Mark Dono­hue was a true ac­tion hero

F1 Racing - - RACER’S EDGE -

And so we were away. Mark was pa­tient and de­tailed. Noth­ing was too much trou­ble. When it was time to leave I asked him if he would sign my copy of his re­cently pub­lished au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, The Un­fair Ad­van­tage. “Sure,” he said. “Pass it over.” “To Peter,” he wrote. “Even tho’ it’s all true, don’t be­lieve it... Mark.”

That book re­mains, in my view, the best ever writ­ten about our sport. Paul Van Valken­burgh, Mark’s co-au­thor, should take much of the credit, but there’s no doubt that the words are Mark’s. I love the cover sketch, too – the work of Ellen Griesedieck, Sam Posey’s very tal­ented wife. The Mark I knew that sum­mer was quiet, hum­ble and re­served. There wasn’t much ‘fun’ to his rac­ing but at least he was there, in F1, driv­ing on the world’s great­est cir­cuits. The big dis­cus­sion was whether they should re­place the new Penske with a pro­duc­tion March. With Roger in Read­ing, Penn­syl­va­nia, and Mark in Poole, Dorset, the re­la­tion­ship was strained. I re­mem­ber Mark talk­ing about it at length, con­fid­ing in me in a way that scared me a lit­tle. He used phrases like “I re­ally don’t know if I can go on with this...” For my part, I could only re­ply with the ob­vi­ous: “It’ll come right. Things can change very quickly...” And so they or­dered a March. I watched Mark test it at Sil­ver­stone, and saw him smile for the first time in weeks. But even then, an eerie lone­li­ness shrouded Penske.

As I drove away from the Sil­ver­stone pad­dock, hav­ing filed my copy, I no­ticed Mark over to my left, by the old petrol pumps there, wash­ing his black Porsche 911 road car. Hose, soap suds, chamois leather – the lot. No one else was around. Mark’s Gucci loafers were drown­ing in pud­dles. “Need a hand?” I asked. “Thanks, but no. I love wash­ing the car. Gives me time to think…”

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