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Ireland Joe Kelly

Races: 2

1950Ireland Joe Kelly Alta   Alta 1.5 L4s  
1951Ireland Joe Kelly 1951 F1 Season : Joe KellyAlta   Alta 1.5 L4s GP 

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By Jeremy McMullen

When people think of the Irish they usually come to think of such adjectives as; tough, rough, even intimidating. Joe Kelly's racing style fit those adjectives. While not particularly successful in Formula One, Kelly lived larger than life. Part of the intrigue that surrounded Kelly's life was his willingness to not back down from a fight, or, controversy.

Kelly was born in 1913 in South America. Kelly's family moved to Dublin, Ireland, where Joe was raised. In time, Joe became a successful car dealer in Dublin. After World War II, Kelly took to motor racing, using his finances from his car dealerships to fund his racing interests.

Joe competed in a few local races around Ireland, including the famous 'Curragh'. In 1948, Kelly appeared at the Curragh for the first time with one of his IRA cars, which stood for Irish Racing Automobile. Then, in 1949 Kelly set a speed record during the Wakefield Trophy race that would stand until 1954 when he broke his own record. In that race Kelly drove a Maserati, which was more of a purpose built car for the race than the normal sight of MGs and other 'specially designed' homebuilt machines.

Kelly crossed the Irish Sea and showed up at Silverstone in August of 1949 for the BRDC International Trophy race. Kelly arrived at the race with a Maserati 6CM. Kelly took part in the 2nd heat race. He qualified for the heat 16th. Kelly lasted 18 of the 20 lap heat race. However, Kelly was able to take part in the 30 lap final race. Kelly finished the race 16th overall, four laps behind the race winner Ascari. The event was marked by tragedy though as John Horsfall died in an accident during the 30 lap final race.

Kelly re-appeared at Silverstone the next year for the first event of the new World Championship. This was to be the only Formula Once championship race Kelly would compete in 1950. Joe arrived for the race with his familiar Alta GP3 (see Alta article) and qualified 19th for the race. He was a little over 15 seconds slower than Giuseppe Farina. This meant Joe started from the inside of the 6th and final row. However, Kelly was only able to complete 57 of the scheduled 70 laps. So, Kelly competed in only one Formula One race in 1950 and scored no points. Despite the poor performance in the British Grand Prix, Kelly went on to enter a few other races in 1950 and had some success. Although crashing out of the Isle of Man non-championship grand prix, driving a Maserati 6CM, Kelly finished the Jersey street circuit in 8th in his Alta GP3. Kelly also finished 4th at Dundrod in August of that year. In September of 1950 Joe was close to winning the Curragh but was passed on the last lap and was beaten by less than a car length!

Perhaps, Kelly's career became more colorful after his foray into Formula One. At Dundrod, in 1952, Kelly finished 3rd in his Alta, which was later modified to become another IRA chassis. A normally aspirated 6 cylinder Bristol engine was put into his Alta to become an IRA. Kelly probably became most known for racing Jaguars around Irish race tracks, but, however, there were two events, in particular, for which Kelly would become famous.

At the Curragh in 1954, Kelly drove a Ferrari Monza, and with his popular aggressive and hard-charging style, he eclipsed his own track record. What is most interesting is that it is rumored that after the race, a race in which he caught air after hitting a bump with his Ferrari at high speed, Kelly promptly sold the Ferrari to Jaguar, giving them a personal look at their competition's engineering.
1951GPAlta 1.5 L4s
1950Alta 1.5 L4s

The other event for which Kelly is remember is the same event that brought his racing career to an end. While charging hard through the field at Oulton Park, Kelly got caught up in a three-car accident. Kelly suffered severe injuries and almost had to have one of his badly damaged legs amputated. This forced the businessman to get his priorities in order. Therefore, Kelly, for the most part, left motor racing to focus on his car dealership interests. Kelly did compete at some local hillclimbs, but nothing more than that.

Kelly's car dealerships flourished. He even had a Ferrari dealership at one time. Soon, Joe got into real estate trading. Kelly had an impressive portfolio consisting of homes he had owned at one time or another. This portfolio resulted from Kelly selling off his car showrooms and focusing on property dealing.

By the end of Kelly's life in 1993, he had amassed quite a large collection of rare and exotic cars. The collection included Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Rolls Royces. Not one to back down from a challenge, this hard-charging style made Kelly famous and loved by his fellow Irishmen. Despite his fighting style, Kelly proved to have his wits about him and kept his priorities in order. Joe applied his never-give-up style to everything he did, and when combined with his real talents, he flourished. However, Kelly proved with an impressive car collection that once racing is in your blood, you may be able to walk away from it, but it never really leaves you.

'Drivers: Joe Kelly' ( GP Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2010-05-28.

'The Curragh' ( The Curragh. Retrieved 2010-05-28.

'Drivers: Joe Kelly' ( Retrieved 2010-05-28.

Wikipedia contributors, '1950 British Grand Prix', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 April 2010, 17:26 UTC, accessed 28 May 2010

Wikipedia contributors, 'Joe Kelly (racing driver)', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 April 2010, 12:55 UTC, accessed 28 May 2010
Formula One World Drivers' Champions
1950 G. Farina
1951 J. Fangio
1952 A. Ascari
1953 A. Ascari
1954 J. Fangio
1955 J. Fangio
1956 J. Fangio
1957 J. Fangio
1958 M. Hawthorn
1959 S. Brabham
1960 S. Brabham
1961 P. Hill, Jr
1962 N. Hill
1963 J. Clark, Jr.
1964 J. Surtees
1965 J. Clark, Jr.
1966 S. Brabham
1967 D. Hulme
1968 N. Hill
1969 S. Stewart
1970 K. Rindt
1971 S. Stewart
1972 E. Fittipaldi
1973 S. Stewart
1974 E. Fittipaldi
1975 A. Lauda
1976 J. Hunt
1977 A. Lauda
1978 M. Andretti
1979 J. Scheckter
1980 A. Jones
1981 N. Piquet
1982 K. Rosberg
1983 N. Piquet
1984 A. Lauda
1985 A. Prost
1986 A. Prost
1987 N. Piquet
1988 A. Senna
1989 A. Prost
1990 A. Senna
1991 A. Senna
1992 N. Mansell
1993 A. Prost
1994 M. Schumacher
1995 M. Schumacher
1996 D. Hill
1997 J. Villeneuve
1998 M. Hakkinen
1999 M. Hakkinen
2000 M. Schumacher
2001 M. Schumacher
2002 M. Schumacher
2003 M. Schumacher
2004 M. Schumacher
2005 F. Alonso
2006 F. Alonso
2007 K. Raikkonen
2008 L. Hamilton
2009 J. Button
2010 S. Vettel
2011 S. Vettel
2012 S. Vettel
2013 S. Vettel
2014 L. Hamilton
2015 L. Hamilton
2016 N. Rosberg
2017 L. Hamilton
2018 L. Hamilton
2019 L. Hamilton

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