One of the great technical drivers of his era, Mark Donohue won the Can-Am sports car championship in a Porsche and scored the first of three McLaren victories in the Indianapolis 500 driving Roger Penske’s private M16B in the 1972 running of the Memorial Day classic.
Late in 1970 Roger and Mark had come to the UK to buy a Lola Indycar, but after they dropped by at McLaren to see what the team had in mind they immediately switched their order to acquire one ofthe new M16Bs. That was the start of a relationship which would eventually see Donohue take over the works M19 A F1 car for the 1971 Canadian GP at Mosport Park, the car resprayed in Penske’s blue livery for the occasion. Mark found the car difficult to drive, echoing the concerns of previous incumbents Denny Hulme and Peter Gethin, but the American drove well to finish third behind Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell and Ronnie Peterson’s March.
In 1974 Penske decided to build his own F1 car, but in 1975 switched to a customer March 751. During the race morning warm-up for the Austrian GP Donohue suffered a tyre failure and crashed heavily on the fast right-hander beyond the pits at the Osterreichring. Despite initially sitting up and talking, it soon became clear that a blow on the head had inflicted severe brain injuries on the American driver and Mark died in a Graz hospital three days later.