Today marks the 69th birthday for former Grand Prix driver (turned Red Bull honcho) Dr Helmut Marko, whose own racing career was cut short in a freak accident in 1972.
While most F1 fans today will know Marko as Red Bull’s rather outspoken and controversial advisor, the Austrian 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 won the 1971 Le Mans 24 Hours – 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, he 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 he could 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.