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This British peer was an amateur racing driver who contributed to Ferrari’s first win at Le Mans.
Family background and early racing career
The only son of Glasgow Member of Parliament Sir William Mitchell-Thompson, he was educated at Winchester public school. A keen sportsman while there, Peter Selsdon later wrestled professionally using the stage name "White Eagle". His father was the Postmaster General who helped shape the future of British TV in the Selsdon Report of 1935 that set out the future structure of the BBC.
Encouraged by his mother, Peter took up motor racing at that time – racing at Brooklands and making his Le Mans debut in a Frazer Nash TT Replica in 1935. His most notable pre-war result was fourth in his next Le Mans appearance in 1939 when sharing a Lagonda V12 and fellow nobleman Lord Waleran.
Selsdon served in the Royal Navy during World War II – his service on gunboats recognised with the award of the Distinguished Service Cross in 1943.
Post-war success at Le Mans
Racing resumed at Le Mans in 1949 and Selsdon entered a new Ferrari 166MM with which he and former two-time winner Luigi Chinetti won by a lap. Selsdon did not take over the car until 4.26am and he handed back to the Italian at 5.38 but he was a Le Mans winner after just 72 minutes behind the wheel.
His final appearance in the race came in 1950 but his Ferrari 195S crashed out in the 17th hour. Also a competitor on the Monte Carlo Rally, Selsdon was on the council of the BARC and lobbied on behalf of the sport in British Parliament.
Still only 49 years old, he was travelling to New Zealand aboard the SS Baron Garioch when Selsdon fell ill off the west coast of Africa. He died and was buried at sea.