Our new database page will launch shortly.

Martin Donnelly

Full Name:
Hugh Peter Martin Donnelly
26th March 1964 (Age 56)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Most recent race (in database):

Martin Donnelly could not be accused of rushing his career in its formative years – competing for three seasons in Ireland (culminating in the 1983 national Formula Ford 2000 title), two in British Formula Ford 2000, and another three in British Formula 3. But his career took off late in 1988 when he emerged as the pacesetter in FIA Formula 3000.

Success in Formula 3 and F3000

He was third in the 1986 British F3 Championship with Swallow Racing’s Ralt RT30-Volkswagen before struggling to sort his new Reynard at the start of the following campaign. A mid-season switch to the Cellnet-backed Intersport team reinvigorated his fortunes. Third in the final standings once more, he ended 1987 by winning the prestigious Macau Grand Prix.

Donnelly began 1988 among the title favourites but abruptly quit the team and series in August to replace Thomas Danielsson in Eddie Jordan’s F3000 squad. His debut at Brands Hatch was overshadowed by the serious injuries suffered by Michel Trollé, Gregor Foitek and team-mate Johnny Herbert. Amid the gloom, Donnelly won the restarted race. He confirmed his potential by finishing second in the next two races and winning at Dijon-Prenois. He had only started five rounds but Donnelly was third in championship.

It was no surprise that he was favourite to win the 1989 F3000 Championship although disqualification on a technicality after winning at Vallelunga soon set the tone for a frustrating and accident-prone campaign. He was untouchable at Brands Hatch once again but was overshadowed by team-mate and eventual champion Jean Alesi.

Formula 1 with Arrows and Lotus

Donnelly made his Formula 1 debut for Arrows in that year’s French GP and he joined Lotus-Lamborghini for 1990. Seventh in Hungary, Donnelly crashed at around 140mph during practice at Jerez and his broken body was thrown clear of his shattered Lotus 102-Lamborghini. His multiple fractures included severe breaks to both legs and although he eventually recovered, one leg was significantly shorter than the other and he walked with a pronounced limp thereafter.

Lucky to be alive, he did not race at that level again but he formed Martin Donnelly Racing that was successful in Britain’s junior categories.