27/2/1939 - 22/3/1974
Record updated 27-Feb-07
Revson was heir to the Revlon cosmetics fortune. He was one of the best American sports car drivers of the 1960s. He raced in F1 for McLaren winning the British and Canadian Grands Prix in 1973. He was killed in testing for the 1974 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami.
Revson's grandfather had fled Russia for America to avoid conscription into the Czarist army. He had three sons Joseph, Charles and Martin who all became involved in a cosmetics company they established in 1932.
His father, Martin, was the sales manager and owned 10% of the company, reportedly worth over $1 billion. Martin married Julie Phelps Hall, a nightclub singer, in 1938 and Peter was born a year later in New York City in February 1939.
Peter Jeffrey Revlon Revson grew up with everything going for him. He was good looking, charming, well educated and wealthy. He was also a very talent racing driver.
He began racing in 1960 racing a Morgan with the Associated Sports Car Club of Hawaii, finishing second in his first race and winning his second. In his third race he was thrown out of the club.
He aquired a Formula Junior Taraschi-Fiat and entered the Vanderbilt Cup. He ran fifth until fuel feed problems put him back to seventh.
In 1961, he joined the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), racing his Morgan on the East coast. He finished 4th in the Championship.
He teamed up with Teddy Mayer in 1962 to run a Formula Junior team for himself and Mayer’s brother Tim, driving Coopers.
In 1963 he moved to Europe, competing in Formula Junior with a Holbay Ford-engined Cooper, later switching to a Cosworth engine. He also made his Formula One début in a Lotus-BRM, finishing ninth in the Gold Cup at Oulton Park.
He undertook a full season of F1 in 1964 with a semi-works team, Reg Parnell Racing, running a Lotus 24-BRM. It was a learning year with nothing in the way of results and he decided to take a step back.
The following year Tim Mayer was killed racing in the Tasman series at Longford in Tasmania. Revson raced for the works Lotus F2 and F3 teams in 1965, finishing second in the F2 race at the Eifelrennen, and winning the Monaco F3 race in a Lotus 35-Ford. However later in the season he decided to go back to the United States where he drove in the U.S. autumn sports car series, taking class wins at Seattle and Las Vegas in his Brabham BT8.
Over the next seven years he build a solid reputation as a sports car driver. In 1966 he raced a Ford GT40 with Skip Scott, taking five GT class wins, helping Ford to the title. He also took class wins at Spa and Sebring, and led at Daytona, Monza and Le Mans, but retired from all three.
Between 1967 and 1969 he raced in both CanAm and TransAm racing. In 1967 his younger brother Doug was killed in a Formula 3 race in Denmark but this did not dampen his enthusiasm, taking a win at Bryar Park, New Hampshire, straight after attending the funeral.
In 1969 Peter tried single seaters again and drove his underpowered Brabham BT25-Repco from the back of the grid to 5th place. He raced there again in 1970, but his McLaren M15 blew up. That year saw him drive the Carl Haas L&M Lola T220 in CanAm, he also drove a Porsche 908 with Steve McQueen to second place at Sebring.
At Indy in 1971 he put his McLaren M16-Offenhauser on pole, finishing second in the race. In CanAm he drove his McLaren M8F-Chevrolet to two seconds, a fourth and a seventh, plus five wins, at Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen, Elkhart Lake, Brainerd and Laguna Seca, to secure the title, the first American to win the Championship. He made a brief return to Grand Prix racing driving for Tyrrell in the U.S. Grand Prix. It was indeed brief as he went out on the first lap when his clutch failed.
In 1972 he drove Roger Penske’s L&M Porsche team. At Indy, he again qualified on the front row, but retired with gearbox problems. In CanAm with the McLaren he finished on the podium three times.
In F1 he joined the Yardley McLaren team, run by Teddy Mayer, finishing the Championship in fifth overall. He took pole at Mosport Park in Canada, finishing second in the race after an impressive fight back after his throttle jammed shut. He also came third in South Africa, Britain and Austria, fourth at Monza and fifth at Járama.
The following year despite taking fine wins in the British and Canadian Grands Prix, he still ended up 5th in the points. Despite his success, Peter had a slightly strained relationship with Mayer and one week he won his first ever Grand Prix, he was sacked. Meyer needed the millions of US dollars of Marlboro and Texaco money that came with Emerson Fittipaldi.
Ferrari, who had already had signed Niki Lauda, were interested, especially as they sold more than 50 per cent of their production in the USA. Contract were ready but then something happened to stop the negotiations.
Yardley had insisted McLaren honoring their contract and a third McLaren was to be entered for evry Grand Prix with equal status to Fittipaldi and Hulme. Mayer, annoyed and frustrated at the return of Revson who he had sacked, told him that he would only have the status of the number three driver. Revson cancelled the contract and took up an offer from Shadow iitially driving their DN1 car, while developing the new DN3. He qualified fourth in Argentina and sixth in Brazil, and finished sixth in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch.
Then in pre-race testing at Kyalami eight days before the Grand Prix, he crashed at Barbecue Bend, the second corner after start/finish line. Travelling at 220 kph a titanium bolt in the left front suspension failed, and the Shadow Ford DN3 crashed into the safety barrier and caught fire. Revson died instantly.
Peter and Douglas Revson are interred together in a crypt at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
Revson was replaced by Tom Pryce, who died three years later at the same Grand Prix.