Former Grand Prix racer and legendary car designer Carroll Shelby has died on Thursday, a statement from his family has confirmed.
Better known for his sports car exploits – winning the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours for Aston Martin with Roy Salvadori – Shelby also made eight Formula 1 appearances, achieving a best finish of fourth at the 1958 Italian Grand Prix.
Born in Texas, Shelby started out racing in 1952 with an MG TC, winning his first ever race. Quickly progressing to more serious machinery and races overseas, it wasn’t long before Shelby was making his mark.
In 1955, he co-drove with Phil Hill to finish second at the Sebring 12 Hours. In 1957, he swept to a multitude of wins – 27 in all, including 19 consecutively – in in his Ferrari sports car.
Tempted back to Europe in 1958, Shelby made his first World Championship start at the French Grand Prix in an outdated Maserati 250F. While he earned a best-placed finish of fourth at the Italian Grand Prix – after taking over Masten Gregory’s car – he would ultimately be stripped of the points he’d earn for that result.
He renewed his relationship with Aston Martin the following year, competing in both Formula 1 and sports cars. Unfortunately the F1 project was a total failure: despite its sleek lines, the front-engined DBR4 was hopelessly outdated.
Thankfully, the sports car effort was more successful, with the team claiming the world championship. Carroll won the Le Mans 24 Hours, and also won the Goodwood Tourist Trophy.
After one more year in the United States sports car scene in 1960, Shelby quit at the end of the year with a major heart complication.
Despite the health scare, this brought about a new chapter in his career and even greater fame as the designer of the AC Cobra, before he went on to oversee Ford’s huge assault on the Le Mans 24 Hour race with the beautiful GT40 challenger.
Given a new lease of life with a heart transplant in 1990, Shelby was able to travel overseas once more, re-engaging and reminiscing once more with many of his now-retired peers.
“In the history of our company there are a handful of men who have stamped their imprint on the heart and soul of what we do at Ford Racing and Carroll Shelby is definitely one of them,” Ford’s racing director James Allison said in tribute.
“I’m just so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet him and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. We at Ford and his legions of fans will have a silent moment to reflect on what he’s done for the company. It’s personal for me and I’m sure it’s personal for many fans.”
Shelby was 89 years old.
The entire RichardsF1.com team sends its condolences to the entire Shelby family.
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