Many world-class drivers came from South America but just a few from Chile. Eliseo Salazar is definitely the best of them. In his impressive career, which started in 1974 and lasted until 2015, Salazar participated in numerous first-class racing competitions such are Formula One, Indy Car, World Endurance Championship, World Sports-Prototype Championship, IMSA Sports Car Championship, American Le Mans Series, World Rally Championship or NASCAR.
Salazar recorded 24 starts in the Formula One World Championship between 1981 and 1983 but he achieved his greatest success before that, finishing as a vice-champion in the 1980 British F1 Championship. In the American open-wheel competitions, he spent eight seasons from 1995 to 2002, with third place in the 2000 Indianapolis 500 as a highlight.
At Le Mans 24 Hours, Salazar participated six times, recording five DNFs and 8th place in 1989. He was a regular competitor in the Chilean rally championship for many years, making a debut in the World Rally Championship in 2012, at the age 57. His last race in a career was Daytona 24 Hours in 2015.
Argentinean F4 champion early in a career
Back in the childhood days, Salazar gained his first experience in the motorsport at the age 15, as a timekeeper in circuit races and a co-driver in regularity tests. His career started in 1974 in the Puente Alto road course, where he was driving an Austin Mini 1100.
After that, he went to Argentina to attend a racing school. His first racing competition was the Argentinean Formula 4, in which he won the championship title in 1978.
British Formula 1 vice-champion in 1980
In 1979, Salazar continued his career in Europe, participating full season in the British Formula 3 Championship, driving a Ralt-Toyota for Schick Toyota Chilean Team. Relatively good results secured him a seat in the British Formula 1 Championship in 1980.
He was driving a Williams FW07-Cosworth for RAM Racing, scoring three wins and finishing second in the championship, behind Spaniard Emilio de Villota.
Formula 1 World Championship debut in 1981
The next step for Salazar was a debut in the Formula 1 World Championship in 1981. He signed for March Grand Prix Team, driving a March 811-Cosworth in six Grand Prix events. He managed to qualify for one race only, the San Marino Grand Prix, retiring after 38 laps.
From the seventh round, Salazar moved to Ensign Racing and recorded eight Grand Prix starts until the end of the season. In the Dutch Grand at Circuit Zandvoort he finished sixth to earn his maiden point.
One more point-scoring finish in 1982
For the 1982 Formula 1 season, Salazar joined German Team ATS to drive the #10 ATS-Cosworth alongside Manfred Winkelhock in the #9 car. Salazar was again among the point-scorers in the fourth round, at Autodromo Dino Ferrari in Imola, finishing in the fifth place. He made 13 starts in 1982, recording three DNQs, finishing 22nd in the points.
The season 1982 was marked by an unfamous fight between Nelson Piquet and Eliseo Salazar after they crashed out during the German Grand Prix.
Le Mans 24h debut in 1982
In 1982, Salazar also made his sports car racing debut, joining Japanese Dome team in a couple of races in the FIA World Endurance Championship. He retired in both races, at Silverstone 6 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours, sharing a car with Chris Craft.
Salazar returned to Le Mans with Japanese team one year later, retiring again in the #38 Dome RC82-Cosworth. His co-drivers were Chris Craft and Nick Mason.
Just two Formula One starts in 1983
For the 1983 Formula 1 season, Salazar joined RAM Racing but his results were disappointing and he was released after six rounds. He failed to qualify four times, retired at the United States Grand Prix West and finished 15th in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Salazar lost his F1 seat because of bad results but also due to Chilean economic crisis and lack of sponsors. He never returned to F1 again.
Two rally titles in Chile, two seasons in F3000
In 1984, Salazar returned to South America, participating in the Formula 2 Championship but also making a debut in rallying. He was more successful in rallying than in single-seater racing, winning two consecutive national rally championships in a Toyota Corolla XT.
However, he returned to single-seaters in 1986, participating in the International Formula 3000 Championship with RAM Motorsport and Lola Motorsport. His best result was the fourth place at Birmingham Superprix. In the 1987 F3000 season, he changed three teams but scored no points in eleven races.
Best Le Mans result with Silk Cut Jaguar
In 1988, Salazar changed racing discipline again, switching to prototype racing with Spice Engineering team. He participated in three races of the World Sports-Prototype Championship, including Le Mans 24 Hours. He retired at Le Mans but scored C2 class victory at Fuji 1000 km, sharing a car with Thorkild Thyrring.
For the 1989 WSPC season, Salazar stayed with Spice Engineering but joined Silk Cut Jaguar team at Le Mans only, sharing the #4 Jaguar XJR-9 LM with Alain Ferte and Michel Ferte. They finished 8th overall. He did the same in 1990, driving for Spice Engineering over the season and for Jaguar ar Le Mans. He, Michel Ferte and Davy Jones retired in the #4 Jaguar XJR-12 after 282 laps.
