Mark Blundell (born Barnet, Hertfordshire, April 8, 1966) is a former Formula One, sports car, and CART racing driver. He is currently a Formula One commentator for the British broadcaster ITV. Blundell is married and father of two children.
He first dabbled in motor racing at the age of 14, racing motocross bikes across England. He garnered immediate success, eventually becoming one of the top-ranked riders in Britain, as well as winning a few championships. At the age of 17 he made the switch to four wheels in Britain's Formula Ford. Again, he was rewarded with instant success, and in his first season he placed second in both British Junior Formula Ford Championships (despite 25 wins and 24 poles). The following year, Mark won both the Esso British and Snetterton FF1600 crowns. The next year, he upgraded his ride to the more powerful FF2000 category, and promptly won the BBC Grandstand series. He even returned to FF1600 for the European Championship racing, taking pole, and finishing fourth overall. With 1986 came another championship in FF2000, this time the European title.
At this point in his career, Blundell decided it was time to take his continuing success, and move on to international racing. He bypassed the traditional stepping stone of Formula 3 and joined TOMS-Toyota in Formula 3000. Despite having to cope with an under-funded and under-powered car, he showed incredible talent and strung together a series of promising results, including a number of race wins. He even started a few races at F3, showing ability there as well. 1987 meant a switch to the works Lola team in F3000, at that time one of the biggest teams in the series. In a closely contested season, Blundell managed a very respectable sixth place in the final standings.
The following year, he made a deal with the crack sports car team at Nissan, landing a factory seat. He also managed a test drive with one of the top teams in Formula One — Williams. By 1990, Blundell had abandoned F3000 to concentrate on sports cars. That same year, he set a new lap record and earned pole position at the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours race — the youngest driver ever to do so.
1991 marked the biggest step forward in Mark Blundell's racing career — his Formula One debut. His debut season saw a sixth place in Belgium with the Brabham Yamaha team. He also maintained his testing deal with Williams. The following season however, he was not hired by a cash-strapped Brabham team, and was left out of racing. He did, however, sign a testing deal with McLaren. Whilst being a full-time tester for McLaren, he also continued to race sports cars. That year, with the factory Peugeot outfit, he won the Le Mans 24 Hours, adding to his earlier pole.
1993 saw the return of Mark Blundell to the pinnacle of motorsports. A drive with Ligier netted him his first two podium finishes in South Africa and Germany. He finished tenth in the final World Championship standings. It was a one-year deal with Ligier, however, and in 1994 he signed with Tyrrell. It was not as successful a year as '93, and Blundell managed only one podium finish. At the end of the season, due to lack of sponsorship, Tyrrell released him. This would prove to be a blessing in disguise, as the retirement of great Nigel Mansell meant a return to McLaren for Blundell, this time, in a race seat. Teamed with future two-time world champion Mika Häkkinen, Blundell recorded five points finishes and once again took tenth in the final standings. 1995 also saw continued success in sports cars with a fourth place showing in Le Mans. 1995 was Mark Blundell's final year in Formula One, as the signing of David Coulthard by McLaren meant that Mark would have to find a job somewhere else.
Blundell achieved 3 podiums, and scored a total of 32 championship points.
Out of Formula One, Blundell moved to the USA and joined the CART racing team PacWest Racing, with fellow former F1 driver with Mauricio Gugelmin of Brazil alongside. Mark was third in the rookie standings with three top six finishes in the U.S. 500, Detroit Grand Prix, and Michigan International Speedway races. 1997 was a breakout year, and Blundell recorded race victories in Portland, Toronto, and Fontana en route to sixth in the championship. That year he was also named British Driver of the Year by Autosport magazine. 1998 was not a year for the books, and a massive crash early in 1999 left him to languish at the bottom of the table. He returned to PacWest for a final season in 2000. However, another disappointing season — 18 pts, 21st overall — lead to a mutual split with PacWest racing.
From driving to commentating
Blundell again crossed the Atlantic to focus on his sports car racing. He failed to finish Le Mans with the MG Lola team, though both his teamates and he impressed. Off-track, Blundell joined ITV television in Britain, where he is currently an analyst during the Formula One season. He has received some criticism for his colloquial grammar, such as frequently using 'what' when 'which' or 'that' would be more suited.
Since 2001, Blundell's racing involvement has steadily declined, with only the occasional event. He did test a Dale Coyne Champ Car to help prepare Darren Manning for a one-off in the first CART race in Britain at Rockingham, and raced in the British round of the World Rally Championship.
2003 saw great success in sports cars. Along with Johnny Herbert and David Brabham, he finished second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, completing a 1-2 sweep by Bentley. He also finished third at the 12 Hours of Sebring, finishing top among the Bentleys.
Though he has never had the success of many of his counterparts, Mark Blundell boasts an extensive resumé with numerous triumphs. With his new-found success in sports cars, it appears racing will be graced with his presence for many more years.
Along with ex-racer Martin Brundle, Blundell also spends time running a management company, 2MB Sports Management, who handle the contracts of such people as McLaren test driver Gary Paffett and British Formula Three champion Mike Conway.