Career Summary:

David Piper

  • December 02, 1930
  • 93
  • United Kingdom
  • Not Active
  • 246
  • 39
  • 88
  • 11
  • 15.85%
  • 35.77%

David Piper is a British former racing driver and team owner who achieved great results in sports car racing, being the best privateer during the 1960s, mostly driving Ferraris. He's the record holder at Kyalami 9 Hours race, winning six times. Piper also recorded two starts in the Formula 1 World Championship, at British Grand Prix in 1959 and 1960.

Piper's career ended after he was badly injured in 1970 during a filming of Steve McQueen's movie 'Le Mans'. Since then, over the next five decades, he regularly participated in historic racing events.

David Piper and his green mean machines

David Piper and his green mean machines

Starting a racing career in 1953

Born in December 1930 in Edgware near London, Piper started his racing career in 1953, driving an MG J4.  In 1955, he switched to MG-powered Lotus Mark VI Empire and scored several victories in sports car events (Snetterton National, Leinster Trophy, BARC Goodwood).

His next cars were Jaguar C-Type and Lotus Eleven in 1956. He captured few international wins in a Lotus. In June 1956, Piper was driving a Lister-Bristol at Reims 12 Hours, not finishing the race. In August 1956, he joined Joakim Bonnier to drive Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 next to him at Messina 5 Hours. In May 1957, Piper participated at Nurburgring 1000 km race, a part of the FIA World Sportscar Championship, driving two cars but without some success.

David Piper at 1959 British Grand Prix in the #64 Lotus 16-Climax

David Piper at 1959 British Grand Prix in the #64 Lotus 16-Climax

Two Formula 1 starts in his own Lotus 16-Climax

Piper's family had an agricultural business north of London. The route of proposed M1 motorway ran through their farm so they benefited from that, selling a land for a good price. David also benefited, investing money in a Lotus 16-Climax race car. With that car, sponsored by Robert Bodle and his Dorchester Service Station, Piper made two F1 World Championship Grand Prix starts.

He made an F1 debut in July 1959, participating in British Grand Prix at Aintree Circuit. He retired after 19 laps due to overheating. Piper returned to British Grand Prix next year at Silverstone, finishing in the 12th place in the #26 Lotus-Climax, five laps behind race winner Jack Brabham.

David Piper at 1960 British Grand Prix in the #26 Lotus 16-Climax

David Piper at 1960 British Grand Prix in the #26 Lotus 16-Climax

Second place at 1960 Lady Wigram Trophy as the best F1 result

Outside F1 championship, Piper was using Lotus 16 in some non-championship races, scoring the best result at 1960 Lady Wigram Trophy in New Zealand, finishing second behind Jack Brabham. Some other good results were third place at F2 Norfolk Trophy or fifth place at F2 Danish Grand Prix.

In sports car races, Piper was driving Lotus 15-Climax, winning some national events (Whitchurch, Snetterton).

Racing with Ferrari since 1962, Le Mans debut in 1963

Piper recorded his first race in a Ferrari in 1962, purchasing a Ferrari 250 GTO. His first success in a Ferrari came in November 1962, when he won the Kyalami 9 Hours together with Bruce Johnstone. In March 1963, he made a debut at Sebring 12 Hours in a Ferrari 250 GTO, sharing a car with Ed Cantrell. They were 14th. In May, they were fifth at Nurburgring 1000 km race.

And then, in June 1963, Piper made a debut at Le Mans 24 Hours. He was driving the #26 Ferrari 250 GTO LMB for North American Racing Team, sharing a car with Masten Gregory. They finished sixth overall and third in the GT class.

David Piper's #8 Ferrari 250 GTO in 1963

David Piper's #8 Ferrari 250 GTO in 1963

1963 - second win at Kyalami 9 Hours

In November 1963, Piper repeated a victory at Kyalami 9 Hours, sharing the #8 Ferrari 250 GTO with Tony Maggs. In February 1964, Piper and Lucien Bianchi were second at Daytona 2000km race, a part of the World championship.

At Sebring 12 Hours, he was seventh overall and first in GT class, sharing a car with Pedro Rodriguez and Mike Gammino. In June 1964, his second attempt at Le Mans ended even before the start, because of a broken engine. His co-driver in the NART Ferrari was supposed to be Jochen Rindt.

1964 - third win in a row at Kyalami 9 Hours

Piper was close to World Sportscar Championship victory at 1964 Tourist Trophy, finishing second in a Ferrari 250 LM. Driving the #1 Ferrari 250 LM, Piper and Tony Maggs scored one more victory at Kyalami 9 Hours in October 1964.

Piper and Maggs were successful again at 1965 Sebring 12 Hours, finishing third overall.  In May 1965, Piper was second in the WSC race at Spa. In June 1965, he and Jo Bonnier failed to finish the Le Mans 24 Hours in the #17 Ferrari 365 P2.

