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Duncan Hamilton

Full Name:
James Duncan Hamilton
30th April 1920
Cork, County Cork (IRL)
13th May 1994 (Aged 74)
Sherbourne, Dorset
Most recent race (in database):

The burly Duncan Hamilton was a born adventurer and a true character during the 1950s. He was a leading member of Jaguar’s successful sports car team at the time and won the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours for the marque.

World War II and early racing career

He served in the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm during World War II and started racing in 1946 when he found life in peacetime somewhat boring in comparison. His early years in sprints and hillclimbs were with some exotic machinery that included an ex-Malcolm Campbell MG R-type, a Bugatti T35 and ERA R5B that had been christened "Remus" by original owner "B.Bira".

Hamilton drove a Maserati 6CM in the British Grand Prix in 1948 and 1949 but it was at Le Mans that he excelled. He made his debut in the 1950 race when sharing with Tony Rolt, as he would do for the next five years. Their works Healey finished fourth that year and they were sixth in 1951.

Success in the Le Mans 24 Hours

It was with Jaguar that Hamilton is best remembered, especially for victory in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours sharing Rolt’s XK120C. They finished second a year later when their D-type was just 1min 45sec behind the winning Ferrari of Maurice Trintignant and José Froilán González. The race ended in a thunderstorm and Hamilton’s spirited pursuit prompted González to describe the Englishman as the world’s fastest driver in the wet.

Hamilton also continued in single-seaters during the early 1950s. Second in the 1951 International Trophy at Silverstone with a Lago-Talbot T26C, he started that year’s British and German GPs. He then drove an HWM in three GPs during 1952 and 1953. Seventh in the 1952 Dutch GP was his best result from those five starts.

Final years of racing career

Fiercely independent by nature whether driving a works car or not, Hamilton disobeyed team orders to win the 1956 Reims 12 Hours and was fired by Jaguar. Hired immediately by Ferrari, Hamilton finished third in that year’s World Sportscar Championship race at Kristianstad in Sweden.

He entered his own Jaguar D-type in 1957 and finished sixth at Le Mans and in the 1958 Tourist Trophy at Goodwood. He retired from racing in 1959 to concentrate on businesses that included the classic car company that still bears his name today.

He retired to Somerset in 1971 but died on Friday the 13th in May 1994 – this fun loving sportsman would have been amused by that supposedly unlucky day being his last.