12/5/1922 - 3/7/2012
Record updated 12-May-20
Salvadori raced for the factory teams of Cooper, Aston Martin, Vanwall, BRM and Connaught. He also drove F1 Ferrari Maserati, Cooper - Maserati and Connaught for private entrants. His best result in the FIA F1 World Championship was 4th in 1958 behind Mike Hawthorn, Moss and Brooks.
Born in Dovercourt, Essex, England of Italian parents, Roy Francesco Salvadori was however every inch an Englishman.
With his racing ambitions thwarted by World War II, Salvadori began his career in 1946, racing a single-seater R-type MG and an ex-Brooklands offset Riley purely for pleasure before stepping up by acquiring a half-share in the ex-Tazio Nuvolari Alfa Romeo P3 in 1947. It was with this car he raced in the 1947 Grand Prix des Frontières where, late into the race, his Alfa got stuck in top gear. Despite this Salvadori still finished an impressive fifth. He decided to turn professional and drove a number of different makes as his career progressed.
By the 1948 British GP (still pre World Championship) he had a Maserati 4C and then a 4CL. The 4CL was destroyed in a fiery accident in Ireland and he switched to a Le Mans Replica Frazer Nash. At Silverstone in his first outing with the car he off line while lapping a back marker through Stowe. He hit the marker barrels and somersaulted two and a half times. His foot was got stuck in the steering wheel and in the ensuing accident he sustained a triple skull fracture and brain haemorrhaging. The hospital called his parents to notify them and adding that they we sad to report they thought he would almost certainly be dead by the time they got. One of the reasons his injuries were so bad that as he was racing on a shoe sting, and crash helmets were not mandatory, he'd saved money by not buying one.
Roy fortunately survived and was racing again three months later, the only permanent result of this accident being the loss of hearing in one ear. His speed undiminished and his reputation growing, he found he could earn a very good living driving other peoples’ cars many of which were from Sidney Greene's Gilby Engineering team.
He was well enough to make his first entry into World Championship Grand Prix racing in 1952 when he drove a two-litre four cylinder Ferrari 500 in the British Grand Prix for G. Caprara, finishing eighth, three laps down. He continued to race the Ferrari, winning the Joe Fry Memorial Trophy.
For 1953 Salvadori joined Connaught racing the Connaught 'A type' in five Grand Prix but retired in all five of them.However he did win a number of non-championship Grand Prix during the season mostly on the flat airfiled circuits in the UK earning the nickname 'King of the Airfields'! He also drove an Ecurie Ecosse C-type into second place in the 1953 Nürburgring 1000Kms, driving almost single-handedly in a deteriorating car.
From 1954 to 1956 Roy handled a Maserati 250 owned by Greene, taking a succession of good placings in predominantly non-championship events before being asked to drive for the works Cooper team and later, for the abortive front-engined Aston Martin DBR4 which did not arrive on the scene until 1959.
It was in the 1956 RAC British Grand Prix at Silverstone when only a similarly 250F mounted Moss shaded him and a possible victory was lost to a fuel line problem, marked him out as a potential top-level driver. However, he remained particularly active in domestic motor sport and in sports cars for Aston Martin.
His time with Aston Martin was rewarded by a string of wins in DB3S and DBR1 cars culminated in victory in the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours with Carroll Shelby. At Le Mans the following year, sharing the Border Reivers DBR1 with Jim Clark, he finished third.
He later drove for the Yeoman Credit team, in whose Cooper he almost won the 1961 United States Grand Prix. He was closing on Innes Ireland's victorious Lotus in the closing stages when the Cooper's engine broke!
One of his most satisfying wins for Aston Martin was beating the Ferraris in the 1963 Coppa Inter-Europa at Monza in the Project 214 Aston.
At the end of 1962 he retired from F1 and quit sports car racing a couple of years later, his last race coming in 1965 driving a GT40 at Goodwood, finishing second overall and winning the GT class.
A successful motor trader before he sold out to a public company, he became heavily involved in the Cooper- Maserati F1 squad as team manager before retiring to Monaco in the late 1960s.
Handsome and charming, Salvadori was always a great hit with the ladies. The best story told about him in this respect comes from Rob Walker. It took place at Le Mans in 1954 when Prince Bira, who had now married for the second time, was also driving for the Aston Martin sports car team. One evening Bira said to Roy: 'Would you mind taking my sister-in-law to bed tonight?' Salvadori retorted mischievously, 'I'd rather have your wife!' Bira pondered this for a moment, before replying: 'No, I don't think that's on, Roy. It's either my sister-in-law or nothing.'
He was married to Sue Hindmarsh, the daughter of 1935 Le Mans winner John Hindmarsh, thus becoming the only person to be both the daughter and the wife of a Le Mans winner.
Roy lived happily for more than 35 years in an apartment overlooking the Monaco Grand Prix start line, where his parties during the F1 weekend were legendary. With failing health he moved into a home just up the coast, He died in Monaco on 3 June 2012 at the age of 90, three weeks after the death of his co-driver at Le Mans in 1959, Carroll Shelby.
Roy Salvadori represented an era of motor racing dominated by friendships, rivalries, parties, accidents, girlfriends and sportsmanship. A racer and a gentleman, Salvadori was always the most determined and ruthless of adversaries.