The past is present right now for Chattanooga race car driver Efren Ormaza. After racing in other parts of the country and even overseas, for the first time he is racing in Chattanooga during the Chattanooga Motor Car Festival this weekend.
Last summer, executive chef Efren Ormaza retired from the restaurant business and closed Terra Nostra restaurant on the North Shore, which he and his wife, Gema, had owned and operated since 2002. He retired to spend more time doing medical missions to Ecuador with the Penipe Foundation, enjoying his family, and pursuing his passion for sports car racing.
“I am very thankful to the Defoor brothers for putting the Chattanooga Motor Car Festival together and allowing me to participate. It is really a dream come true for me,” said Mr. Ormaza. “I began sports car racing in Ecuador before I came to the United States. When I started working at 212 Market restaurant in 1994, I had two young kids and no money, so I couldn’t race. I remember standing in the parking lot outside 212 looking at my reflection in the windows and wishing I could race in Chattanooga. Now I will be competing in Chattanooga’s first sports car race.”
The time trial course along Riverfront Parkway will pass within a quarter mile of where Mr. Ormaza made that wish 25 years ago.
Mr. Ormaza won his very first race when he started racing in Ecuador in 1989 at age 24. After coming to Chattanooga in 1992, raising a young family and opening a restaurant of his own in 2002 meant that he didn’t race again until 2004. That year, he shipped a race car to Ecuador and competed in two 6-hour endurance races, sharing driving duties with California driver Joe Elwell. He placed 2nd and 3rd in a field of 80 cars.
After his house and race car burned in 2007, Mr. Ormaza took another break from racing. Since starting again in 2016, he has competed in 10 to 12 races a year, winning five South Atlantic Road Racing Championship events. These were qualifying races for the Southeast Division SARRC Invitational Challenge, which Mr. Ormaza won last weekend at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fl. That win occurred on Sept. 29, the anniversary of Mr. Ormaza’s move to the United States: Sept. 29, 1992.