Former Grand Prix drivers Bob Bondurant and Helmut Marko are celebrating their respective birthdays!
Turning 78 today, Illinois born Bondurant raced triumphs and Corvettes with some distinction,but his big break came in 1963 when he raced Carrol Shelby’s AEC Cobra at Denver. He won his class on debut and was signed full-time for 1964 as team leader when the outfit headed to Europe to contest the classic long-distance races.
His best finish with a fourth place at the Le Mans 24 hours to win the GT class driving alongside Dan Gurney.
In 1965 he was racing Cobras and Ford GT is on top of a number of drives in Formula 2 and Formula 3. His performances led him to be invited to race the works Ferrari in place of the injured John Surtees at the end of the year.
The 1966, you signed with Bernard white’s private BRM team – finishing fourth first time out at Monaco (pictured) – while also competing in sports cars with Ferrari and Porsche.
The huge accident in 1967 at Watkins Glen nearly finished his career, but incredibly, he made a return to racing in 1970 in the Can-Am series. Thereafter, he raced in the odd SCCA and NASCAR event, but spent more time setting up his racing driver schools.
While most F1 fans today will know Helmut Marko as Red Bull’s rather outspoken and acerbic advisor, the Austrian – turning 68 today – was also an accomplished racing driver in his own right.
A close friend during his teenage years with Jochen Rindt, Marko graduated with a law degree before concentrating on his own motorsport ambitions. Having quickly gained a reputation as an excellent sports car driver, he was signed to Formula 1 with BRM for the second half of the 1971 season.
His performances earned him a full-time drive with the team the 1972, and he started well with fourth place finish at the non-championship Brazilian Grand Prix. Having qualified career-best sixth for the French Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand, his helmet visor was shattered by a flint during the race which lodged itself in his left eye.
Somehow, Marko was able to bring his P160 to a halt without a massive accident, but the sight in his injured eye was ruined, and a potentially great racing career was cut tragically short.
Realising you can still contribute in a management capacity, Marko ran Renault’s competition activities in Austria, going on to establish a successful Formula 3000 team to help blood young drivers. He has headed up Red Bull’s young driver programme over a decade, and is the lead team’s chief advisor.