Willy Mairesse

Willy Mairesse, 1961. Copyright LAT Photographic (www.latphoto.co.uk), 2010. Used with permission.

Willy Mairesse, 1961. Copyright LAT Photographic 2010. Used with permission.


01 Oct 1928


02 Sep 1969



Grands Prix:

12 (1960-1965)

With his top-line career ended by injury, Mairesse committed suicide in his holiday apartment in Ostend. Fast, tough and wild, Willy was a good driver who did well in sportscars, winning the 1962 and 1966 Targa Florio, the 1963 Nurburgring 1000kms and the 1965 Challenge Shell Berre, which was a competition run by Shell to find the best all-round driver in rallying, hillclimbing and circuit races. Mairesse was the son of a timber merchant and this allowed him the necessary capital to start racing, initially in rallies, in the early 1950's. He won the 1956 Liege-Rome-Liege rally in 1956 in a Mercedes 300SL which he then piloted in sportscars. He impressed Ferrari enough in sportscars to get a chance with the team in Grand Prix's but his career was littered by crashes which he was lucky to survive. Willy also enjoyed ski-ing in his spare time. At the end of 1966, Mairesse initially retired from racing to become a sales agent for Campagnolo Rims and also started his own business, a Honda dealership selling mopeds and motorised ploughs. Persuaded to come back to racing, he confined his outings to only the big events - Le Mans, the Spa 24 Hours and so on. In one of his last planned events, he crashed heavily at Le Mans where he suffered serious injuries with physical and mental impairment to some degree which spiralled him into depression.

Biography last updated 19 Apr 2020