memo gidley

Photo: TKO Motorsports

Memo Gidley’s race comeback confirmed in PWC at Sonoma

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Some fantastic news below as Memo Gidley’s return to top-flight sports car racing has been confirmed. He’ll race a Porsche 911 GT3 R in the upcoming Pirelli World Challenge weekend at Sonoma Raceway in September.

The full release with details is below:

It’s been a long, winding road for race car driver Memo Gidley the past three and a half years. But that road will now take the popular 46-year-old driver from Sauslito, Calif., back to the racetrack next month.

After a devastating crash at Daytona International Speedway in 2014, Gidley has endured nine surgeries and three years of rehabilitation to return to the racing cockpit in the all-new No. 101 TKO Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R sports car.

On September 14-16, Gidley makes his racing return in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Sprint (50-minutes) doubleheader, just a few miles from his Northern California home at the 2.22-mile, 11-turn road circuit at Sonoma Raceway. The Pirelli World Challenge twin bill will be part of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma with the Verizon IndyCar Series finale.

“I have been waiting a long time for this announcement,” said Gidley, who suffered multiple fractures in a vicious crash in 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. “It was a long rehab process but I always wanted to get back into the race car and my friends at TKO Motorsports have given me this opportunity. And I am extremely grateful for this chance in the Pirelli World Challenge.”

Gidley, whose racing resumé includes IndyCars, prototype sports cars, formula cars, go karts and even sail boats, worked through his final back surgery (fusing vertebrae 3 to 4 and 4 to 5) in November, 2015 and was cleared to return to racing activities in November, 2016. Then it was back at the karting track at Sonoma Raceway and looking for a chance to drive with a race team.

“I want to give Dave Traitel and all of the TKO Motorsports team a big thank you for this opportunity to race at Sonoma Raceway in the big Pirelli World Challenge/IndyCar weekend,” said Memo. “They have worked hard to prepare a Porsche 911 GT3 R for me to compete in one of the best GT sports car series in the world. And I can’t wait to race again.”

Gidley’s comeback is one of spirit and determination that he questioned at times. With titanium rods and screws in several parts of his body, Memo fought through nerve pain, scar tissue and various rehab processes with included therapeutic pools, physical therapy and long walks.

“The nerve pain was the worst at times,” admitted Gidley. “It was difficult to deal with as I continued the rehab. I couldn’t even take the bumps on the city streets in the passenger car. But, eventually, that pain went away. Now, I can’t bend down and touch my toes with the fusion in the back. But I was able to continue my training and even karting regularly.”

On May 25, Gidley did jump back into a PWC GT sports car at Sonoma Raceway when former team owner Bob Stallings let Memo drive his GAINSCO “Red Dragon” Porsche 911 GT3 R in testing.

“The team was testing there with Jon Fogarty, an old friend,” said Gidley. “And then they wanted me to take a few laps too. It was awesome to get back in a race car. Now, I’m with the TKO Motorsports team and I have my own race car to compete in at Sonoma in September. To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.”

Last week, Gidley and TKO Motorsports squad tested with the rest of the Pirelli World Challenge GT sports field at Utah Motorsports Campus prior to the Grand Prix of Utah weekend.

“It just felt great to be back in the racing paddock with a team,” he said. “I saw so many old friends and racers and they were so nice to me and the team. Actually, we didn’t get as many laps in testing as we would have liked. But we talked to the PWC officials and other teams to get an idea of the Sonoma races. TKO Motorsports is a growing company but it has not raced in sports cars previously. So, Dave and the crew were gathering a lot of information for the future.”

TKO Motorsports, based in Reno, Nev., was established in 2008 with a racing background in off-shore boat racing, drag racing and off-road racing. And the company has been very successful constructing high-performance road machines. But sports car racing will be new to the group.

“We will test again before the Sonoma race weekend and continue to learn about the Porsche and the track,” said Gidley. “I saw the lineup of top teams and drivers for the Pirelli World Challenge at Utah. It has some of the best in the world. I know it won’t be easy for me and the TKO crew. But we are excited to get our car into the action at Sonoma. It’s been a long road back for me and I believe I’m ready to go.”

While the journey back to the track for Gidley has been difficult, he has been busy with his commercial charter boat business and racing sailing boats in the Bay area. Now, it’s time to get back to the road racing that he loves.

“Hey, racing is in my blood, whether it’s on the water or the track,” said Memo. “I’ve been racing a 35-foot sail boat recently and it is fun. But getting back in the race car is the ultimate for me. And now I get the chance at my hometown track in a world-class GT sports car. It’s the best for me.”

