Mark Blundell

Biography: Mark Blundell is one of those British racing drivers who will feel that he never had the chance to fulfil his enormous potential in Formula One.

Unlike most of his contemporaries in the top flight, Mark eschewed the usual route to the top via karts for a junior career on motorbikes. From the age of 14, he raced at the top level of schoolboy motocross, becoming a top 36 nationally-ranked rider and winning many championships. Having achieved all he felt he could on two wheels, Mark, now 17 years old, transferred his abilities onto four wheels, and immediately set about becoming one of Britain's rising stars in Formula Ford. His debut season proved remarkably prolific, as the second places in both British Junior championships (despite 25 race wins, 24 pole positions and 21 lap records) were followed winning by both the Golden Helmet and a prestigious Grovewood Award. The following season proved that 1984 had been no fluke, as Mark took the Esso British and Champion of
Mark Blundell is one of those British racing drivers who will feel that he never had the chance to fulfil his enormous potential in Formula One.

Unlike most of his contemporaries in the top flight, Mark eschewed the usual route to the top via karts for a junior career on motorbikes. From the age of 14, he raced at the top level of schoolboy motocross, becoming a top 36 nationally-ranked rider and winning many championships.

Having achieved all he felt he could on two wheels, Mark, now 17 years old, transferred his abilities onto four wheels, and immediately set about becoming one of Britain's rising stars in Formula Ford. His debut season proved remarkably prolific, as the second places in both British Junior championships (despite 25 race wins, 24 pole positions and 21 lap records) were followed winning by both the Golden Helmet and a prestigious Grovewood Award.

The following season proved that 1984 had been no fluke, as Mark took the Esso British and Champion of Snetterton FF1600 crowns. Having achieved his aim of winning a title, Mark moved into the higher FF2000 category later in the year, and promptly won the BBC Grandstand series but, for good measure, returned to the 1600 class to take pole for the European Cup event, and finish fourth overall - with fastest lap - amongst the best of the world's FFord drivers at the annual Brands Hatch Festival.

1986 was no less successful, either, as a full season in FF2000 netted the European crown and runners-up spot in Britain.

Maintaining his reputation for not sticking to motorsport's traditional ladder of progression, Mark then decided to skip Formula 3 in favour of the bigger, more powerful F3000 machines. One step away from grands prix, many expected him to fall on his face but, despite running in an under-funded car, Mark produced a series of promising displays. And, just to prove that he wasn't avoiding the category altogether, he also tried his hand at five F3 races with the TOMS-Toyota outfit.

His performances in 1987, whilst producing race wins, had done enough to attract the attention of some of F3000's big guns, and Mark was duly offered a works Lola seat for 1988. This allowed him to concentrate fully on his racing, and duly netted sixth overall in a closely contested season.

The following year, Mark continued to contest the international series, but already had his eye on higher things. His F3000 displays again saw him attract offers from other sources, landing a factory seat with the crack Nissan sportscar team and a testing contract with the equally rated Williams F1 outfit for the year.

Both deals continued into 1990 although, by now, Mark had decided to give up on the pursuit of F3000 glory. It didn't seem to affect him, however, as he took the Nissan to pole position for the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours - the youngest driver ever to do so, and in a new outright lap record.

Once again, his reputation as a driver to watch saw Mark progress upwards, this time to the holy grail of Formula One. His debut season in the top flight saw a sixth place finish with the Brabham Yamaha team in Belgium, whilst still continuing to test with Williams.

The increasing decline of the Brabham team saw Mark unfortunately cast onto the F1 sidelines the following season, but he was able to pick up a full-time testing role with the McLaren team that would stand him in good stead for the future. He was far from idle between tests, either, racing sportscars for the factory Peugeot outfit, and adding a race victory to his earlier pole position at the Le Mans 24hrs.

Back in Formula One the following season with Ligier, Mark took his first podium finishes with third places in both South Africa and Germany, to seal tenth overall in the world championship. Again, however, he found himself on the move at the end of the year, but was picked up by Tyrrell to lead its charge the following year.

