Although well-known in his native Ireland, today’s birthday boy David Kennedy is an obscure figure only recalled by the great statisticians of the sport: for the Irishman tried (and failed) to qualify for seven World Championship Grands Prix in 1980 with the Shadow and Theodore outfits.
The Sligo-born driver’s first motorsport forays came in the Irish Formula Ford championship in 1972, before he and compatriot Derek Daly travelled to Australia to raise funds by working in the mines.
He returned to his homeland in 1975, winning the Formula Ford 1600cc title, and he won two British FF1600 titles the following year as well as finishing runner-up in the European championship.
Aged 24 and desperate to make his move into F1 as quickly as possible, he took the unusual step of jumping straight into the European F3 scene (when most would have done the British championship first) in 1977, but struggled to keep his venture sufficiently well-funded, although he finished with two podiums and eighth overall, one spot ahead of Daly.
A second season followed but proved less successful, and he leapt at the chance to enter the Aurora F1 series late in the season, and created headlines with race victory on debut, piloting a Wolf WR3 run by the Theodore team. He followed this up with a full assault on the championship, taking two wins and six other podiums, missing out on the title to Rupert Keegan but just two points.
By now, Theodore boss Teddy Yip was more than sufficiently convinced to bankroll Kennedy’s graduation into F1, helping to fund a place for him at the Shadow outfit for the 1980 season.
But the Shadow team was – for want of a better term – a shadow of its former self, and the DN11 chassis he and team-mate Stefan Johansson were saddled with was not competitive enough to make the grid.
The one time he managed to do so was at the Spanish Grand Prix, but he lasted just two laps until an accident forced him to retire, and the race would later be stripped of its championship status.
More DNQs followed before Shadow closed its doors and Yip bought the assets of the team, but by then Kennedy had racked up the dubious distinction of achieving the most DNQs without actually starting a race. Indeed, a talent never fulfilled in F1…
Kennedy would later go on to achieve considerable success in sports cars and moved into F1 commentary on Irish television.
[Original images via F1 Rejects]
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