JJ Lehto

JJ Lehto

Jyrki Juhani Järvilehto, better known as "JJ Lehto", (born January 31, 1966 in Espoo), is a racing driver from Finland.

He was a protégé of Finnish 1982 Formula One World Champion Keke Rosberg, who first suggested that Jyrki Järvilehto would abbreviate his name to the more manageable JJ Lehto, much as Rosberg had done before him ("Keke" being derived from Keijo, his own given name).

Early career

Like many racing drivers he began in karts at age 5, winning numerous events, before graduating to Formula Ford at the early age of age 14. A switch to single seaters saw him dominate the Scandinavian Formula Ford and win the coveted British Formula 3 title in 1988. He was driving for Pacific Racing. In 1989 Järvilehto drove in Formula 3000, again for Pacific Racing. The season wasn't successful and he didn't score any podium finishes. Järvilehto didn't participate in the last race which was held in Dijon-Prenois.

Formula One career

In 1989 Lehto tested for Ferrari before making his Formula One debut for the Onyx team. Financial difficulties forced the small team to quit Formula One in the summer of 1990 leaving Lehto free to move to Scuderia Italia, where he remained until the end of the 1992 season, when the Italian squad also withdrew. During that time he collected his only podium finish in the 1991 San Marino Grand Prix.

In 1993 Lehto signed for the new Sauber team, who had moved into Formula One from Sports car racing, where he partnered Karl Wendlinger. Despite failing to repeat his 1991 podium result, Lehto scored a respectable 5 points before signing for the front-running Benetton team to partner Michael Schumacher in 1994.

Sadly, when it appeared Lehto was finally to receive his break in Formula One, disaster struck. A testing accident at Silverstone shortly before the beginning of the season forced him to sit out the first two races with an injured neck. Lehto made his return at the ill-fated 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, in which Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna were killed. In that race, Lehto's Benetton stalled on the starting grid and was ploughed into by Pedro Lamy's Lotus. Instead of stopping the race to clear the track of debris and then restarting the race (which was the normal procedure at the time), race officials decided to bring out the safety car to lead the cars around the track until the track was clear. Some people believe that the loss of tyre temperature and pressure that results from such an extended period of low speed driving may have contributed to Ayrton Senna's fatal crash on lap 6.

Benetton were fighting for the constructors title in 1994, and despite a sixth place finish in Canada, Lehto lasted only four races before once more being replaced by Jos Verstappen, who the team felt was in better form at the time. Lehto made two more appearances for Benetton while Schumacher was suspended in the latter stages of the season, but by now, with his confidence terminally damaged, it was clear that Lehto's Formula One career was effectively over. Benetton replaced him with Briton Johnny Herbert. Lehto was then drafted in to the Sauber team for the final two events of the 1994 season, races which would be his last in Formula One.

Post-Formula One career

After his Formula One career stranded, advised by his manager Keke Rosberg, Lehto joined the German Touring Car Championship, DTM, in 1995 and 1996. Even though rated highly, victories eluded him, but this loss was probably made up by his successes in GT and sports car racing.

He was a late addition to the 1995 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a McLaren F1 GTR, but he won the race outright, at his third attempt, sharing the car with Yannick Dalmas and Masanori Sekiya. He had three more guest appearances in the same car the next year, winning another race, before he got picked up by BMW to join the factory squad in the inaugural FIA GT season, partnering the talented Steve Soper. Even though success came initially easily (a highlight must surely have been winning in front of his homecrowd at the Thunder In Helsinki event), the might of Mercedes-Benz caught up with the McLarens and left Lehto conceding the title to former DTM rival Bernd Schneider.

After an unsuccessful 1998 campaign as a Mercedes-Benz factory driver in the American-based single-seater CART series with Team Hogan, Lehto stayed States-side but returned to the BMW camp, which entered their V12 LMR sportscar racer in the American Le Mans Series, ALMS. Even though he ended up winning four races, JJ lost the title on the account of a formality (he wasn't awarded the points gained for winning the 12 Hours of Sebring because he didn't have an American racing license back then). 2000 proved less successful as the near-unbeatable Audi R8 entered the scene.

BMW and Lehto stayed in the ALMS series, but stepped down to the baby GT-class with the controversial M3 GTR. The team was virtually unbeatable but Lehto lost out in the championship to the driver he shared the car with, Jörg Müller, as the latter had more fastest laps and laps in the lead to his name.

