By the time this effervescent Irishman first raced in 1948, he had already been a market trader, a railwayman and garage owner. Above all, he was a wheeler-dealer. Joe Kelly later became Ireland’s Ferrari concessionaire but on May 13 1950 he was one of 23 men who raced in the very first world championship Grand Prix.
Grand Prix career
He drove an Alta in the 1950 British GP and ran at the back before completing too few laps to be classified as a finisher. A regular in national racing at the time, he finished fourth in the non-championship Ulster Trophy at Dundrod later that summer. Kelly and the Alta returned for the 1951 British GP and were unclassified once more.
The World Championship switched to Formula 2 in 1952 and Kelly continued to race in non-championship Formula 1 races in Britain. That year’s Ulster Trophy proved Kelly’s finest result when third behind only Piero Taruffi’s Ferrari 375 and Mike Hawthorn’s Cooper-Bristol at Dundrod. He fitted his Alta with an F2 Bristol engine for 1953 and continued to race in national sports cars with a Jaguar C-type.
His burgeoning businesses now included representing Ferrari in Ireland and an expanding property portfolio. But leg injuries suffered in a practice accident at Oulton Park in 1955 ended his racing career and prompted initial fears of amputation.