1965 - Kyalami victory for Piper and Attwood

The season 1965 ended with two victories. In early November, Piper continued his winning streak at Kyalami 9 Hours, scoring his fourth win in a Ferrari 365 P2, sharing a car with Richard Attwood. Three weeks later, Piper has won Angola Grand Prix in the same car.

In February 1966, the first ever Daytona 24 Hours were held. Piper and Attwood finished 15th. In May 1966, Piper scored a victory in the non-championship 500-mile race at Brands Hatch, driving a Shelby Cobra together with Bob Bondurant. In June 1966, his fourth Le Mans attempt ended with a DNF. He was sharing the #16 Ferrari 365 P2 Spyder with Richard Attwood.

Fifth Kyalami 9 Hours victory in 1966

After winning several national sports car racing events in 1966, but also the Paris 1000 Kilometres, Piper scored his fifth consecutive victory at Kyalami 9 Hours in November. For the second year in a row, his partner in a Ferrari 365 P2 was Richard Attwood.

The season 1967 started with retirement at Daytona 24 Hours. At 1967 Le Mans race, after four attempts with Ferrari, Piper changed a manufacturer. He was driving the #14 Mirage M1-Ford, sharing a car with Dick Thompson. The result was the same as in the previous years – DNF.

David Piper and his bride Liz Michell in 1968

David Piper and his bride Liz Michell in 1968

1968 Sebring 12h attempt in a Ford GT40

In November 1967, Piper failed to continue his winning streak at Kyalami Circuit, finishing fifth in the 9-hour race. He was sharing the #7 Ferrari 412 P with Richard Attwood. A few months later, in February 1968, he and Masten Gregory retired at Daytona 24 Hours.

Then, in March, David Piper joined Edward Nelson in his Ford GT40 at Sebring 12 Hours. They finished 16th. Piper was driving Strathaven Ford GT40 in few more World Championship races during 1968, sharing a car with Mike Salmon. Their best finish was 11thplace at Brands Hatch 6 Hours.

David Piper at 1968 Le Mans 24h

David Piper at 1968 Le Mans 24h

Best-placed Ferrari driver at 1968 Le Mans

In June 1968, Piper has won the Norisring  200 Miles in his own Ferrari 412 P.  That year, Le Mans 24h race took was delayed from June to September due to massive protests in France. Piper came to Circuit de la Sarthe in the green #21 Ferrari 250 LM, sharing a car with Richard Attwood. They finished in seventh place, the best of all Ferrari crews.

In November 1968, Piper and Attwood failed to finish the Kyalami 9 Hours, crashing out in a Ferrari 412 P.

Driving a Lola T70-Chevrolet in 1969

In 1969, Piper switched to a new car – Lola T70-Chevrolet. His first success with that car came in April when he won the Coupes de Vitesse at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhery in France. He scored few more podiums in national and international events.

For Spa 1000km race, Piper returned to Ferrari, sharing the #8 Ferrari 312 P with Pedro Rodriguez. He again missed scoring his maiden World Championship victory, finishing second. Piper and Rodriguez were in the same car at 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours, not finishing the race.

First race in a Porsche at Nurburgring

In June 1969, Piper recorded his first race in a Porsche. He joined factory team to drive the #61 Porsche 917 at 1000 km of Nurburgring. He and Frank Gardner finished 8th.

Next month, he won Vila Real 6 Hours race in a Porsche 908, driving for Alain de Cadenet's team together with Chris Craft. In October, Piper and Craft finished third at 1000 km of Paris in a Porsche 908.

David Piper (right) and Tony Adamowicz in 1970

David Piper (right) and Tony Adamowicz in 1970

Sixth Kyalami victory in a Porsche 917K

David Piper became one of the first privateers to buy Porsche 917K. He came with that car to Kyalami Circuit in November 1969, together with Richard Attwood, to try winning the 9-hour race for the sixth time. He succeeded, becoming the most successful driver in a history of the race.

Piper continued to race in a Porsche 917K in 1970, not finishing WSC races at Brands Hatch and Monza. At Daytona 24 Hours, he finished fifth in a Ferrari 312 P, sharing a car with Tony Adamowicz.

The remains of the #21 Gulf Porsche camera car which David Piper destroyed at Le Mans

The remains of the #21 Gulf Porsche camera car which David Piper destroyed at Le Mans

Crash at Le Mans stopped Piper's career

In June 1970, Piper came to Le Mans with Porsche 917K. In his eighth attempt in the world's greatest race, he was sharing the #18 car with Gijs van Lennep. Running in the third place after four hours, Gijs van Lennep crashed in the night after suffering a puncture on the Mulsanne Straight.

In the following months, Piper was returning to Circuit de la Sarthe to work on a set of Steve McQueen's 'Le Mans' movie. Unfortunately, it didn't end well. In September, he crashed his Gulf-liveried 917K at Maison Blanche. His right leg was badly broken and doctors were forced to amputate a part of a leg.

An injury stopped Piper's professional career but, despite that disability, he stayed involved into motorsport until his old days, participating regularly in historic events.

David Piper and Steve McQueen

David Piper and Steve McQueen

Photos: Getty Images,