After three years in the Royal Air Force, Peter Ashdown began racing in 1955 with a Lotus IX sports car. His performances as the marque’s best privateer during 1956 were recognised with the John Coombs Trophy. Ashdown, who had trained in vehicle mechanics, was lucky to escape at Montlhéry the following October when his car overturned.
Works Lotus driver and Grand Prix debut
But he had impressed Colin Chapman sufficiently to become a works Lotus driver for 1958. That opportunity was curtailed however by a broken collarbone sustained during practice for a sports car race at Rouen-les-Essarts.
Fit again for 1959, Ashdown made his one Formula 1 World Championship appearance in the British Grand Prix when 12th with Alan Brown’s Cooper T45-Climax. He also enjoyed sports car success that year – winning the Trophée de Auvergne at Clermont-Ferrand and finishing sixth overall in Goodwood’s Tourist Trophy with a works Lola Mk1-Climax.
Ashdown continued in Formula Junior and sports cars. Second in the 1960 Monaco FJ race, he won the 1959 and 1960 BRSCC title in the latter discipline. He also scored class wins in the 1960 and 1962 Nürburgring 1000Kms before racing for the last time in the Brands Hatch Boxing Day meeting of 1962.
Life after motor racing
He retired to concentrate on running the family businesses in Essex that included a local Vauxhall dealership. Later on, he was a guiding force behind Perry McCarthy’s early career. Ashdown eventually retired from business when owning properties in England, France and the United States.