Andy Pilgrim is a 5-time championship-winning race driver with a career spanning nearly 40 years. Andy joins Bartone Brothers Racing for the 2023 season, campaigning the Mercedes AMG-GT in the SRO racing series with team mate Anthony Bartone Jr.
As a teenager, Andy Pilgrim spent many hours digesting every word of the motorcycle magazines he read. Hoping one day, he might make enough money to try to race something, preferably something with at least two wheels and an engine.
"I was hungry to get into the workforce and start earning money," he explains. "After college I got into the new and fast-growing field of Information Technology (IT), as a computer programmer. Earning money gave me the opportunity to actually race, instead of just dreaming about it.” As soon as pay checks started coming in, he converted his 7-year-old street motorcycle to a track bike, which pretty much meant wiring up the oil drain plug and putting some numbers on it; times were simpler then. “Of course, I loved the idea of car racing, but that was so far out of my financial universe, it was not an option.” In fact, he didn’t even own a car, using his old moped to go to work every day, come rain, shine or snow!
His talent on the bike scored him several Regional Championships and second-place finish in the highly competitive British 500cc Production Championship.
American companies were hiring a lot of British programmers in the early 1980’s and Pilgrim knew this might be the opportunity of a lifetime. Andy was snapped up by a US contract IT Company after being in the workforce for a little over two years. His first US contract job was with General Motors, working for the Pontiac Motor Division in Pontiac, Michigan.
“Believe it or not I arrived in the US with all my savings in my pocket; that was precisely $106 and I knew nobody. I did have a job, but I thought they would pay me for my first two weeks when I got here, boy was I wrong. I needed to first work two weeks, then get paid a few days after that. Those first three weeks were pretty lean on food I can tell you.”
“The other eye opener was my salary, $12,000 a year, which I thought was a lot when I accepted the job back in England; so naïve" grins Pilgrim.
To his dismay, the salary was barely enough to live on and he had to live on these humble means in a very tough area of Pontiac, Michigan. “I guess I didn’t really understand living where I could afford was a big deal. I made some friends and really enjoyed my time there, it was so different than the UK, I had a blast. Looking back, maybe it was an example of what I didn’t know not hurting me.”
After working off his first-year contract, he took another job and moved to a contract in El Paso, Texas. "I had loved cars since I was a small child, literally dreaming that one day I might be able to race, but had no way in while in the UK," explains Pilgrim. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon, I was driving west on I-10 in El Paso and suddenly noticed a C3 Corvette ripping across a parking lot, whipping in and out of orange cones. I immediately got off the freeway to discover an SCCA autocross. Around that time, I had bought a new 1983 VW GTi, the first new car I ever owned. That parking lot in El Paso is where my four-wheeled racing journey began.”
Success in auto-crossing pushed him into trying the next step, racing. “I knew there was no point racing for trophies”, said Pilgrim. “If I was going to use my own savings/loans to start racing, I needed to find out as quickly as possible if I had any talent at all. The entry level professional IMSA Renault Cup series was ideal, because you could win a little money with a reasonable result and at least have a chance to pay some of your expenses. It was great back then, the IMSA folks gave me a provisional license with no school at all, due to my motorcycle racing background from the UK.
He bought a second-hand Renault Cup car off a retired fighter pilot and racer from Las Vegas. That car started his professional road racing career in 1984. Andy would drive the car to the race tracks, as it was street legal and because he had no other vehicle or trailer. He ended up winning rookie of the year honors in his first year, while taking a couple of podiums along the way.
So far in his professional career, Pilgrim has won 5 Championships and 94 races, including 3 wins in the Rolex 24hrs, 2 wins at Petit Le Mans, a Sebring 12hr. win and 5 podiums at the 24hr. of Le Mans. Over the last 20 years Pilgrim has been driving directly for factory or factory supported teams with Corvette, Cadillac, Porsche, Pontiac, Volvo and BMW. For 2023, Andy is racing in the Fanatec World Challenge GT Series for Bartone Bros. Racing in a Mercedes GT3, with Anthony Bartone as his team mate.
Pilgrim balances his busy schedule between racing, writing/driving for various automotive magazines and his Traffic Safety Education Foundation. His foundation focuses on educating parents, driver education teachers, students and corporate employees, about the mental side of street driving and dangers associated with America’s ongoing distracted driving epidemic. Foundation educational materials are available at no cost to anyone, available through www.tsef.org.
Pilgrim is currently based in Miami, FL.