Former F1 driver Robert Doornbos – a man affectionately known as “Bobby D” in ChampCar circles – is celebrating his 29th birthday today!
Doornbos competed in eleven Grands Prix starts with Minardi (2005) and Red Bull (2006) with a best finish of twelfth place, before achieving critical success in ChampCar’s final season, threatening Sébastien Bourdais’ run to the championship crown with two race wins.
Born into a well-connected Dutch family, Robert originally pursued a career in tennis before his interest in motorsport was sparked at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix when he visited Spa-Francorchamps as a guest of a Williams sponsor.
He made his motorsport debut the following year in the Formula Opel Lotus championship, moving on to the Formula Ford Benelux series, where he finished fifth in his debut season.
Two seasons in Formula 3 again proved successful, and he stayed on with the Ghinzani team as it graduated into Formula 3 Euroseries in 2003. He joined Formula 3000 with Arden in 2004, winning at Spa and finishing third overall in the championship.
His F1 debut came as Jordan’s Friday driver in 2005, but by mid-season he was poached by Minardi as a replacement to Patrick Friesacher. Withstanding the mind tricks that team-mate Christijan Albers tried to throw at him, he acquitted himself well enough to be signed as Red Bull’s third driver in 2006.
When Christian Klien was given the heave-ho, Robert again stepped up to the plate for the final races of the season, but the team had ceased development on that year’s car, leaving he and team-mate David Coulthard as midfield makeweights.
When hopes of a role at Toro Rosso for 2007 went up in smoke, he turned to former Minardi boss Paul Stoddart and joined the Minardi Team USA ChampCar team, finishing on the podium on debut (a feat not achieved since Nigel Mansell in 1993). An outstanding ‘Rookie of the Year’, he took his first race in at Mont Tremblant and backed that up with a win from the tail of the field at San Jose. He would finish third in the overall standings that season.
ChampCar’s demise saw Robert without a drive, although he made a few guest outings in A1GP – winning at Algarve – and in the SuperLeague Formula series.