DRIVERS: JO GARTNER
Name: Jo Gartner
Date of birth: January 4, 1954 - Vienna
Date of death: June 1, 1986 - Le Mans Circuit, France
There are many Formula 1 drivers who have an easy ride into Grand Prix racing, their progress aided by sponsorship or personal finance. But there are others who struggle to reach the ultimate goal in the sport. Austrian Jo Gartner did it the hard way.
Born in Vienna in 1954 Gartner was in his early twenties when he bought a Super Vee car and began racing. In 1978, his second season of racing, he was quick enough to finish second in the European Super Vee Championship and as a result of that impressive achievement he decided to move into the European Formula 3 Championship in 1979, once again running his own operation. He then decided to take a huge gamble and move to Formula 2 in 1980 with a two-year-old March chassis.
In the years that followed Gartner was a perennial Formula 2 runner with old and often unreliable cars. He ran an old Toleman in 1981 and earned himself a drive with the Merzario team but the cars were not very competitive and so in 1983 Gartner went back to running his own operation with a Spirit which he ran under the EMCO banner. That year there was a chaotic race at Pau with rain and many accidents. Gartner and Alain Ferte, fighters both, disputed the lead right to the finish line, Ferte minus the nosebox of his Maurer. When the car was weighed it was underweight and Gartner was declared the winner.
That win brought Gartner a higher profile in Austria and in 1984 he landed sponsorship from the Milde Sorte tobacco company. This enabled him to gain the second Osella drive, starting out with an old normally-aspirated V12 engine. Later he was given a turbo and at the Italian GP he managed to finish fifth.
That winter he was in the running for the second Arrows-BMW but his rival and compatriot Gerhard Berger landed the deal and Gartner had to settle for a sports car drive with the Fitzpatrick Porsche team. He finished fourth at Le Mans that year sharing a Porsche 962 with David Hobbs and Guy Edwards. The following year he was offered a job by Bob Akin in America and with the Kremer team in Europe and he started the year with a tremendous victory in a Coca-Cola Porsche which he shared with Akin and Hans Stuck in the Sebring 12 Hours, the car finishing the race on three wheels.
At Le Mans he was racing a Yokohama-sponsored Kremer car with Sarel van de Merwe and Kunimitsu Takahashi when something apparently broke and the car turned sharp left on the Mulsanne Straight. The car hit the barriers at around 160mph, was flipped back across the track and ended up in flames on top of the barriers on the opposite side of the road. Gartner was killed in the impact.