Mark Donohue

Mark Donohue was more than just a race car driver. He was an engineer, a team leader, a visionary, and a pioneer. Mark was the man who helped shape Penske Racing into one of the most successful and respected teams in motorsport history.

He was the man who drove the legendary Porsche 917/30, the most powerful and dominant car ever to race in the Can-Am series. Mark was the first American driver to win a race in the Indy Racing League, and he also raced in various sports car events, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Jacky Ickx.

He was a man of many talents, a master of speed, and a pioneer of innovation. In this article, we will celebrate his achievements, his passion, and his legacy. Mark Donohue was not just a racer, he was an engineer, a leader, and a legend. He was the American F1 pioneer. His first nickname was “Captain Nice” but as he started to win races this was changed to ‘Dark Monohue’.

Mark Donohue – Early Life

Donohue was born in Summit, New Jersey, in 1937, and graduated from Brown University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He started racing in 1952, driving a Corvette in local events.

He soon switched to a Jaguar and won several races in America. In 1954, he was invited to his first international race, the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, where he drove a Ferrari.

Mark Donohue – Move to Europe

Mark Donohue F1

He moved to Europe in 1955, and continued to race Ferraris in sports car events, such as the Tourist Trophy and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He also made his first attempt at qualifying for a Formula One race, the Italian Grand Prix, but failed to make the grid.

In 1971, he finally made his F1 debut, driving a Penske-prepared McLaren at the Canadian Grand Prix.

He qualified tenth, and finished third, becoming the first American driver to score points in F1 since Dan Gurney in 1968.

He also raced at the US Grand Prix that year, finishing sixth.

Mark Donohue – Indy car career

Donohue skipped the 1972 season to focus on his Indy car career, where he won the Indianapolis 500 and the USAC National Championship.

Mark Donohue – Return to F1

He returned to F1 in 1974, driving for Penske’s own team. He scored his first and only F1 podium at the Swedish Grand Prix, finishing second behind Jody Scheckter.

Donohue continued to race in F1 until 1975, driving for Penske and March. He participated in 16 World Championship races, and started 14 of them.

Mark Donohue achieved three podium finishes and scored eight points. He also raced in numerous non-Championship races, winning one of them: the 1975 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch.

Donohue’s career, along with Roger Penske’s F1 aspirations, took a tragic turn at the Austrian Grand Prix in 1975.

During practice, Donohue lost control of his Penske PC1 and crashed into a fence. A track marshal was killed by a flying wheel, and Donohue suffered a severe head injury. He was taken to a hospital in Graz, where he died two days later from a cerebral hemorrhage.


Mark Donohue was one of the most versatile and accomplished drivers of his generation. He raced in different disciplines, continents, and eras, and faced some of the greatest drivers in history.

Mark never gave up on his passion for racing, even when he faced challenges and disappointments. He is a true legend of motorsport.

Donohue’s racing tradition is carried on by his son, David Donohue, a successful road racer in his own right.


By Jonny Noble

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Jonny Noble I’m a dedicated F1 Writer – and I’ve Been One for Over Four Decades, I’ve been intimately immersed in the world of Formula One for more than 44 years. That’s longer than most professional commentators can boast! As an independent writer, I offer a unique perspective on the entire F1 landscape, free from biases that might cloud the discussion. We dive deep into the exhilarating, frustrating, and captivating facets of the F1 universe. So, regardless of my amateur status, one thing is undeniable: four decades of dedicated F1 fandom have forged strong opinions worth exploring!