24h Le Mans
20/08/2019 - 11:01

Aston Martin at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2/5) – Roy Salvadori, endurance racing gladiator

On 21 June 1959, Aston Martin claimed what is still to this day its only victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, thanks to Anglo-American duo Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori. The latter enjoyed a sporting career full of victories, a highlight among them his win at the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Aston Martin at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2/5) – Roy Salvadori, endurance racing gladiator

A Brit of Italian descent born on 12 May 1922, Roy Salvadori got his start in competition in 1946. Though he participated in 46 Formula 1 Grand Prix between 1952 and 1962 (placing fourth in the championship in 1958) and won several non-championship victories, it wasn't until sports cars that his career really flourished.

In 1952, he showed up on the radar of John Wyer, Aston Martin's team manager at the time, kicking off a decade-long collaboration. The following year, he took the start in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans, along with fellow countryman George Abecassis. Unfortunately, until 1958 all six of his first participations in the race culminated in retirements.

In 1959, Salvadori finally made it to the chequered flag - and won - along with American driver Carroll Shelby. Salvadori was at the wheel to endure the only glitch the winning DBR1 experienced the entire race, vibrations caused by the loss of a piece of tread on the left rear tyre.

The duo gave Aston Martin its only overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, after a long battle between the British marque and the Ferrari driven by Gendebien-Hill, the winners the year before. Between 1958 and 1965, it was the only win at the race Enzo Ferrari failed to secure!

Salvadori went on to compete in the 24 Hours four more times, finishing third in 1960 with future two-time F1 World Champion Jim Clark. After ending his career as a driver in 1965, he became the Cooper F1 team's Sporting Director for two seasons, then retired to Monaco in the early 1970s. In 11 starts in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he drove an Aston Martin nine times.

As a driver, Salvadori showed outstanding determination and courage in the face of a career marred by several accidents. At Silverstone in 1951, he was left partially deaf from a triple fracture of the skull and cerebral hemorrhage, and even given his last rites.

By a strange twist of fate, the two 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans winners passed away within three weeks of each other in 2012. Carroll Shelby died on 10 May and Roy Salvadori on 3 June.


PHOTO (Copyright - ACO/ARCHIVES): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SATURDAY 20 & SUNDAY 21 JUNE 1959. The win at Le Mans at the wheel of this DBR1 kicked off Roy Salvadori's career in endurance racing and a long collaboration with Aston Martin.