Jonathan Palmer

Born in London in 1956, Jonathan Palmer was the son of a doctor. From childhood he was passionate about racing. As a student he raced an Austin-Healey Sprite and then a Marcos and tried his hand at Formula Ford but he did not have the money to make much progress. He qualified at Guy's Hospital Medical School in 1979 and became a houseman in a hospital in Sussex but it soon became clear that he could not do this and race and so in 1981 he took a sabbatical from medicine to race in Formula 3.

Money was short and Palmer had to be creative to get the cash he needed but at the wheel of a West Surrey Racing Ralt RT3 he was able to get ahead with four wins at the start of the year and held on to win the title from Thierry Tassin and Raul Boesel. Suddenly he was the man of the moment and landed a Ralt Honda Formula 2 drive and a test drive with Williams. The Ralt-Honda was the package to have and Palmer won the European title in 1983. He also made his debut in F1 in a third Williams at the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch.

In 1984 he scraped together a budget to join the RAM Automotive team and in 1985 and 1986 became a paid driver with Zakspeed, while also competing in sports car racing, finishing second at Le Mans in 1985. That year he suffered a serious accident in qualifying his Canon-backed Richard Lloyd Porsche at Spa and broke his right foot. In 1987 he was hired on a three-year contract by Tyrrell and in 1988 won the Jim Clark Trophy as the best-placed driver of a non-turbocharged car competing in the World Championship.

By the end of 1989, however, Palmer had been eclipsed by Jean Alesi and in 1990 he signed to become McLaren test driver for the next three years. After the death of James Hunt in 1993, Palmer took over as Murray Walker's partner commentating on the Formula 1 World Championship for BBC Television, a role which lasted two seasons.

Palmer then began to develop a corporate entertainment company and acquired a 50-year lease on a 400-acre portion of an old airfield in Bedford and got planning permission to turn it into a four-circuit facility. He also launched his own racing series, known as Formula Palmer Audi and moved into driver management with Justin Wilson. In recent years Palmer has bought control of the Brands Hatch circuits and is now developing them along similar lines.