He found the M3 already not fast enough to his liking, so it was not surprising when Lehto turned down BMW's offer to join them in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) the following year, having to race a near standard 320i tin-top racer. 2002 started with unemployment, but he was picked up by Cadillac as an addition to their Northstar LMP sportscar programme at Le Mans and in the ALMS series. Although the car wasn't on the pace of the Audi R8s or Panoz LMPs, the car's fortunes did seem to turn for the better when it started to notch up regular podium finishes in the second half of the year. Cadillac's mother company General Motors pulled the plug on the project, leaving Lehto again without a job if it hadn't been for Champion Racing, who offered him a drive in their Audi R8.

Lehto won four times in 2003 (including the prestigious Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta), but it wasn't until the factory Audi squad left the ALMS series that he was finally able to reap full rewards in 2004 and score his first championship success since his 1988 title in the British Formula 3, picking up six victories on the way.

A disappointing second half of the 2005 season prevented him from scoring double championship success, but nonetheless he managed to end his last year in full-time racing on an impressive note when winning both the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans again.

In 2006 it was announced the Solaroli team would purchase two Porsche RS Spyders to be entered in the ALMS series. One car would be driven by Lehto, partnered by Johnny Herbert. However, even though getting confirmation about the deal going through in early 2007, nothing ever materialized.

Lehto did show up at the 2007 edition of the 24 Hours of Daytona to team up with Colin Braun and Max Papis in the Krohn Racing Pontiac-Riley. His first participation in the event wasn't a success though as the car suffered from misfire, ending up with it, after having spent quite its share in the pits, finishing 17th only.

In 2008 he has made an unexpected return to the race tracks when he showed up at the Malaysian Grand Prix to drive in the Speedcar support race, taking over the #90 car previously vacated by Narain Karthikeyan.

In 2001 Lehto joined Finnish television as an expert race commentator.

Complete Formula One results

(F1 driver results legend 2)
Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 WDC Pts
1989 Moneytron Onyx Onyx ORE-1 Ford BRA
SMR
MON
MEX
USA
CAN
FRA
GBR
GER
HUN
BEL
ITA
POR
DNPQ
ESP
Ret
JPN
DNPQ
AUS
Ret
- 0
1990 Monteverdi Onyx Formula One Onyx ORE-1 Ford USA
DNQ
BRA
DNQ
- 0
Onyx ORE-2 Ford SMR
12
MON
Ret
CAN
Ret
MEX
Ret
FRA
DNQ
GBR
DNQ
GER
NC
HUN
DNQ
BEL
ITA
POR
ESP
JPN
AUS
1991 Scuderia Italia SpA Dallara BMS-191 Judd USA
Ret
BRA
Ret
SMR
3
MON
11
CAN
Ret
MEX
Ret
FRA
Ret
GBR
13
GER
Ret
HUN
Ret
BEL
Ret
ITA
Ret
POR
Ret
ESP
8
JPN
Ret
AUS
12
12th 4
1992 Scuderia Italia SpA Dallara BMS-192 Ferrari RSA
Ret
MEX
8
BRA
8
ESP
Ret
SMR
11
MON
9
CAN
9
FRA
9
GBR
13
GER
10
HUN
DNQ
BEL
7
ITA
11
POR
Ret
JPN
9
AUS
Ret
21st 0
1993 Sauber AG Sauber C12 Sauber RSA
5
BRA
Ret
EUR
Ret
SMR
4
ESP
Ret
MON
Ret
CAN
7
FRA
Ret
GBR
8
GER
Ret
HUN
Ret
BEL
9
ITA
Ret
POR
7
JPN
8
AUS
Ret
13th 5
1994 Mild Seven Benetton Ford Benetton B194 Ford BRA
PAC
SMR
Ret
MON
7
ESP
Ret
CAN
6
FRA
GBR
GER
HUN
BEL
ITA
9
POR
Ret
EUR
24th 1
PP Sauber AG Sauber C13 Mercedes JPN
Ret
AUS
10

Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results

Year Result Team Car Class
1990 Ret Richard Lloyd Racing / Italya Sport Porsche 962C GTi C1
1991 9 Porsche Kremer Racing Porsche 962CK6 C2
1992 DNP
1993 DNP
1994 DNP
1995 1 Kokusai Kaihatsu Racing McLaren F1 GTR GT1
1996 9 Gulf Racing / GTC Racing McLaren F1 GTR GT1
1997 Ret Team BMW Motorsport / BMW Team Schnitzer McLaren F1 GTR GT1
1998 DNP
1999 Ret Team BMW Motorsport / BMW Team Schnitzer BMW V12 LMR LMP
2000 DNP
2001 DNP
2002 12 Team Cadillac Cadillac Northstar LMP02 LMP900
2003 3 Champion Racing Audi R8 LMP900
2004 3 ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 LMP1
2005 1 ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 LMP1

References

External links

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