9 February 2019

An F1 driver called Colin. Fascinating F1 Facts: 72

There has only ever been one Formula 1 driver called Colin.

Colin Davis.

He had the misfortune to live in the shadow of another Colin Davis, who was a celebrated conductor, best known for his work with the London Symphony Orchestra, who ended up being knighted for services to music.

Still, it was probably better for motor racing's Colin Davis not to be named after his father Sammy, as there was another musician (of a different ilk) bearing the name Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy Davis (the British version) was a famous fellow in his day. He was the son of a well-to-do tea merchant, who went to art school and then switched to become an apprentice with Daimler. He would then move on to be a technical illustrator with Automobile Engineer magazine and then joined Autocar, where he worked for many years as an illustrator and as a writer, being the magazine's sports editor, using the pen name Casque (French for helmet).

Sammy Davis was a larger than life character, a friend of W O Bentley and an active competitor, setting speed records at Brooklands and winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1927, sharing a Bentley with Dr Dudley Benjafield, a celebrated bacteriologist and founder of the British Racing Drivers Club.

He had married Annie Pollard the previous year and in 1933 Colin arrived on the scene. It was no great surprise that he followed in his famous father's footsteps in the 1950s, racing in 500cc Formula 3 cars when he was only just out of his teens. He worked at that point in the advertising business but then decided to dedicated himself to the sport and moved to Italy, where he had none of the pressure of being the son of a famous father.

Davis became part of the Italian racing scene and in 1959, when he was 25, he made his F1 debut, driving a Scuderia Centro Sud Cooper-Maserati at the French GP. Later that year he finished 11th in the same car at the Italian Grand Prix, while he also raced in a number of non-championship F1 events in the course of the years that followed, although he was rarely seen in England. As a result he remained a rather overlooked figure in British racing circles, even after he shared a Porsche 904 with Antonio Pucci to win the Targa Florio in 1964, becoming one of only a handful of British drivers who won the Targa Florio, alongside such well-known names as  Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Graham Hill and Vic Elford.

Davis was a quiet unassuming man, who sported a Clark Gable moustache and smoked a pipe. He decided to quit racing in the mid 1960s because of the increasing number of fatal accidents in the sport, as the cars improved but the safety did not. He later moved to Cape Town in South Africa where he worked as a radio announcer.

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