- April 27, 1943
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Dr. Helmut Marko is a renowned adviser for the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team, less known for his short but successful racing career.
He recorded nine starts in the Formula One World Championship in 1971 and 1972. His greatest success in a racing career was a victory at 1971 Le Mans 24 Hours, together with Gijs van Lennep in a Porsche 917K. A year before, he finished third overall at Le Mans and first in class P3.0 in a Porsche 908.
His racing career prematurely ended in July 1972, during the French Grand Prix, when a stone hit his helmet and permanently blinded his left eye.
Born in Graz, Austria, in April 1943, Helmut Marko spent his school days with another famous driver, Jochen Rindt, the 1970 Formula 1 World champion. The two of them could tell a story or two about their teenage years, but the passion for motorsports is the one constant that remained through the decades, with each one of them becoming successful in the field in his own way.
Marko competed in Formula 1 in 1971 and 1972, driving for Ecurie Bonnier, Yardley-BRM, and Austria- Marlboro BRM teams, but he never won a single point from 10 starts. His career ended in 1972, after the accident at the 1972 French Grand Prix when a stone hit Marko’s helmet, broke a visor and left the unlucky Austrian without the left eye. After that accident, a regulation that all drivers must wear a helmet with bulletproof polycarbonate visors came to power.
Marko had more success in endurance racing. Sharing the seat of Porsche-Martini 917k with Gijs van Lennep, he had won 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1971, setting the new distance record which was unbeaten till 2010.
One of the memorable moments in Helmut’s career was the Targa Florio race in 1972. Driving an Alfa Romeo 33 at public roads through the mountains of Sicily, Marko set some unbelievable times. Two laps before the end of the race, he was two minutes behind the leaders Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari in Ferrari, but after some mad driving, he reduced the gap at the end to only 17 seconds. His lap time of 33 minutes and 14 seconds still stands as the Targa Florio record.
Before he entered racing at the international level, Helmut Marko became a doctor of law. As a successful businessman that could never leave the racing world, Marko managed some very well-known names like Gerhard Berger.
He also had his own team RSM Marko which has competed in Formula 3 and Formula 3000. From 1999, that team was running under the name Red Bull Junior team.
In the same time, Marko became responsible for the Red Bull driver development programme. Many future champions graduated and were under Marko’s supervision. The four-time Formula 1 champion with Red Bull Racing Sebastian Vettel is definitely the most successful product of that program.
Since 2005, Marko works as an adviser to the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team and has many credits for the success the team has made in the most popular racing championship.
Before Red Bull, Marko worked for Ford and Renault, but the key moment in his life was meeting Dietrich Mateschitz, a lifetime racing enthusiast. The two came to an idea to form a racing team, but they were short of money.
Over the years, Red Bull grew bigger, and after some time, the energy drink company was able to finance the idea of the two businessmen. Mateschitz had funds and enthusiasm while Marko had knowledge and experience. Despite all the problems, their cooperation is still alive and ambitions are at the highest level.