Former Grand Prix drivers Graham McRae (71) and Luciano Burti (36) are celebrating their respective birthdays today!
New Zealand-born McRae would only be familiar to the real F1 buffs, on account of having one of the shortest Formula 1 careers in the sport’s history: a single racing lap at the 1973 British Grand Prix in a Frank Williams-run Iso Marlboro.
Despite this all-too-brief opportunity, McRae actually enjoyed a lengthy motorsport career and really deserved another opportunity in the top tier of international motorsport.
He built his own chassis in the late 1960s and headed to Europe to compete in Formula 2 with a Brabham formerly run by Piers Courage, before he moved onto his bread-and-butter: Formula 5000.
A three-time Tasman Series champion between 1971-3, he also won five Formula 5000 titles and took three wins at the Australian Grand Prix when it still held non-championship status. He raced up until the early 1980s in Can-Am.
After several successful years go-karting in his native Brazil, young Burti ventured to Europe, and finished third overall in his maiden season in Formula Vauxhaull Junior, taking four wins in Martin Donnelly’s team.
Two winter series Formula Ford crowns were his, before he moved to the senior Formula Vauxhall championship (which he won for Paul Stewart Racing). Formula 3 was next up, and he was also promoted to the role of test driver for the Stewart Grand Prix F1 team.
He beat Jenson Button into second place in the 1999 British F3 championship, but it was Button who earned an F1 berth at Williams, while Burti was consigned to the role of test driver once again (albeit now with Jaguar, with it having bought out Stewart).
His F1 debut came at that year’s Austrian Grand Prix where he replaced the unwell Irvine, and he joined the team full-time in 2001 until he was dropped and swapped with Pedro de la Rosa, joining the Prost team.
His F1 form had hardly proved sparkling, and he made plenty of mistakes – crashes and spins aplenty. He had two huge accidents just weeks apart, with the first being when he barrel-rolled at the start of the German Grand Prix after clipping Michael Schumacher (pictured), and the second occurring with an ill-thought overtaking move on Eddie Irvine at the Belgian Grand Prix.
He speared into the Blanchimont tyres at full-speed, and spent a few days in hospital before being released, but doctors advised he remain out of F1 for the rest of the season.
And aside from a brief stint as Ferrari’s second test driver in 2002, F1 turned its back on him and he has since ploughed out a career in Brazil’s stock car championship.
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