Born in Summit, New Jersey, on 18 March 1937, Mark Neary Donohue Junior was a brilliant American racecar driver. Mark Donohue had a reputation for being able to set up his own car and drive it consistently. The bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering that he received from Brown University in 1959 must have certainly helped him in this regard. He started racing casually at the relatively young age of 22 in a 1957 Corvette – the car which gave him his first win. He started networking with a number of different SCCA drivers and eventually met Walt Hansgen. Hansgen was an experienced race driver who recognised Donohue’s talent and became his mentor. He encouraged Donohue to make good use of both his natural driving talent and his great working knowledge of vehicle mechanics – something which always proved to be an advantage to Donohue.
In 1965, Hansgen invited Mark to co-drive a Ferrari 275 at the Sebring Endurance Race. The team finished eleventh in the race and Donohue was catapulted onto the international sports car racing scene. The following year Donohue was signed up to drive a GT-40 MK II racecar for the Ford Motor Company. His first year with the company was rather unsuccessful and he finished 51st. The following year, he again raced for Ford – this year with much more success. Despite constant disagreements with his co-driver Bruce McLaren, the team managed to finish 4th in the endurance classic. In 1967, Mark Donohue dominated the United States Road Racing Championship in a Lola T70 MkIII Chevy. He was driving for Roger Penske – one of the most influential figures in his racing career. During that year he won six of the eight races he competed in. The following year, Donohue continued to enjoy a superior season – dominating in most of the races despite mechanical problems with his McLaren M6A Chevrolet.
Things continued to go well for Mark Donohue and before long he started his Trans-Am career which was also highly successful. He raced his first Indianapolis in 1969, finishing seventh and taking the rookie of the year award. The following year he finished second and in 1972 he won the race. During all this time he continued to drive for Roger Panske. In 1973, Donohue took to NASCAR racing driving in the Winston Cup Series. During this time Penske had been working with Donohue to help develop the 917/10 Porsche. Donohue offered his extensive enginnering knowledge to help make the Porsche the best car on the track – though not all the choices he made where good ones. Before long the two started working on the 917-30 – the car which came to be known as the ‘Can-Am Killer’. The body was completely reworked to make it more aerodynamic, while the car features a 5.4 litre turbocharged Flat-12 engine which could reach an output of 1500 bhp. The car dominated every competition it entered, except one, and is still today seen as one of the most dominant racing cars to ever be created. Donohue went on to enjoy a short Formula One racing career before his untimely death in 1974 in a racing accident. He was eventually inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.