Derek Daly is a former Irish racing driver who has competed in the Formula 1 World Championship and in the CART Indy Car World Series. He recorded 49 starts in the F1 between 1978 and 1982, not scoring wins or podiums. In the CART Indy Car World Series he competed from 1982 to 1989, recording 66 starts and one podium.
He was born on March 11, 1953, in Ballinteer, the suburb of country's capital Dublin. As a youngster, Derek raced stock cars in Ireland before he moved to Australia to work in tin mines. He was determined to succeed in the world of motorsport, so this was an opportunity to earn some money and to pay for the place in the serious single-seater racing.
After he returned home with some money in his pocket, Daly won the 1976 Formula Ford Festival driving a Hawke what earned him a place in the British Formula 3. In the following year, he became the series champion what opened him the doors of further progress.
Sharing the duties between racing in Formula 1 and Formula 2
In 1978 Daly drove full-time for Chevron Racing in the European Formula 2 Championship. That was a really fine year for the Irishman who won the races at Mugello and Vallelunga before finishing 3rd in the championship, behind Bruno Giacomelli and Marc Surer.
The same season Derek also debuted in the Formula 1 World Championship. After three unsuccessful tries to qualify for the races with Hesketh Racing, Daly in the second half of the season moved to Team Ensign. After a couple of inglorious performances, his form became better in the last three rounds. Finally, in the season-closing race in Canada, Daly finished 6th and earned his maiden point in F1.
Derek Daly Team Ensign, 1978 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen
Daly continued to race in both Formula 1 and Formula 2 in 1979. Despite missing three rounds of Formula 2 as a driver of Project Four Racing, Derek again finished 3rd overall, behind Marc Surer and Brian Henton. He won the season-closing race at Donington Park and was 2nd at Silverstone, Thruxton, Hockenheim, and Pergusa.
In Formula1 the results weren’t as good. He raced part-time with Team Ensign and Tyrrell but was able to finish only 3 out of 10 races he has entered. His best result that year was the 8th place in Austria.
Two huge crashes in 1980
In 1980 the Irish racer focused solely on Formula 1 career. He stayed with Tyrrell but struggled through the most of the campaign, especially late in the season when he retired from five consecutive races. However, the 4th places scored in the season-opening race in Argentina, as well as in the British Grand Prix, were the bright moments.
Derek Daly's crash in Monaco Grand Prix
Unfortunately, that season will be best remembered after two horrible crash that Derek was able to survive. On the opening lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, he went airborne, flew over several cars and landed on the car of his teammate Jean-Pierre Jarier. In the Dutch Grand Prix, Daly’s car went straight on at Tarzan turn and was launched high into the air by the tire barriers.
Poor season with March and recovery with Williams
Daly left Tyrrell at the end of the season and in 1981 joined March GP team. The start was horrible after Derek failed to qualify for the six opening races. Later his form slightly improved but still not enough to collect a single point.
Irish driver started the 1982 season with Theodore Racing but left the team after the fourth round when the big opportunity arrived. Daly signed with Williams after Carlos Reutemann retired from racing and finally was in the seat of the competitive car. His teammate was Keke Rosberg who became a champion that year.
Derek Daly, Williams
Daly raced for Williams in 12 Grand Prix events and scored points in five, but also had four retirements before finishing 13th in the standings. Overall, those results were somewhat below the expectations and team dropped him to make way for Jacques Laffite.
Departure to the US
Late in 1982 Daly moved to the United States and debuted with Wysard Racing in the season-closing race at Phoenix. He stayed with the team at the start of the following campaign but moved to Provimi Racing after Indy 500. He raced part-time with the new team and failed to impress.
However, the things have improved in 1984. He scored points in three races but again a huge crash was the detail which marked that part of his career. In the race at Michigan International Speedway, the front of Derek’s car was torn off in the impact and Irish driver suffered serious injuries that forced him to miss most of 1985 and 1986 campaigns.
Derek Daly at Indianapolis, CART Series
In 1987 Daly returned to CART Series racing with Raynor Motorsport with which he spent three years. Derek scored his only podium finish in 1987 when he finished 3rd at Milwaukee. The following season was his best in the series after he was 9th overall, while in 1989 Daly dropped to the 12th position in the standings.
Sports cars racing career
When he left CART, Daly stayed in the racing for three more years, now competing in the sports cars category. Derek raced thrice at Le Mans and his best result was in 1988 when he finished 4th overall driving the Tom Walkinshaw Racing’s Jaguar XJR-9LM alongside Kevin Cogan and Larry Perkins.
Daly finished 4th in 1988 Le Mans 24h driving a Jaguar
On of the biggest achievements was a victory in 1990 12 Hours of Sebring when Daly was driving Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo alongside Bob Earl. In 1992, Derek Daly announced his retirement from racing.
Daly worked as a TV commentator
In a meantime, Daly became an American citizen and settled in Noblesville, Indiana. For many years he worked as a commentator for a couple of TV stations. At the same time, he was running a racing school in Las Vegas and worked as a motivational speaker.
Conor and Derek Daly
Derek’s son Conor Daly is also a racing driver who has competed in GP3 and GP2 Series before moving to IndyCar Series.