A third place in Spain would prove to be the high point of 1994, before again being left out of the reckoning by a lack of sponsorship. This proved to be something of a blessing in disguise, however, as Mark was quickly snapped up by former employer McLaren to replace the retiring Nigel Mansell. Teamed with future world champion Mika Hakkinen, Mark recorded five top six finishes to again take tenth spot in the championship race, and added a fourth place at Le Mans to his growing sports-car collection.

When McLaren signed David Coulthard for 1996, Mark decided to seek his fortune elsewhere, and ventured across the Atlantic to sample the CART Champcar series. A debut year with the PacWest Racing Group saw him take third overall in the Rookie of the Year contest, and top six finishes in the US500, Detroit and Michigan races, netting the Valvoline and BRDC North America Awards along the way.

Race wins in a major championship finally came Mark's way in 1997, as he notched up victories at Portland, Toronto and Fontana en route to sixth overall in the CART series. His performances were such that he was to be voted British Competition Driver of the Year by readers of Autosport magazine and also be presented with the BRDC ERA Award.

A disappointing season in 1998 left Mark bewildered and languishing further down the points standings than he would have liked, and injury early in 1999 - after a massive crash in testing left him with broken vertebrae and he again wound up outside the top 20.

Retained by PacWest for a fifth straight season, Mark again contested the CART Champcar series in 2000, partnered by Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin. It was a tough year though and Mark only scored 18 points and slumped to 21st in the championship standings. His team-mate Gugelmin in comparison scored 39 and was fied 17th.

In 2001 Mark and PacWest agreed to an amicable split. With the CART scene no longer holding competitive prospects, Mark switched his attentions back to a European base. Racing wise though the Brit was not able to undertake a full season of racing due to the MB/PW agreement and MB, thus concentrated on his MG Le Mans program.

Despite not finishing the 24 Hours of Le Mans the MG Lola EX257 impressed on it's debut, qualifying one-two in the LMP675 and before both cars retired - one after four and a half hours and the other just after the 12-hour mark - the MG had reached as high as third overall within two hours of the start of the race and also established the fastest wet weather lap, with a blistering third fastest time overall.

Away from the track Blundell joined British television company ITV and featured at a number of F1 Grand's Prix as a studio analyst with Tony Jardine. Mark additionally joined the BBC2 Motorsport team - for the first CART race to be held in Britain, at Rockingham on September 22 - and his TV commitments also involved filming features for the Pulling Power motoring programme.

Mark also became an advisor for young driver Philip Glew. Glew competed in the 2001 Avon Junior Formula Ford Championship and is a close family friend.

For 2002, Mark again combined racing and media interests. His plans were led by an expanded MG programme, which included a run in the British round of the World Rally Championship, in addition to a regular studio expert role with ITV's Formula One coverage and regular presenter duties for Carlton Television's Pulling Power Series.

The Le Mans 24 Hours was once more the focus for Mark's on-track activities as he renewed his partnership with MG and the X Power brand to lead a six driver line-up with the MG Lola EX257. His role with the famous British marque was also broadened as he took on the position of ambassador for the MG brand, promoting and advising the company on its various motorsport activities.

The following year [2003] marked another turning point in Mark's career, although once again he concentrated primarily on sports-car racing and television duties for ITV.

For Le Mans he joined Team Bentley, teaming up with former sparring partner Johnny Herbert and Australian ace David Brabham to lead a two-car effort for the famous British marque.

The warm-up at the 12 Hours of Sebring went well, with Mark taking third spot, while the second Bentley came home fourth. Le Mans itself was also success, and although Bentley won, unfortunately for Mark, Johnny Herbert and Brabham, they had to settle for the runners-up spot, just two laps behind team-mates, Guy Smith, Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen. From 2004, Mark concentrated more and more on his TV career as well as launching '2MB Sports Management Ltd' with Martin Brundle - a new driver management company, something that was confirmed in January 2005. 2MB Sports Management Ltd has since gone from strength to strength and now represents a number of drivers, including the likes of Gary Paffett, Mike Conway, Tim Bridgman and Will Stevens.
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