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Ralph Firman

Full Name:
Ralph David Firman jr
Born:
20th May 1975 (Age 45)
Norwich, Norfolk
Nationality:
British
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The name of Ralph Firman was already well known in racing circles by the time that this British youngster started to establish himself. Ralph Sr was responsible for the most successful Formula Ford marque of all-time – Van Diemen. He established the Norfolk-based constructor in 1973 and ran the company until selling it to Don Panoz in 2002.

Background and early racing career

Despite growing up in such a motor racing environment, Ralph Firman Jr initially wanted to be a farmer. But karting success in 1992 persuaded him to reassess his ambitions. That decision was vindicated in his first season racing cars despite breaking an ankle in a mid-season cycling accident. However, Firman still won the 1993 Vauxhall Junior Championship and was recognised as Britain’s most promising talent of the year by being named as the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner.

Fourth in the 1994 Vauxhall Lotus series, he then enjoyed two successful seasons with Paul Stewart Racing in the British Formula 3 Championship. Denied the 1995 title by Oliver Gavin at the final round, Firman beat Kurt Mollekens and Jonny Kane to the 1996 British F3 Championship.

He then won the end-of-season Macau GP despite not leading a lap and crashing in the second heat. That incident blocked the track and Firman was declared the winner as he was ahead on aggregate a lap before the race was stopped.

He raced in Formula Nippon and Super GT in Japan for the next six seasons and finally secured a national title for PIAA Nakajima Racing in 2002. Formula Nippon Champion that year with the team’s Reynard 01L-Mugen, he also finished as runner-up in the GT series.

Formula 1 with Jordan

But it was a surprise when he joined Jordan Grand Prix for the 2003 Formula 1 World Championship. Thus far racing as an Englishman, Firman declared Irish nationality in deference to his mother and perhaps his new team owner. His Jordan EJ13-Ford was eighth in Spain to score a solitary championship point in a year blighted by accidents. He was especially lucky to escape a 150mph practice crash in Hungary after his rear wing fell off.

Firman did not retain his F1 drive so he returned to Japan to compete in the Super GT Series – winning the 2007 title with Daisuke Itō and an Aguri Suzuki-run Honda NSX. He retired from racing at the end of 2013 and later lived in Monte Carlo while running Pure Precision Engineering near Snetterton.