JULY 19, 2009

Former F1 driver murdered in Colombia

Ricardo Londono Bridge, who hoped to become the first Colombian to race in Formula 1, back in the 1980s, has been killed in his native country. The 59-year-old was killed on Saturday along with two associates as they were leaving a spa in the town of San Bernardo del Viento, close to Cispata, where Londono owned a hotel. Two other men were injured in the shooting. Police and soldiers carried out operations track down the killers in the area but no-one was arrested. Londono had lost most of his $10m property empire in 2000 when the Colombian government seized it, claiming that it had been acquired using money made from drug trafficking.

Londono's racing career was short but controversial. He started out racing bikes and stock cars in Colombia and in 1979 raced a Porsche in the IMSA series before moving on to a Lola in CanAm in 1980. At the end of the year he took part in one round of the Aurora AFX British F1 Championship in a Colin Bennett Lotus. He raced in the Daytona 24 Hours in 1981 and then signed a deal to race for the Ensign F1 team in Brazil. He took part in an pre-event acclimatisation session at the Jacarepagua circuit in Rio, on the Wednesday before the race, setting some decent times, ahead of some better known drivers but ended up having a collision with Keke Rosberg's Fittipaldi. After that he was denied the all-important superlicence by the FIA and Ensign replaced him with Marc Surer, who not only went on to qualify, but finished fourth. Although he did not practice Londono was officially the first Colombian Grand Prix driver as an entry was made and accepted in his name. Later that year he did some Formula 2 races before disappearing back to IMSA. He retired in 1985.