In the world of motorsport sometimes all you need is one great victory or just one championship title to become a legend, especially if you have something extra to add. That was the case with Martin Brundle, a British racing driver who participated in 158 Formula One races between 1984 and 1996 and became the 1988 world sportscar champion and won the 1990 24 hours of Le Mans. After he retired from racing, Brundle became a TV commentator and a presenter in 1997. Since then, he worked for ITV, BBC and Sky Sports, becoming the most familiar and world's widely known TV voice and face in Formula One.
First race in a self-built Ford Anglia
Martin John Brundle was born on June 1st, 1959, in King's Lynn, Norfolk. His parents owned a car dealership, so Martin was interested in cars from the earliest days. He started racing in 1971 at the age of 12 in a self-built grass track Ford Anglia. In 1975, he switched to hot rod racing and then, in 1977, he entered the British Saloon Car Championship with Toyota Celica GT. He took one Class B victory at Silverstone.
Stirling Moss as a teammate
Brundle remained in the saloon cars competition until 1981, when he had an interesting cooperation with Stirling Moss. They both joined BP/Audi Team, operated by Tom Walkinshaw Racing, to drive #42 and #43 Audi 80 GLE for the entire season of the BSCC. Brundle took two Class B victories at Silverstone and Thruxton and finished 15th overall in the championship.
Ayrton Senna took the F3 title ahead of Brundle
In 1982, Brundle changed the motorsport discipline and entered the British Formula 3 Championship, driving for David Price Racing. With two wins and five more podiums, Brundle finished fourth in the points. This result earned him the Grovewood Award for the most promising driver in the Commonwealth countries.
In 1983, Martin proved that this award was in the right hands. Driving for Eddie Jordan Racing team, he fought for the championship title, winning five races and scoring 17 podiums in 19 races. Unfortunately, his main rival was Ayrton Senna and he took the title, with just nine points advantage over Brundle. During 1983, Brundle also competed in the European Touring Car Championship in the TWR's Jaguar XJS. He won at Donington and Zeltweg.
Disqualification after maiden F1 podium at Detroit
In 1984, both Senna and Brundle entered the Formula One. Senna joined Toleman, Brundle was hired by Tyrrell. Brundle debuted at the Brazilian Grand Prix and finished fifth. In the eighth round, at Detroit Grand Prix, he finished second. Two weeks later, at Dallas Grand Prix, Brundle crashed during a practice session and broke his ankles and both feet. He missed the rest of the season, which was marked by the disqualification of the Tyrrell's team from the World Championship due to the technical infringement, so all the results were erased.
During 1984, Brundle continued to race in selected races of the European Touring Car Championship in the TWR's Jaguar XJS, winning one race at Pergusa.
Brundle remained with Tyrrell for two more seasons in the Formula One championship. In the second part of the 1985 season, Tyrrell switched to Renault turbo engines but the results weren't improved. Brundle's best result was 7th place in three races, so he missed to collect points.
Brundle earned only points for Zakspeed
He was slightly better in the 1986 season, with fourth place at the Australian Grand Prix as his best result. In 1987, Brundle left Tyrrell and joined German team Zakspeed. He earned two points finishing fifth at San Marino Grand Prix. Those were the only points Zakspeed scored in five years of participation in Formula One.
Martin joined TWR in 1987 world championship
Bad results and a bad team in Formula One gave Martin an inspiration for a new challenge and he joined Tom Walkinshaw Racing's program in the 1987 World Sports-Prototype Championship. He debuted in the Jaguar XJR-8 at Silverstone 1000-km race, before he entered 24 hours of Le Mans for the first time. Brundle's partner in the #6 Jaguar XJR-8 was John Nielsen. They started fourth but retired after 231 laps. Still, Brundle was victorious in the next race, at 1000 km of Spa, where he shared the car with Raul Boesel and Johnny Dumfries.
World champion with astonishing Jaguar XJR-9
It was just an introduction for really successful 1988 season, that ended with the world championship trophy in Brundle's hands. He won five out of eleven races and added four more podiums and took the title with a big advantage over two Sauber Mercedes' drivers Jean-Louis Schlesser and Mauro Baldi. The #1 Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9 was victorious at Jarama, Monza, Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Fuji. Brundle's co-drivers during those races were John Nielsen, Andy Wallace and Eddie Cheever.
Victory at 1988 Daytona 24-hour race
At 1988 Le Mans race, Brundle didn't reach the finish, because the engine of Jaguar XJR-9 was broken. At the 1988 IMSA GTP Championship, Brundle finished fifth in the points, winning the first round at Daytona and the last round at Del Mar Fairgrounds, driving the GTP-spec Jaguar XJR-9. His co-drivers at 1988 Daytona 24 were Raul Boesel and John Nielsen and at Del Mar he shared the car with Jan Lammers.
Replacement for Mansel at 1988 Belgian GP
In 1988, Brundle was a test driver for the Canon Williams F1 team and he participated in one Formula One race, as a replacement for Nigel Mansell, who was ill. It was the Belgian Grand Prix in August, where he finished seventh. He had a chance to drive also at the next race at Monza, but due to commitments with TWR, Jean-Louis Schlesser jumped into the Williams' car.
In 1989, Brundle returned to Formula One for the full season with Brabham's Motor Racing Developments. The Judd-powered Brabham BT58 wasn't so competitive and Brundle even failed to qualify for Canadian and French Grand Prix. His best result was fifth place at Japanese Grand Prix and he finished 20th in the points.
