Obituary: Le Mans 24 Hours racer and BTCC winner Mike Salmon

Mike Salmon, who has died at the age of 82 after a prolonged illness, was a long-time racer with 13 starts at the Le Mans 24 Hours to his name

Obituary: Le Mans 24 Hours racer and BTCC winner Mike Salmon

Salmon's career as an amateur driver spanned six decades and included a top-six finish at Le Mans and a British Touring Car Championship race victory, and he was still competing into his 70s.

The first of Salmon's 13 Le Mans participations came in 1962 with his own Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, but it was the following year that he made his name at the French enduro with what turned out to be his best result.

Sharing a Maranello Concessionaires-run Ferrari 330LMB with Jack Sears, he finished fifth overall.

"We made up our minds that we were going to drive to finish rather than drive to impress," says Sears.

"There were three four-litre 330LMBs in the race and ours was the only one to get to the end, although we had our problems along the way."

Salmon would go on to race for Maranello Concessionaires, the UK Ferrari importer run by Col Ronnie Hoare, at Le Mans in 1965 and '66, driving a 250LM and then a Dino 206S.

An appearance in a JW Automotive-run Ford GT40 at Le Mans in 1967 left him with serious burns to his arms and face after the fuel cap was incorrectly replaced at the car's first pitstop.

After one more Le Mans start, also in a GT40, he made what turned out to be a temporary decision to retire from racing: he would return to the cockpit in the historic ranks in the mid-1970s, driving among other things the Aston Martin 'project car' he had taken to Le Mans in 1964.

Salmon was back at Le Mans at the wheel of Robin Hamilton's Aston Martin AMV8 RHAM in 1977 and '79 and would become a regular on the grid for the 24 Hours in the early-1980s.

He raced Group 5 Ferrari 512BBs in 1980 and '81 and became a stalwart member of the Viscount Downe's Aston Martin-Nimrod squad through the 1982, '83 and '84 seasons.

Together with Ray Mallock and Simon Phillips, Salmon finished seventh at Le Mans in the first of those years and would have ended up much higher but for a dropped valve.

"Mike was a very smooth and sympathetic driver," says Mallock, whose fledgling team took over development of the Lola-built Nimrod NRA/C2 for 1983.

Richard Williams, who was team manager for Viscount Downe, recalls a "perfectionist with a lot of talent".

Those talents stretched to mimicry: so good was his impression of Ronnie Hoare, reckons Sears, that "you would think he was in the room with you".

"Mike was always great fun to be with; I respected him not just as a driver but also as a man," says Sears of a universally popular man.

Mallock, who describes him as a "real character", even named his children after Salmon and his wife.

Salmon started racing in Jaguars in the mid-1950s and claimed major national-level victories with an ex-Ecurie Ecosse D-type in the Martini Trophy at Silverstone and the Autosport 3 Hours in 1961.

He also enjoyed success in touring cars in the first half of the 1960s, initially in a Jaguar MkII and then a Ford Mustang.

Salmon claimed a European Touring Car Championship victory at Brands Hatch in 1963 in the Jag together with Peter Sutcliffe, only to be disqualified for engine irregularities, and then took his lone victory in the BTCC, then known as the British Saloon Car Championship, in the Mustang at Snetterton in '65.

Involved in the motor trade throughout his career, Salmon was sales director at Maranello Concessionaires before moving to Jersey, where he set up a dealership specialising in Ferraris and Alfa Romeos.

Salmon is survived by his wife Jean (nee Bloxham), who was also an enthusiastic club racer before their marriage.

shares
comments
Toyota's new TS050 LMP1 for 2016 WEC makes test debut
Previous article

Toyota's new TS050 LMP1 for 2016 WEC makes test debut

Next article

Ex-Brabham F1 Sergio Rinland designer joins Project Brabham

Ex-Brabham F1 Sergio Rinland designer joins Project Brabham
Load comments
Why an F1-snubbed British world champion has no regrets in retirement Plus

Why an F1-snubbed British world champion has no regrets in retirement

He may not have won the Le Mans 24 Hours - falling agonisingly short in 2016 - and didn't get the opportunities in Formula 1 his talents merited. But after calling time on his professional career last month, Anthony Davidson says his pride in his performances with Peugeot and Toyota in LMP1 mean more than the results he achieved

WEC
Dec 17, 2021
Why Le Mans didn't decide Toyota's WEC title outcome in 2021 Plus

Why Le Mans didn't decide Toyota's WEC title outcome in 2021

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez scored a second successive World Endurance Championship title in the #7 Toyota, as its new Le Mans Hypercar went unbeaten. Autosport recaps how each of the four classes in the 2021 season were won and picks out the best LMH and GTE drivers

WEC
Nov 28, 2021
The unanswered questions that define WEC 2021's controversial ending Plus

The unanswered questions that define WEC 2021's controversial ending

OPINION: The deeply unsatisfying ending to a brilliant World Endurance Championship GTE Pro battle in Bahrain had Ferrari provisionally heading back from the desert as the victor. But Porsche plans to appeal the outcome, which rests on a number of confusing elements that have yet to be satisfactorily explained

WEC
Nov 9, 2021
How the WEC's heavyweight duel reached its controversial flashpoint Plus

How the WEC's heavyweight duel reached its controversial flashpoint

The Ferrari versus Porsche fight for the World Endurance Championship's GTE Pro title had been a finely-poised affair, right up until Alessandro Pier Guidi's punt on Michael Christensen in the closing stages of the Bahrain 8 Hours handed Ferrari a provisional title, pending Porsche's appeal. Here's how the controversy played out

WEC
Nov 8, 2021
The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster Plus

The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster

The 1-2 finish achieved by Toyota at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours was a result that will have surprised few, given its status as pre-event favourite. But the result was anything but straightforward, as worsening fuel pressure concerns required the team's drivers and engineers to pursue "creative fixes" on the fly. Here is the full story of how it reached the end without a lengthy pit visit

Le Mans
Nov 3, 2021
How the #7 Toyota squad moved closer to clinching WEC's 2021 title Plus

How the #7 Toyota squad moved closer to clinching WEC's 2021 title

In the penultimate round of the 2021 World Endurance Championship, a better run of tyre wear for Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi brought the Toyota trio its third win from five events, as the #7 squad put one hand on the title. Here's how the first of the WEC's two Bahrain enduros played out

WEC
Nov 1, 2021
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Plus

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Plus

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021