Born in Belfast, Magee made a name for himself in Formula Ford during the early 1970s. Always under funded and constantly hunting for decent drives, he had his sole Grand Prix outing at Anderstorp in 1975 at the wheel of a Williams FW03 finishing 14th. He drove in non-Championship F1 races in 1976 and 1977.
Damien Magee was born in Belfast and started racing an old Cooper in Ireland before moving to England to pursue a career in motor racing. In Formula Ford he earned the nickname "Mad Dog" Magee for his aggressive style, but still showed early potential. However, the Ulsterman was always under funded and constantly scratching around for a regular drive, thus he ended up driving anything he could get his hands on.
He moved up to F3 and started the 1973 season with the elderly Palliser WDF3 that he had raced the year before. He was then put in a new Brabham that Tony Brown had bought. He promptly took it to 3rd place at the prestigious Monaco F3 race before the car was sold from under him. The promised F5000 never arrived, and his only other drive that year was in an elderly F1 Brabham at Phoenix Park.
In 1975 he drove in FF2000, Formula Atlantic in Canada, British F5000 plus he made his Grand Prix debut. His chance came at very short notice when he was called on to replace Arturo Merzario at Williams in the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp. As both Merzario and Jacques Laffite, Williams' other regular driver, were on duty for Alfa Romeo driving the TT12 to victory at the Nurburgring 1000km, Ian Scheckter also picked up a drive. Magee brought the FW03 home in a decent 14th position, 2 laps down on the winner, Niki Lauda. Ian picked up a slow puncture and was trying to get to the pits when the tyre exploded and put him into the catch fencing.
For 1976, Damien finally secured a regular drive, racing a Cosworth GA-powered March 751 in the Shellsport Group 8 series, for John Goldie's Hexagon Racing Team. A second at Mallory Park was followed by a win at Snetterton. Another win in round three at Oulton Park put Magee in the series lead. A third at Brands followed by no points at Thruxton and a second on the Brands Hatch Club circuit, kept up his title challenge. But two retirements at Mallory Park and Snetterton set him back.
Hexagon Racing then took delivery of a Penske PC3-02. Magee drove it to fourth at Brands. At Thruxton Magee was second behind pole sitter Brian Maguire in his Williams FW04. Then Damien crashed heavily at Oulton Park and was replaced by Derek Bell for the last race at Brands. David Purley took the title on 171 points with Magee second on 107.
He had another F1 opportunity in 1976 when he tried to qualify RAM's old Brabham BT44B in the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. Though he was nearly 2 seconds faster than his team-mate Loris Kessel he missed the cut by 0.7 seconds.
Staying in the Shellsport Group 8 series in 1977, he didn't appear until late in the season driving a Lola-Chevy T332C F5000 car. Damien took second to eventual champion Trimmer at Snetterton and was 8th in the final round at Brands.
No doubt worn out by his ceaseless pursuit of a decent drive, Magee withdrew from international racing.