Our new database page will launch shortly.
Bruce Kessler raced in SCCA’s sports car events on West Coast throughout the 1950s. He also made fleeting appearances in both Formula 1 and at Le Mans in 1958.
Background and early career
The son of a swimsuit designer and manufacturer, he was raised in Beverly Hills and started competing as soon as he was old enough. That was with a Jaguar XK120 and he later drove a variety of machinery from Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari to Aston Martin and Scarab.
The NART Ferrari 250GT he shared with Paul O’Shea and David Cunningham finished the 1958 Sebring 12 Hours in fifth position. Despite little open-wheel experience, Kessler then travelled to England and drove Alan Brown’s Cooper T43-Climax in the International Trophy at Silverstone – finishing sixth in the Formula 2 class.
Brief Formula 1 career and Le Mans accident
A fortnight later, Kessler entered the Monaco Grand Prix with one of Bernie Ecclestone’s Connaught B-types. Although faster in practice than team-mate Paul Emery, Kessler’s best lap of 1min 50.5sec was still five seconds too slow to qualify.
He remained in Europe to share the NART Ferrari with Dan Gurney in the Le Mans 24 Hours. As the French rain descended, Kessler began his first stint in fifth position but their promising race came to an end in the seventh hour. "Jean Mary" spun his Jaguar in the Dunlop Curve and the American crashed into the stricken car at unabated speed. "Mary" was killed instantly and Kessler injured as his car burst into flames.
Kessler recovered sufficiently to race again but crashed in a minor sports car race at Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in March 1959. His Sadler MkII hit the commentary gantry and cars parked nearby – injuring Kessler and three others. He returned once more only to roll a Formula Junior at Riverside in March 1961 – breaking his arm, several ribs and puncturing a lung.
Kessler married former child actress Joan Freeman and retired from racing to enjoy a successful career as a television director on shows such as The Monkees, Ironside, Mission Impossible, Knight Rider and The A-Team.