Johnny Herbert

  • February 13, 2014

Johnny Herbert competed in Formula One, winning three races, and also in sports cars winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1991 driving a Mazda 787B. Brands Hatch in 1985, Herbert caught Eddie Jordan’s attention, and together they won the 1987 British Formula Three title. Disaster struck in 1988, though, as Herbert, then a championship hopeful in International Formula 3000 was caught up in a major accident at Brands Hatch, badly breaking his legs in a fearsome impact with the barriers. It was an act of huge bravery that saw him back in a racing car at the beginning of 1989, despite the fact he could barely walk. Even more remarkably, he was now in Formula 1, scoring points on his debut in Brazil driving for the Benetton team, then managed by his long time mentor and friend Peter Collins.

However, Herbert’s performances could not keep up that standard, and with the Benetton team under new management, he was dropped after failing to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix. Herbert returned to Formula 3000, this time in the highly regarded Japanese series. It wasn’t long before he received another call from Grand Prix racing, this time Tyrrell. From 1990 to 2000, Herbert was a fixture in Formula One, switching to the dwindling Lotus team, now managed by Peter Collins.

During 1991, he also drove two rounds of the Fuji Long Distance Sports Car Series, co-driving a Mazda 787B, finishing fourth both times. His decision, at the July round, to stop his car and aid a fellow competitor, who had suffered a puncture at high speed, would earn him the Sportsman Award at the 1991 Autosport Awards.

After 3 years of frustration, Herbert left Lotus in mid 1994, joining Ligier and then Benetton for the last few races of the season. Although he failed to score any points in 1994, he was retained as Michael Schumacher’s team-mate for 1995. At the British Grand Prix, he inherited a hugely popular Grand Prix win after Michael Schumacher collided with Damon Hill. He followed this in similar circumstances at Monza, finishing 4th in the championship.

After being dropped by Benetton, Herbert drove for Swiss outfit Sauber in 1996-1998, scoring two podium places. Moving to Stewart Grand Prix in 1999, he was routinely outqualified by his younger team mate Rubens Barrichello but scored his third and final Grand Prix win in a remarkable wet/dry European Grand Prix. Staying at Stewart after the team was purchased by Ford and became Jaguar, Herbert endured another frustrating and pointless season, ending the year being stretchered off at Malaysia after a suspension failure caused him to crash heavily.

Since retiring from Grand Prix racing, Herbert has concentrated on Sports Cars, trying to repeat his Le Mans 24 Hours overall win of 1991. Recent years have seen him as one of the front runners in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), where he won several events and was a challenger for the 2003 crown.

In 2004, Herbert, along with Jamie Davies won the Le Mans Series championship at the wheel of an Audi R8 winning the races at Monza and Spa along the way.

In 2005, Herbert was appointed to the post of Sporting Relations Manager at Jordan Grand Prix, which was then renamed Midland F1 for the 2006 World Championship. However, in September of that year Spyker Cars bought the team, and renamed it Spyker MF1. Another of the new owners’ decisions was to not renew Herbert’s contract.

In 2007, Herbert entered the Le Mans 24 Hours driving for the factory Aston Martin team at the wheel of the Aston Martin DBR9 in the GT1 class. Herbert, along with Peter Kox and Tomáš Enge drove the 007 numbered car to a 9th placed overall finish and 4th in the GT1 class.

In 2008, Herbert won the first season of the Speedcar Series.

In 2009, Herbert made his debut in the British Touring Car Championship for Team Dynamics at the wheel of a Honda Civic at round eight of the championship, Silverstone. He qualified 17th for the first race, and after moving up the order, finished in 13th. In the second race, he finished inside the points in eighth place, scoring three points. In the final race of the day, a reverse starting grid is operated. The first six, seven, eight, nine or ten cars to finish race two, start race three in reverse order. This is decided by the winner of race two drawing a number between six and ten out of a hat. For the final race of the day, the top 9 finishers were reversed, meaning Herbert started from second. He was running well, and was holding 4th, but was forced to retire on lap 13, after contact with Jason Plato. Herbert went on to compete in the final two rounds of the season