David Purley  Great Britain

  • Full name David Purley
  • Birth date January 26, 1945
  • Birthplace Bognor Regis, Great Britain
  • Date of death July 2, 1985 (40 years 157 days)
  • Place of death Chichester, Great Britain
  • Teams LEC, March, Token
driver portrait
World Championship Career
Year Car Race Start Won Pod Class Best Pole Front Best Lap Hat Pts Pos
1973 March 5 4 0 0 2 9 0 0 16 0 0 0 -
1974 Token 1 0 0 0 0 - 0 0 - 0 0 0 -
1977 LEC 5 3 0 0 2 13 0 0 19 0 0 0 -
Total 11 7 0 0 4 9 0 0 16 0 0 0
Race Circuit Date
First race Monaco Grand Prix Monaco June 3, 1973 Race results
Last race British Grand Prix Silverstone July 16, 1977 Race results

David Purley - born Puxley - came into racing after a spell in the army and competed in Formula Three between 1970 and 1972 with reasonable success. In 1973 he hired a March and supported by family backing (his father founded LEC Refrigeration) competed in four grand prix.

In his second outing at the Dutch Grand Prix he was involved in an incident which showed his remarkable heroism. Ahead of him Roger Williamson's car was involved in a crash which left it upside down and on fire, Williamson was trapped inside. Purley stopped, ran down the track and attempted to rescue Williamson by righting the car, despite the blaze and the risk of a major explosion. He received no help from nearby marshals and his efforts were in vain as Williamson died, but Purley was awarded the George Medal for bravery.

He entered one grand prix in 1974 but continued in F2 and Formula 5000, winning the British championship in 1976. He returned to F1 in 1977, again with his own LEC Refrigeration team, making no impression in four outings. In pre-qualifying for the British Grand Prix he was involved in a massive crash when his throttle stuck open and he hit a wall - it was estimated he went from over 100mph to 0 in 26 inches. The G-force was estimated at 179.8 which, if accurate, would be the highest ever survived by a human. He recovered to race again, competing in the Aurora AFX series of F1.

After retiring from motor racing he switched to aerobatics but was killed when his home-built biplane crashed in the sea off Bognor Regis.

Martin Williamson November 2009

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