Roy Salvadori was an exceptionally accomplished racing driver whose career spanned twenty seasons. An all-rounder, he won countless races in Formula One, Formula Two, sports, GT and touring cars, and competed professionally for leading works and private teams.
Although he had the good looks of an Italian, Roy Francesco Salvadori was British. He was born to Italian parents at Brentwood, Essex, on 12 May 1922, and lived most of his early life in or around London. After leaving school, he worked in his father's refrigeration plant business before going into the motor trade in 1946, at the age of 24.
The Grand Prix des Frontieres
He began as a kerbside trader in London's infamous Warren Street and later ran a garage at Tolworth, Surrey. Salvadori had yearned to be a racing driver in the late 1930s, but World War 2 delayed the fulfilment of his dreams. Some success in a supercharged R-type MG and an ex-Dobbs Riley in 1946 led to the acquisition of an allegedly ex-Nuvolari Alfa Romeo P3 the following year and it was with this machine that Salvadori competed in his first Continental race, the Grand Prix des Frontieres at Chimay, Belgium, where he came fifth though locked in top gear.
An old 1934 Maserati replaced the Alfa, but this was a disappointing car and soon made way for an ex-Prince 'Bira' Maserati 4CL. This was reduced to ashes at the Curragh races in Ireland at the end of 1949. In 1951 he raced a Frazer-Nash for Tony Crook, but his season was curtailed after a serious accident at the Daily Express Silverstone
meeting. He also raced for Connaught in Formula Two and in 1952, sharing a 2.7-liter Ferrari 225 Sports with Bobby Baird in the Goodwood coming third.
In 1953 he co-drove an Ecurie Ecosse-entered Jaguar C-type with Ian Stewart to be placed second in the Nurburgring
1000-km and that year Salvadori began an association with the works Aston Martin team that lasted until 1960. Syd Greene, the one-armed private entrant, provided Maseratis for Salvadori to race in the mid 1950s, a 2-liter A6GCS sports car plus the last word in Formula One machinery, a 2½
-liter 250F. Wins and good places in innumerable British Formula One and Formule libre races made Salvadori one of Britain's most successful racing drivers.
In 1955, the 250F brought Roy second place in the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone
and victory in both the Glover Trophy at Goodwood and the Daily Telegraph Trophy at Aintree. In 1956 Salvadori starred at Silverstone
. At the May Daily Express Trophy Meeting he won the 1500cc sports car race in a works Cooper T39-Climax and the over 1500 cc event in a works Aston Martin DB3. In the Formula Trophy race itself he was battling for second place when he crashed badly, suffering concussion and leg injuries. In July's Grand Prix meeting he won the Formula Two race in the prototype Cooper T41-Climax and then came close to winning the Grand Prix itself. He lay second behind Stirling Moss
' Maserati 250F and ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio's
winning Lancia-Ferrari D50 when, with 51 of the 101 laps completed, he was forced to stop with a fuel tank fixing strap loose.
Roy Salvadori at the wheel of Syd Greene's Gilby Engineering Maserati 250F Formula One car.
Signing with BRM, Then Aston Martin
In 1957 Salvadori signed to drive for BRM in Formula One, but he was far from happy with the ill-handling cars. At Goodwood on Easter Monday meeting his BRM spun very early with a seized brake and then Roy failed to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix. Salvadori quit the team, concentrating instead on racing for Aston Martin in sports car races and for Cooper in Formula Two. He was not finished with Grand Prix racing, however, being invited to drive a Vanwall in place of the injured Tony Brooks in the French and Rheims Grands Prix. Then Cooper began to run 'oversize' 2-liter-engined Formula Two cars in Formula One. Salvadori ran fourth in the British Grand Prix at Aintree before stopping near the end with a split gearbox casing, but was able to salvage fifth by pushing his car over the line. He was later second in the Caen Grand Prix.
Remaining with Cooper for 1958, Salvadori was second in the German Grand Prix, third in Great Britain and fourth in both Holland and Italy with the diminutive cars. He also won the sports car Gold Cup at Oulton Park driving a 2-liter Lotus 15-Climax. Roy's greatest win came in 1959 when he shared the winning Aston Martin DBR1/300 with Carroll Shelby in the Le Mans 24-hours. The Formula One Aston Martin DBR4/250 was a disappointment; an initially promising second place in the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone
was followed only by poorer performances.
Apart from the Formula One, Roy's 1960 season was a good one. He won eight out of ten sports and GT races (and was second to Stirling Moss in the other two). He was third at Le Mans, sharing a privately-entered Aston Martin DBR1/300 with Jim Clark
. For 1961 Roy partnered John Surtees in the Yeoman Credit Racing Team, beginning the season well in New Zealand and Australia with second places at Levin and Teretonga Park and victory at Longford. The highlight of the year was when Salvadori won all four major races at Crystal Palace: the Formula One race in a Cooper T55-Climax, the GT race in a Jaguar E-type
, the sports car race in a Cooper T55-Climax, and the touring event in a Jaguar 3.8 liter.
A Close Call in Australia
The 1962 season was Salvadori's last in Formula One. It was a disappointing one with the Bowmaker-sponsored Lola Mk 4-Climax cars, best positions being second in small races at Crystal Palace and Karlskoga. Earlier in the year he was involved in a bad crash at Warwick Farm, Australia, when his Cooper T55-Climax crashed at 130 mph. He was flown to Britain for medical treatment and suffered partial paralysis to the left side of his face. In another crash at the end of August a front tire burst on his 3.8 Jaguar at Oulton Park and the car somersaulted at 90 mph into the lake. Roy struggled from his safety harness and escaped from the submerged Jaguar out of the back door.
In 1963 Salvadori concentrated on sports, GT and saloon car racing. With patron Tommy Atkins' Cooper T61 Monaco-Climax he won at Snerrerton, Goodwood, Aintree and Silverstone
and in July he co-drove a Jaguar 3.8 with Denny Hulme to win the Motor 6-hours at Brands Hatch. In June he was involved in another accident at Le Mans. Salvadori was rescued from his wrecked E-type Jaguar by a fellow driver, fortunately not too seriously hurt. The last full season for Salvadori was in 1964 when he drove Tommy Atkins' 5-liter Maserati-engined Cooper T61M and AC Cobra in British sports and GT races and assisted John Wyer with the race-development of the Ford GT 40s. In fact, he left the Ford team after a disagreement at the April Le Mans test days.
After a race at Silverstone
in a Ford V8-engined Cooper T78 early in 1965 Salvadori retired from motor racing at the age of 41. Subsequently he became team manager of the Cooper Grand Prix Team, eventually quitting early in 1968 to concentrate on his motor business interests. He was tempted back into Formula One briefly to manage the Cooper racing team in 1966 and 1967.