Ricardo Londono

Ricardo Londono

8/8/1949 - 18/7/2009

Ricardo was a much better driver than he is often credited with and though he never actually took part in official qualifying, he could lay claim to being Columbia's first Formual One driver.

Born in Medellin, Colombia, Ricardo Londono-Bridge competed in local stock cars races in the 1970s establishing a fine reputation at circuits such as Tocamcipa and Volador. He also raced motorcycles locally.

In 1979 in raced outside his native land competing at Sebring in the 12 hour race with John Gunn and George Garces in a Porsche 935 Turbo. They retired but they drove together again in the 250 mile race at Daytona where they came 18th.

He started 1980 at the Daytona 24hrs driving with with Mauricio de Narvaez and Albert Naon in Mauricio's Porsche Carrera, finishing 2nd in the GTO class and an impressive 7th overall. At Sebring, driving with with de Narvaez, they came 10th in GTO class and 26th outright.

Entered under the Londono Bridge Racing Team banner he entered a Lola T530 Chevrolet (HU6) in the 1980 Can-Am championship. The first round was the SCCA Citicorp Can-Am Challenge held at the Golden State International Raceway in Sonoma, California. Ricardo finished 6th. After an 11th at Mid-Ohio he was 5th at Mosport though he was four laps down on Patrick Tambay and Stephen South in first and second, also driving Lola T530 Chevrolet. At Road America he came 6th just behind Stephen South and at Brainerd he came 8th. He retired on the first lap of round 8 at Road Atlanta and finished 9th at Laguna Seca. He finished with another 6th in the final round at Riverside International Raceway leaving him 12th in the Can-Am Championship.

He finished his season by travelling to England for the final round of the Aurora F1 championship, the Pentax Trophy at Silverstone, driving Colin Bennett's aging ex-Mario Andretti Lotus 78. After an off in practice, he qualified 18th, 11 seconds slower than Emilio de Villota on pole, though to be fair the car was less than competetive. In the race he did better, coming home in 7th.

He was back at Daytona at the begining of 1981 for the 24 Hour race driving the Red Lobster Racing GTO BMW M1 with Kenper Miller and Dave Cowart. They retired after 346 laps.

However his goal was to enter F1 and he had a budget that was very attractive to some of the smaller teams. Ensign were coming of a poor season in 1980 during which Clay Regazzoni suffered career-ending injuries in the N180. So in 1981 when Colin Bennett bought into Mo Nunn's team, Ricardo was entered to drive an upgraded N180 at the Brazilian GP at Jacarepagua. The track was first used in 1978 but had been replaced by Interlagos until 1981. The FIA thus allowed an 'acclimatisation' testing session on the Wednesday before the race weekend. Ricardo participated in this test even though he was still waiting for his Super Licence. Ricardo put in a best time of 1:41.77, and though he was four seconds slower than the best time set by Carlos Reutemann, he was none the less quicker than Nelson Piquet, René Arnoux, Derek Daly, Bruno Giacomelli, and Jean-Pierre Jabouille and was within a second of the times set by Gilles Villeneuve, Alan Jones, John Watson, Patrick Tambay, Keke Rosberg and Andrea de Cesaris.

However he did have a slight coming together with Rosberg's Fittipaldi and though he performed pretty well, FISA refused to issue the eccessary licence. Luckily Marc Surer was in Brazil despite being replaced by Ricardo. Surer was thus given the drive with the Colombian's sponsorship. Surer qualified 18th and in a wet race, he finished an amazing 4th and setting the fastest lap.

Ricardo was then offered a drive by Alan Docking in the previous year's Docking-Spitzley Racing Team ex-Rothengatter Toleman TG280-Hart.

He qualified on the back of the grid at Pau in June, but drove a steady race to finish 9th. At the Gran Premio del Mediterraneo at Enna in July he outqualified a number of up and coming drivers such as Christian Danner, Johnny Cecotto and Paolo Barilla but unfortunatly retired with engine problems. Next was the Grand Prix de Formule 2 Belgique at Spa. Once again a good qualifying effort was negated by retirement due to a flywheel failure on lap 15. His final F2 appearance came at Donington where he qualified 23rd but did not start after crashing during the warm-up.

In 1983 he returned to sports car racing entering the Sebring 12hrs in a Phoenix JG-1 Chevrolet with John Gunn. They retired in the race but came 6th at the Daytona 250 miles in July.

He drove a Chevrolet Corvette with Tommy Riggins in 1984. They retired in the Charlotte 500 and the three hour race at Daytona, where he shared the driving with Luis Londono. His final race was the GTO race in Miami where he drove a Pontiac Firebird and once again retired.

Ricardo Londono was killed, along with two of his business associates, when they were gunned down in the Boca de Tinajones beach resort, near Cispata Bay in San Bernardo del Viento, where he ran a hotel.

The hotel was one of the few assets he was permitted to keep after the Colombian authorities seized property worth $9.96 million which were deemed to be acquired from the proceeds of drug trafficing.

 

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