Josef 'Jo' Gartner
- January 24, 1954
- June 01, 1986
- Not Active
Josef Jo Gartner (1954-1986) was a racing driver from Austria who was active for ten seasons between 1977 and 1986, recording eight starts in the Formula World Championship in 1984 and gaining some success in sports car races, including a victory at Sebring 12 Hours in 1986. He lost a life in an accident during the Le Mans 24 Hours race on June 1, 1986.
Race technician became a race car driver
Born in January 1954 in Vienna, Josef Gartner had been employed as a technician in the Kaimann Formula Super Vee team in 1972. A few years later, he bought and modified his own Formula Vee chassis, entering some hillclimb events in 1976 and then European Formula Super Vee Championship in 1977.
In his first Super Vee season, Gartner was ninth in the championship. Next year, he scored his maiden victory and finished third in the points. He recorded few more Formula Super Vee starts in 1979 but his main competition was the Formula 3, both in the German and European championship.
Driving for Helmut Marko in the BMW M1 Procar Series
In 1980, Gartner made a debut in the European Formula 2 Championship, driving an old March-BMW. His first race was on April 13 at Hockenheim. Austrian driver Markus Höttinger had been killed in a crash during a race. Later in the season, Gartner participated in four more F2 races, not scoring points.
Höttinger's death opened a door for Gartner in the BMW M1 Procar Series in which he was driving for Austrian former F1 driver and team owner Helmut Marko. Racing against F1 stars, Gartner finished 13th in the Procar Series standings. His best race result was the fourth place at Donington.
Racing in Formula 2 until 1984
In 1981, Gartner continued to compete in Formula 2, recording five starts with old Toleman TG280-BMW and one start with new March 812-BMW. He managed to score one point. In 1982 F2 season, Gartner spent a season with Team Merzario, again scoring one single point.
In 1983, driving his own Spirit 201-BMW, Gartner scored his maiden F2 victory at Pau Grand Prix after a provisional winner Alain Ferte was disqualified. It was Gartner's only podium result and he finished sixth in the points. He participated in three more F2 races in 1984 but his main job was to drive for Osella team in Formula One.
Eight Formula 1 Grand Prix starts with Osella
Gartner's victory at Pau Grand Prix and good overall result in 1983 Formula 2 season brought him a sponsorship which enabled him to enter Formula One World Championship in1984. He secured a part-time schedule with the Italian team Osella, as a teammate to Piercarlo Ghinzani.
Gartner managed to qualify for San Marino Grand Prix in his first attempt with Alfa Romeo V12-powered Osella FA1E. In the race, he retired after 46 laps. In his next race, the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, he was the new turbocharged Osella FA1F. He retired after a first-lap crash with few other cars.
Fifth place at Monza as F1 career's highlight
After mechanical failures in the next two races (Germany and Austria), Gartner finished 12th at the Dutch Grand Prix, five laps behind race winner Alain Prost (McLaren). In September, at Monza, Gartner finished fifth but he wasn't eligible to score points because he was driving the team's second car.
Until the end of the season, Gartner participated in two more races, at the European Grand Prix at Nürburgring (12th) and at the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril (16th).
Fourth place at 1984 Spa 24 Hours
Outside Formula 1, Gartner participated in several European Touring Car Championship races with Bastos Juma Racing Team, driving a BMW 635 CSi. His best result was the fourth place at Spa 24 Hours, together with Pierre-Alain Thibaut in the #3 BMW.
After securing no seat in the 1985 Formula 1 season, despite talks with Arrows, Toleman and Osella, Gartner switched his career to sports car racing.
Fourth place at 1985 Le Mans 24 Hours
He joined John Fitzpatrick Racing to drive the #33 Porsche 956B in selected rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship. He and Kenny Acheson retired at Monza while his co-driver at Silverstone's retirement was David Hobbs.
In June 1985, Gartner made a debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the #33 Porsche 956B with David Hobbs and Guy Edwards. They narrowly missed a podium, finishing in the fourth place behind three Porsches.
1986 Sebring 12 Hours victory with Bob Akin's Porsche
In December 1985, Gartner joined Bob Akin in his Porsche 962 at Daytona 3 Hours, the final race of the IMSA GTP Championship, finishing in the sixth place.
Early in 1986, Gartner rejoined Bob Akin for three races of the IMSA GTP Championship, retiring at Daytona 24 Hours, finishing third at Miami Grand Prix and winning the Sebring 12 Hours. At Sebring, his teammates in the #5 Porsche 962 were Bob Akin and Hans-Joachim Stuck. Later in the season, Gartner participated in two more IMSA races with Bob Akin's team. The last one was at Lime Rock Park in May.
Driving for Kremer Racing in 1986
In Europe, Gartner joined Kremer Racing to drive Porsche 962C in the Interserie and the World Sports-Prototype Championship.
In March, he scored Interserie victory at Thruxton. In April, he was second at ADAC Sport Auto Supercup at Nurburgring. In May, he and Tiff Needell finished third at Silverstone 1000 Kilometers.
Losing a life at Circuit de la Sarthe
During his night stint, at 2:10 am on Sunday morning, Gartner's car suffered a mechanical failure on the Mulsanne Straight. He turned hard left into the barriers at about 260 km/h. The car hit a telephone pole and caught fire. Gartner was killed immediately. He was the last fatal victim at Le Mans 24 Hours race in the next 27 years, until Allan Simonsen's death in 2013.