Happy Hour with Peter Krause
Local writer and V&V friend, Jamie Williams, sat down with Peter Krause, owner of Peter Krause, LLC. Read their conversation, and then come hear more from Peter at the next Vert & Vogue Happy Hour event on Friday, October 19th, from 5:30 – 6:30pm.
“Can you convert my Maserati from an automatic transmission to a five speed?”
Most would agree that question just sounds incredibly cool. Most would also have no idea where to begin.
Peter Krause knew just what to do. And that question, answered then executed, set him off on a decades long career as a mechanic specializing in exotic cars, a driver who raced those exquisite machines, and now the owner of Peter Krause, LLC, a consultancy that uses data analytics and video to help drivers refine their skills and get a little faster on the track.
In advance of his talk at Vert & Vogue’s monthly Happy Hour, Peter talked about his career with cars, sold 1980s Durham as quite the cosmopolitan city, and discussed how he now helps racers be their best.
Q&A WITH PETER KRAUSE:
Did you grow up in motorsports?
Oh no. I didn’t even have my driver’s license until I was 20. But, I was obsessed with buses and trolleys as a kid. Then, when I went to college I started to get into cars. My college roommate and I rebuilt the engine for a VW bus in our dorm room. And, a new career was found.
What originally brought you to Durham?
My mother graduated from medical school at age 42 and came down to Duke for her residency. This was around 1980. I had left college and so I came to Durham as well. My dad bought me some tools and I decided that I would start fixing cars. I worked on Fiats and BMWs at the time because those were the makes that I knew best. I went to work for a guy and I broke more things than I fixed.
I would go around and when I saw Fiats or BMWs I would just put fliers in people’s windshields advertising my services. Eventually, the Fiat dealership, which was on the corner of Rigsbee and Seminary, said why don’t you come work for us?
At this point, the tobacco markets were still going strong and these farmers would go to the market, then come across the street and buy a Fiat convertible for their wife or one of their kids.
And you eventually moved to working on several more makes of exotic sports cars?
What I would do is I would go around to these different businesses around Durham that had a Maserati or Ferrari parked in the parking lot, knock on the door and say ‘hey, I will fix your car.’ And then there was one guy who worked at the Merrill Lynch offices and he asked me to convert his Maserati from an automatic transmission to a five speed. Once I did that, he told his friends who told their friends, and that gave me a lot of credibility.
At the time, Durham had people coming from all over to go through the Rice Diet therapy at Duke. So it was a really fun, interesting place to be.
I was eventually recruited to another auto shop, which was on Chapel Hill Rd., at the spot where Guglhupf is now. I worked there for several years, then in the Studebaker dealership in Brightleaf Square, then back to the Fiat dealership where I started.
I loved it, though. I had customers that had truly become friends. People that care about cars, and have exotic sports cars, want to work with someone that they know and trust.
How did you begin racing?
I had friends that took me to a few races and it was something that really appealed to me. I bought a Fiat 850 Spider and began racing that. All of these cars are just amazing. The aesthetics of them. They are rolling sculpture.
I raced with that Fiat for a while, then an Aston Martin, an Alpha Romeo, and now prototype sports cars similar to what they run at Le Mans in France, perhaps the most famous race in the world.
I built a reputation as a competent driver and won several races all across the East Coast on road racing tracks which in some cases had been around since the 1950s.
By this point, I had my own garage, but that was primarily to support my racing. I didn’t start my own garage to make money, I just wanted a truck and a trailer to get my car to the race track.
And how did you begin your current business, helping drivers improve their performance on the track?
In 2007, I decided that I wanted to start a business that could help drivers go faster without adding more risk. Because of course if you just rev it up as fast as you can you’re going to crash. So, I thought there had to be a better way to provide objective data that could help show how you could get faster. I was interested in video and other equipment that could monitor everything you were doing in the car and then using that data to help show objectively what drivers could improve upon. At first people were skeptical, this was not something that existed in motor sports.
Then, what changed was in 2009, Tiger Woods began talking about the impact of his coach, and suddenly people realized that even the best athletes in their sport can benefit from some outside perspective and guidance. Then, for the next several years I was traveling to race tracks all around the country meeting with drivers.
My home base now is Virginia International Raceway. For the people I work with, I’m as much a psychiatrist as a coach. I am trying to build a relationship that can stretch their comfort zone a little bit. Driving really is an intellectual exercise as much as anything and you have to really concentrate and not let your emotions cloud your judgement.
So I use data that we compile from their time in the car, pick a few things to improve upon, then measure to see how they are doing. We’ll look at pictures, we will go out and walk the track and talk about the topography. It’s a very kinesthetic sport and everyone who I work with is incredibly smart.
Finally, as it is Happy Hour, what’s your favorite drink?
I love Sparkling Wine.
We hope you'll join us on the 19th to visit with our special guest and enjoy a drink on the house!