The Pirelli World Challenge weekend at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 14-16 will include doubleheader features in the GT/GTA/GT Cup Sprint series as well as the GTS division. Practice gets underway on Friday (Sept. 14) with racing for the GT and GTS classes on Saturday (Sept. 15) and Sunday (Sept. 16).

Memo Gidley announces ‘Memo Back Driving Day’ in a shifter kart

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Memo Gidley is set to return to driving this week, in his Team RattleSnake Racing/Cameron/Aluminos 125cc shifter kart at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday.

The open-wheel and sports car veteran made his return to Daytona International Speedway a little more than a week ago, and announced he was cleared to return to driving. He’ll do so on Saturday at Sonoma’s Sim Raceway Kart track, in an event that is open to anyone interested to attend. There will also be a BBQ and refreshments served.

“I have been waiting for what seems like an eternity to get that OK from my doctors, and most recent back surgeon that I was healed and could go back to doing the things I want to do!” Gidley said in a release. “And one big inspiration in my recovery was the day that I could announce me being back driving to my family, friends, and supporters who have helped me heal and get to this point.”

“The path to where I am today was extreme but I was so determined to get better that I pushed hard. I honestly don’t know how a person would survive it without the kind of support from family, friends, and people trying to help like I was fortunate to have.  I can’t measure how much I appreciate them or thank people enough.”

Gidley returns to Daytona, excited for next racing chapter

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Memo Gidley’s accident in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona left him with significant nerve pain and a long road to recovery before resuming regular traveling, or resuming his day job as a driver.

But he took his biggest step yet on the road back to Daytona today, with his first trip back to Daytona International Speedway as a guest of IMSA on Thursday.

Gidley sustained the accident in 2014, when he hit Matteo Malucelli’s Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia. Gidley was driving a GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP and needed to be cut out from the car by rescue workers in order to be extricated.

That began a long, painful recovery process where the first year was extraordinarily difficult, the second year better but still featuring some nerve pain, and now the third year his best yet – and the closest he has been to 100 percent at the moment.

“It’s been three years since the accident, and I’d say two years of hell before last year was significantly better,” Gidley told assembled reporters in Daytona.

Gidley then ran through a laundry list of people to thank, notably Jim France and the France family, for their support in the process.

“I want to say thank you to Jim France. I knew he was a heckuva guy before this accident, because he’d always stop and chat,” Gidley explained.

“But what he did for myself after the accident, visits in the hospital, support for my wife, mom and team. It starts from the top and works itself down from everyone in IMSA from there.”

Gidley had primarily focused on California for any traveling the last couple years. After he was released from Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, he flew home to California, but said the trip home was a struggle.

His only visits to race tracks prior to Daytona this week were at Sonoma Raceway, when he visited his friends and colleagues in the Verizon IndyCar Series community.

“The only reason I went there is because it was local,” Gidley said. “The first time I went there, a year after the accident, I was driving over reflectors and it hurt. I always had to lie down and I’d needed to go to the medical center. The second year I was much more mobile, and saw my IndyCar friends. This is the first time I’ve been healed and come to a track, and that’s why I’m out here.”

Gidley called the condensed version of his recovery “gnarly,” noting how much time he spent on his stomach needing to eat while laying face down. The cumulative effort following the surgeries – the last of which for his back took place roughly a year ago – along with things such as acupuncture, Chinese herbal treatment and cryotherapy, helped move Gidley forward.

“The nerve pain was horrible at first,” he said. “Now, I don’t feel much of anything from the pain standpoint. Two years ago, I wouldn’t be sitting here. A year ago, I could, but it’d be very painful.

“I’m always about living large and living for the moment.”

Gidley is a race car driver through and through though. He’s spent a lot of time in his go-kart, which is the only race car he’s been able to drive because his FIA license needs to be renewed.

The journey to get back to a car is what is motivating him though, and what has got him through the process.

“(Getting back) is definitely all worth it. I want to get back into the race car,” he said.

“I got strong, got healed and got happy. The nerve pain isn’t fully gone, but I’m back to working on a daily basis.”

Two-plus years and 8 surgeries later, Memo Gidley still hopes to race again

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It’s been more than two years since a horrific crash during the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona left Memo Gidley with a broken back and extensive injuries to his left arm and left leg.

Gidley has gone through eight surgeries since then, including two last week to implant spinal stimulators to help him with lingering pain issues he continues to go through.