Victorious return to racing in a Ferrari 333 SP
After three seasons in the World Sports-Prototype Championship, Salazar was out of racing for three years, returning into a cockpit of a race car in 1994. Gianpiero Moretti invited him to drive for Momo team in the IMSA World Sports Car Championship.
Moretti and Salazar scored three wins in the #30 Ferrari 333 SP, at Lime Rock, Watkins Glen and Indianapolis. Salazar finished the season sixth in the points. In 1995, Salazar participated in just one race with Momo team, at Daytona 24 Hours in February, returning to open-wheel racing after that.
Indy Car World Series debut in 1995
In 1995, Salazar made a debut in the Indy Car World Series, driving the #7 Lola-Ford for Dick Simon Racing. The highlight of the season was the fourth place in his debut at Indianapolis 500. He finished 21st in the final points.
Salazar spent one more season with Dick Simon Racing, participating in four races. Due to a split between the CART and Indy Racing League, he joined Team Scandia at 1996 Indianapolis 500, finishing in the sixth place.
Maiden Indy Car victory at Las Vegas in 1997
Salazar stayed with Team Scandia in the 1996/1997 Indy Racing League season, driving the #7 car. In the last round of the championship, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he scored his maiden IRL victory, beating Scott Goodyear by 1.204 seconds.
Salazar had a double programme with Scandia, driving for the team also in the IMSA World Sports Car Championship. Driving a Ferrari 333 SP, he scored one podium, finishing second at Watkins Glen 6 Hours. In June 1997, Salazar returned to Le Mans for the last time, joining Pacific Racing to drive a BRM P301-Nissan LMP1 prototype. His race lasted for just six laps.
In 1997, Salazar also made a debut in NASCAR, participating in one races of the Craftsman Truck Series. He was driving the #77 Chevrolet for Doran Racing at Watkins Glen, finishing in the 17th place.
Indianapolis 500 podium in 2000
Salazar joined Riley & Scott in the 1998 IRL season, starting in four races and skipping the rest of the season after suffering bad injuries in Dover crash. Next year, he made nine starts with Nienhouse Racing, finishing best in the fourth place at Atlanta. In January 1999, Salazar ended fifth at Daytona 24 Hours, driving Riley & Scott Mk III for Transatlantic Racing.
For the 2000 IRL season, Salazar joined AJ Foyt Racing and gained his career-best result, finishing third at Indianapolis 500, behind Juan Pablo Montoya and Buddy Lazier, and taking fourth place in the championship. In 2001, Salazar scored two podiums with AJ Foyt Racing to finish fifth in the points. His last IRL season was 2002, missing a big part of a season after practice accident at Indianapolis.
A season in the American Le Mans Series
At the end of 2002, Salazar left Indy Racing League and returned to sports car racing. His main competition in 2003 was the American Le Mans Series.
At Sebring 12 Hours, he was driving a Porsche 996 GT3 RS for The Racer's Group, switching to JMB Racing's Ferrari 360 Modena for the rest of the season. Without wins or podiums, he finished 23rd in the final standings of the GT class.
Rallying in Chile and WRC debut in 2012
In 2004, Salazar made another great switch in his career. He returned to Chile and joined Hyundai factory team in the Chilean Rally Championship, driving the #14 Hyundai Coupe N3 class car. He was driving Hyundai Coupe until 2006, replacing it with Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX in 2007. After rallying three seasons with Mitsubishi, Salazar races with Subaru Impreza STi in 2010. In 2011, he had just one start in a Fiat Abarth 500 R3T.
And then, in 2012, he made a World Rally Championship debut. In April 2012, he participated at Rally Argentina, with Marc Marti as his navigator in the #52 Mini John Cooper Works WRC. They finished in the 12th place.
Dakar Rally attempt in 2009
Besides rallying in Chile, Salazar had occasional attempts in other racing competitions, such were TC200 Argentina, Top Race V6 Argentina or GP Masters series for retired F1 drivers.
In 2009, he made a debut at Dakar Rally, which was held for the first time in South America. By doing so, he became the first driver in a history of motorsport to participate at Indianapolis 500, F1 Monaco Grand Prix, 24 hours of Le Mans and Dakar Rally, the quartet of the most famous races in the world.
Ending a career in the sports car racing
In 2012, Salazar reactivated himself in the sports car racing, driving the #64 TRG Porsche 997 GT3 Cup in three rounds of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, including Daytona 24 Hours. In 2013, he stayed in a Porsche but joined Muehlner Motorsports, participating at Daytona 24h and three more races.
In 2014, he won the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge North America. In 2015, Salazar had one more last return to Daytona 24 Hours, a part of the IMSA Sports Car Championship. He was driving the #009 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for TRG-AMR, ending a race 8th in the GTD class.
Manager and race organizer
In 2015, he also became a manager of the Uruguayan pilot Santiago Urrutia, who won the Pro Mazda Championship that year. In the next two seasons, Salazar's protege finished second in the Indy Lights series.
Salazar also has been organizing a new competition in his native in Chile, called "SoloRace", for amateurs who can race against each other in a controlled and safe environment.