Brundle had to drive two cars for Le Mans victory
In 1989, Brundle completely skipped sports car racing but returned in 1990, joining Tom Walkinshaw Racing and Silk Cut Jaguar team in the World Championship and Castrol Jaguar Racing in the IMSA GTP Championship. The new winning machine was Jaguar XJR-12.
The season started with the second place at Daytona 24-hour race, in the car that he shared with John Nielsen and Price Cobb. In May, Brundle and Alain Ferte won the BRDC Empire Trophy with an old Jaguar XJR-11. And then the biggest day of Brundle's career came.
At the 1990 24 hours of Le Mans race, Brundle was competing with two cars, together with Alain Ferte and David Leslie in the #1 XJR-12 and together with John Nielsen and Price Cobb in the #3 XJR-12. The #1 car retired after 220 laps due to electrical problems, so Brundle continued to race with Nielsen and Cobb in the #3. They won comfortably, with five laps advantage over #2 Jaguar.
One more Formula One season with Brabham
The newly crowned Le Mans winner returned to Formula One in 1991, again joining Brabham. The story wasn't much better. His best result was again the fifth place at the Japanese Grand Pix and it was the only race in the points. Brundle finished 15th in the final classification.
Brundle didn't leave sports car racing, so he participated in selected races of the 1991 World Championship. Driving the Jaguar XJR-14, he won at Monza and took a podium at Silverstone. He skipped Le Mans. In a fact, he didn't return to Le Mans until 1997.
Best ever F1 season with Benetton' team
Between 1992 and 1996, the best period of Brundle's F1 career followed. He joined Camel Benetton Ford in 1992, alongside Michael Schumacher, and it became Brundle's most successful F1 season. He scored five podiums, starting with French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours. He later finished on the podium at Silverstone, Monza, Suzuka and Adelaide and finished sixth in the points. He was closest to victory at Monza, where he finished second, behind Michael Schumacher.
Two podiums with McLaren in 1994
In 1993, Brundle was expelled from Benetton and he joined Ligier. He added one more podium to his account, finishing third at San Marino Grand Prix. In the championship classification, Brundle was seventh. In 1994, Brundle was climbing to the podium two times, at Monaco and Australia, driving for McLaren-Peugeot. The second place on the streets of Monte-Carlo was the highlight of the season, which was marked by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the previous race.
Last Formula 1 podium at Spa in 1995
In 1995, Brundle again changed the team, returning to Ligier. Honda was engine supplier for Ligier and the Japanese factory wanted Japanese driver in the team, so Brundle shared the car with Aguri Suzuki. Brundle finished fourth at French Grand Prix and reached his last F1 podium at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa in August. Brundle finished 13th in the points, in the season when he drove 11 out of 17 races.
The 1996 Japanese GP was Brundle's last F1 race
In 1996, Martin Brundle and Rubens Barrichello were teammates in the Jordan Peugeot team. After a spectacular crash at the season-opening of Australian Grand Prix, Brundle scored points in five races and finished 11th in the classification of his last Formula One season. His last F1 race was the 1996 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
Five more Le Mans attempts and four retirements
Although he wanted to stay in Formula One, there were no seats available for the 1997 season, so it was the end of Brundle's F1 career. In 158 races he scored nine podiums and set a record. He had the longest F1 career without any wins, pole positions and fastest laps.
Although he retired from full-time racing, Brundle didn't stop racing in the various competitions in the next 15 years. He participated at Le Mans five times between 1997 and 2012. In four occasions he didn't finish the race. In 1997, he drove Nissan R390 GT1 alongside Jorg Muller and Wayne Taylor. In 1998 and 1999, Brundle's car was Toyota GT-One, and his co-drivers were Emmanuel Collard, Eric Helary and Vincenzo Sospiri. In 2001, Brundle joined Stephane Ortelli and Guy Smith in the Bentley Speed 8.
Two Brundles together at 2012 Le Mans race
And finally, in 2012, Brundle returned to the Le Mans for one more 24-hour run and he finished the race. It was a special occasion because one of his co-drivers was his son Alex, the other one was Lucas Ordonez. They competed in the Greaves Motorsport #42 Zytek-Nissan and finished 8th in LMP2 class. It wasn't Brundle's only appearance with his son. They both competed against each other in three races of the 2008 Formula Palmer Audi.
Brundle returned to Daytona one more time, in 2011, joining United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing to drive #23 Riley prototype at the 24-hour race. He finished fourth, in the car he shared with Mark Blundell, Mark Patterson and Zak Brown.
Brundle started TV career in 1997
As a guest driver Brundle was driving in several different competitions and at some historical events, but since he left Formula One, his main job was to comment F1 races for TV. He started in 1997, joining the legendary Murray Walker in the commentary box for ITV.
His pre-race grid walks, that began at the 1997 British Grand Prix, through the years became customary. From 2009, Brundle was working for BBC and in 2012 he moved to Sky Sports. For his commentary work, Brundle received multiple television sports awards. The most important of all, F1 drivers respect him because they know he was once one of them.
Businessman, manager and book writer
From the early days, Brundle was really involved in the motorsport business. He ran the garage of his parents until he became a professional driver. Later he was leading the Silverstone Circuit, including three years as the Chairman of the board. Later he was a manager of some famous drivers. He managed the careers of David Coulthard, Gary Paffet and Mike Conway.
Brundle published two biographical books. In 2004, he released the book "Working the Wheel". In 2013, the second book was released, named "The Martin Brundle Scrapbook".