Gidley shared the experience in the latest post on his own blog. To read about what he’s gone through dating back to his crash is fascinating, especially if you go back in his blog archives from the first entry he posted after his terrible wreck.

“Trust me, I am not addicted to having surgeries,” Gidley quipped in his most recent blog post. “It sounds bad – and it is – but the goal is to get back to doing many of the things I love to do, and doing these things with my friends and family. I also really appreciate everybody’s continued support.”

Gidley had spinal fusion surgery last November and continues to recover. It’s the second time he’s undergone a spinal fusion. And while the surgery, like the others, helped somewhat, the pain issue has continued.

Ergo, the implantation of the spinal stimulators, which Gidley has high hopes for in diminishing the “unmerciful nerve pain” he said he suffers from.

“I have tried dozens of treatments over the last year and a half to potentially help break-up my scar tissue to reduce the pain,” Gidley wrote in his blog. “I mean dozens – from DO holistic and energy treatments, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, watching my diet, pills, hyperbaric treatments, cryotherapy and many more. … This all takes time as every treatment requires a certain number of sessions. None have really worked for me, yet.”

Gidley had surgery last Tuesday to implant a temporary spinal stimulator for a two-day trial to see if he could tolerate it. Three days later, a permanent stimulator was inserted into his back.

“To describe what a spinal stimulator does is fairly simple,” Gidley wrote. “It is attached to your spinal cord but higher up from where the “real” pain is coming from. Imagine the size of a small band-aide but with electrodes attached to it. This is then attached via a wire to a controller box which is about the size of an Oreo cookie. The controller box, which has a battery in it, is then implanted into the fat of your glute (butt).

“The spinal stim sends its own signals and the hope is that these fill up your nerve pathway so that the “real” pain signal is blocked from getting to your brain.  What you feel with a spinal stim is a vibration which is much easier to deal with. And then you can set it (wirelessly) as light or as strong as you want/need it to cover up the ‘real’ sharp pain.”

Gidley then asks “was all this worth it? Is the pain less?”

Thankfully, the spinal stimulator appears to be working, although its full effects won’t come for another several weeks.

“As of now, I have felt some improvements, which is great,” Gidley wrote. “My pain is not 100% gone…but is less than what it was. The controller box is fully programmable so that the device specialist can tailor it to my pain, which will happen again in a couple of weeks.

“So, now I am trying to get back to doing what I do so that I can really feel where the improvements are.”

Even though he can’t race himself, Gidley has been coaching, serving as a boat captain in the San Francisco Bay area and working on his own boat, “Basic Instinct.”

“I am in a rush, as always, to get back to being stronger because the stronger I am the more I can do,” Gidley said. “I will continue to work hard to move my body back through my 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, and then finally GET BACK to my 40’s where I belong.

“I still have a lot of goals and desires in my life that have been hard or nearly impossible to do during the last two years. I am not asking for pity from readers, I am just hoping my story helps those that are facing things that are seemingly impossible, but less than what I have dealt with.”

Click here to read Gidley’s latest blog entry. It hurts just to read all that he’s gone through in two-plus years, but it’s also heartwarming and inspiring to hear him say:

“I dream of the day that you all get an email from me that says ‘I am back driving’ and looking for a ride!  I do believe it will happen.

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Gidley: I have been driven to try things to help me heal

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Memo Gidley, who was injured at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, has written a long, informative, detailed and somewhat emotional update on his website to provide new information since we last heard of his recovery process after his accident.

Gidley chronicled his movement out of hospital, his transition from moving from an assisted-living facility back to his home, with his girlfriend and with family close by.

His pain has reduced, although he can still feel it daily, and he can walk around slowly. He said he has been able to drive a road car around town “a little.”

While most things in his house have not been used, Gidley is motivated to do things to try to help him heal. For example:

As hard as it has been at times, pain-wise, for me to start another day, I have been driven to try things that I hope will help me heal.  I am, and have been for a couple of months, back in a physical therapy program that was set up by my current doctor.  When this started, merely walking to my car and sitting while being driven places was physically difficult and made my pain worse.  Still, I did, and still do, this twice a week, usually for three hours each day with a few different physical therapists.  I was also determined to swim as part of my therapy.  I say swim, but it really just started as a place where I could move around in a low pain environment.  I am now swimming in a warm therapeutic pool at least five days a week, for a solid hour of water time each visit, and now up to a slow breast stroke as well as other exercises to work my muscles.

You can read his full, detailed update on his website here.