Peter Revson

Full Name:
Peter Jeffrey Revson
Born:
27th February 1939
New York City, New York
Died:
22nd March 1974 (Aged 35)
Kyalami, Gauteng (ZA), testing
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Pete Revson had it all – charm, wealth, dashing good looks and success. His death not only took a talented and charismatic Grand Prix driver but it also allowed tabloid newspapers to aim another broadside at a sport reeling from recent tragedies.

Family background and early racing career

The son of the co-founder of Revlon cosmetics, his father sold the company in 1958 so money was not a concern during Revson’s life. With a good education (majoring at Cornell University) and privileged upbringing, Revson began a career in advertising as well as racing for the first time in 1960. He tried Formula Junior and worked with old college friend Teddy Mayer for the first time.

He raced in FJ in Europe during 1963 and entered six Grands Prix in 1964 although his performances in the Reg Parnell Racing-prepared Lotus 24-BRM did little to enhance Revson’s reputation. Unfortunately he lacked experience and struggled to qualify – finishing just once when 13th in Italy.

He retreated to Formula 2 and F3 in 1965 to gain much-needed racecraft with victory at Monaco driving Ron Harris’ Lotus 35-Ford the highlight. However, when younger brother Doug was killed in a Formula 3 race in Denmark during 1967 and without another Formula 1 opportunity, Pete Revson refocused and found success in America.

Success in America

Fifth in the Indianapolis 500 and an Indycar race winner with a Brabham-Repco during 1969, he drove for Roger Penske in Trans-Am and Carl Haas in Can-Am a year later. That 1970 season also included finishing second at Sebring when sharing Steve McQueen’s Porsche 908.

With Bruce McLaren killed in testing, Teddy Mayer signed Revson for McLaren’s 1971 Can-Am team. Team-mate Denny Hulme was the reigning champion but it was Revson who won five times to secure the title. He also qualified on pole position and finished second at Indianapolis for McLaren that year – Revson’s rehabilitation as a talent to watch was complete.

Return to Formula 1

Now he was ready for F1 again and he drove a third Tyrrell in that year’s United States GP. He joined Yardley McLaren for the 1972 World Championship and honed his skills over the next two seasons. Second in Canada was one of four podium finishes and by the middle of 1973 Revson had become one of the top six drivers in the world. Driving the new McLaren M23, he won that year’s British GP at Silverstone and triumphed again in Canada (the first GP in which a safety car was deployed) in difficult conditions. However, despite being fifth in the world championship for a second successive season, his relationship with Mayer and the team had become strained.

Tragic switch to Shadow

So Revson signed for the promising UOP Shadow team in 1974 and his year began well by qualifying in the top six for his first two races. “We expect to win at least two GPs” he predicted, but that promise would not be fulfilled. Revson was testing before the South African GP when his front suspension apparently failed at Kyalami’s Barbecue Bend. He crashed head-on into the barriers and was killed on impact before the car was engulfed in flames.

It is easy to see Revson as a playboy racer but that is to ignore the talent and the man. Described as “America’s most versatile driver”, F1 lost one of the characters that makes it so compelling. Smooth out of the car, Revson was a hard racer in it.

As sponsorship arrived in motor racing, he was one of the first to recognise the responsibilities that brought. He took the sport from the specialist press and into the mainstream – Revson oozed glamour and the column inches followed as a result.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1974 F1 World Championship
UOP Shadow Racing Team
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1973 F1 World Championship
Yardley Team McLaren
14 0 4 2
15% win rate
5th 38
1973 USAC National Championship
Team McLaren
3 2 0 0
0% win rate
0
1972 F1 World Championship
Yardley Team McLaren
9 1 4 0
0% win rate
5th 23
1972 World Championship of Makes
Autodelta
1 0 1 0 12
1972 USAC National Championship
Team McLaren
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1971 F1 World Championship
Elf Team Tyrrell
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1971 USAC National Championship
Team McLaren
3 1 1 0
0% win rate
12th 1100
1971 Can-Am Challenge
Bruce McLaren Motor Racing
5 0 5 5 1st 0
1970 USAC National Championship
Team McLaren
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
23rd 500
1970 International Championship of Makes
Solar Productions
1 0 1 0 6
1969 USAC National Championship
Motor Racing Developments
3 0 2 1
34% win rate
17th 840
1968 USAC National Championship
Eisert Racing Enterprises
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
41st 90
1968 SCCA Formula A Grand Prix Championship 0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1967 USAC National Championship
Dayton-Walther
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1966 International Championship of Makes
Essex Wire
Essex Wire Corporation
3 0 2 0 8
1966 USAC National Championship
All-American Racers
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1965 International Championship of Makes
Automobiles Alpine
1 0 0 0 0
1965 Autocar British F2 Championship
Ron Harris Team Lotus
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1964 F1 World Championship
Reg Parnell Racing
Revson Racing
4 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0