victory for Alan Metni and Kay van Berlo in the No. 91 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, as well as podiums for the sister No. 92, including at Sebring with David Brule, Alec Udell and Julien Andlauer.
“Andy [Kilcoyne] and myself, have been talking for a while about doing business together, along with Victoria and Ken Swan up there. And this, kind of all of a sudden, just kind of fit; that this would be a good fit for our companies is if we ran a program for some of their clients,” he says. “It kind of came together a little bit at the last minute, to be honest, but we got it all together. And we’re showing good promise. GTD racing, you have your ups and downs, and we’ve had a few ups and we’ve had a few downs. But I think we’re going along pretty strong with it.”
Next to the Kellymoss with Riley transporter in the paddock is the Riley Motorsports awning, under which sits the No. 74 Ligier LMP3 driven by Gar Robinson with various co-drivers. The No. 74, after a rough Rolex 24 At Daytona, is undefeated in points-paying races so far in 2023 and Robinson holds a commanding lead in the LMP3 points. That program will move to LMP2 next season.
“Obviously we’re having a strong year. Daytona didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to with an engine failure pretty early in the race, but the rest of the season has gone great,” Riley notes. “And that’s just to down to all the people pulling in the same direction, as hard as we can. Everyone on the team is doing that and, fortunately, we’re getting good results.”
Riley is quick to praise the people engineering and wrenching on the cars. And while the two transporters sit next to each other, they’re two separate teams. There’s little crossover, except sometimes in the shop or perhaps in an all-hands-on-deck situation.
On the GT World Challenge America side, the equation is the same – hard-working people all pulling in the same direction as Kurtz and Braun fight for the Pro-Am title in the No. 4 Crowdstrike by Riley Mercedes AMG. That program is in its second season after Kurtz worked with another team in the championship, and both years have produced good results. Kurtz and Braun are leading the Pro-Am points with two weekends left.
The latest Riley Technologies Motorsports program returns to one of the series that made the Riley reputation. The Riley & Scott chassis in the Trans Am Series in the ’90s were near-unstoppable forces, propelling the likes of Tommy Kendall to wins and championships. Now Riley is building Trans Am chassis once again, and Chris Dyson currently leads that championship, with teammate Matt Brabham second. Building new Trans Am chassis fills a hole in the Riley portfolio — building cars, which much of the modern world of factory-built homologated race cars doesn’t afford. It’s where the company built its reputation, and its return is welcome.
“Chris Dyson’s having a great year with it. And so are Justin Marks and David Pintaric. They’re having great seasons with the car. It’s really good to be back in Trans-Am. It’s a fun series to be involved with. We’re going to run a car for Gar Robinson at COTA in the series, so that’ll be fun.
“It was really Tony Ave drove the start of it all,” Riley explains, “Tony was building an older car of our design and doing it with updates. Tony was the one that pushed Bob to design a new Trans Am car. Tony got busy with all his race programs, so we kind of build the car in our shop now. But it’s a Tony who really drove the new-design TA1 car.”
Another new project harkens back even farther in the Riley heritage. Bob Riley went to work for Ford in the mid-’60s and contributed to Ford’s victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the GT40. A longtime friend and customer of Riley Technologies, Jim Matthews, bought Kar Kraft, which helped build the GT40s for Ford. There were already MkII continuations being built, but they saw an opportunity for continuation Mk IVs.
“They’re beautiful cars, ’67 Le Mans and Sebring-winning cars,” Riley enthuses. “We’re getting pretty close to having the first one done. They’re really cool cars, and it’s one of my favorite cars of all time, so it’s really an honor and privilege to be involved with it.”
All of these programs build on the racing legacy the Riley family has established. Bob Riley got his start in racing building Lynx Formula Vees and then other Lynx formula cars before his time with Ford. After that he worked with A.J. Foyt. Then came partnerships with Gary Pratt of Pratt & Miller, then with Mark Scott to form Riley & Scott that was a staple of Trans-Am, in the World Sports Car era of endurance racing and even Indy cars before being sold to Reynard. From there, Riley Technologies was formed. The Riley history is littered with great moments in sports car racing.
“In the ’90s, it was racing against Ferrari with with the [Riley & Scott] MkIII, whether it was our own team with Wayne Taylor, or if it was with the Dyson team, trading wins and battles back and forth. That was pretty special,” Bill recalls. “In the 2000s, we had such a great Daytona Prototype run with great customers and we had a lot of victories. And then the Viper program in 2012-’14 was just tremendous with all the friendships we made there; to be able to run at that level, that was another great thing to be involved with. So, kind of like every 10 years, we have theses great standouts, but along the way, it’s all the people you meet and all the relationships you build.”
Those are a few of the many highlights in the Riley portfolio. Whether fitted with Ford or Oldsmobile or other engines, those Riley & Scott MkIIIs could lay claim to being the most successful privateer chassis in sports car racing. Riley was the dominant Daytona Prototype manufacturer. Between the two, they account for nearly 150 victories in American sports car racing. And if you count all the things that the Rileys have been involved in, such as building GTS and GT3 Vipers or running teams like he did with Ben Keating and Mercedes-AMG in GTD or he is doing now, that number goes much higher. But for Bill Riley, there’s always greater goals to reach for.
“I’m always expecting more. I mean, I’m happy — we’re all working. Everybody on [the Riley Motorsports and Kellymoss with Riley teams are] working extremely hard. So there’s not much more we can get out of that. Everybody from the drivers, to the crew, to management, everybody is really pulling hard, and putting all the hours in, and some of the results are showing. So we’re we’re doing everything we can to get some good results and, hopefully, we’ll have some more good results coming up,” he says.
“I’ve always kind of been that way on the motorsport side, just wanting to do more and go further,” he continues. “I’m very fortunate now, because I have a lot of great clients, and they’re all great friends. So I’m pretty happy with where we are now. But of course, you know, I’d welcome a GTP program, or a WEC program; that that would really spike my interest. But right now, I just want to keep moving forward and keep running stronger and stronger programs.”