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Formula 3000

In 1988, Johnny and the Jordan team moved up to F3000 together. Their title challenge began promisingly at Jerez with victory first time out in the Jordan Reynard 88D-Cosworth DFV.

Johnny drove for Eddie Jordan in F3000

Unfortunately, Johnny's luck deserted him during the second round at Vallelunga, where he was injured in a crash whilst dicing with Gregor Foitek for the lead. As a result of that accident, he had to sit out the next round at Pau, returning to finish 7th in the fourth round at Silverstone. Next was Monza, one of the best races of Johnny's career - this is how the 1988/89 Autocourse Annual recounted it:

"The star in Italy was Herbert, the plucky Briton focus for the attention of the tifosi. Unable to refire his engine when the race was restarted (following Giroix's massive crash), then balked by a multi-car dust-up at the first chicane, Johnny produced perhaps the drive of the year in clawing his way back to a brilliant third place at the flag. His car control in the Camel Reynard was awesome, and the bark of that Cosworth as he jabbed the power, his right foot buried earlier than anyone, will long ring in the ears of those who heard it." - With grateful acknowledgement to Autocourse.

In August 1988, Johnny was asked by Team Lotus to stand in for its regular drivers during tyre testing at Monza, where he immediately outpaced the reigning World Champion, Nelson Piquet. Unfortunately, at Brands Hatch on the 21st of that month, Johnny was involved in a dreadful multi-car accident. It was one of the worst accidents ever seen in F3000, and it prematurely ended Johnny's F3000 season when he sustained serious injuries to his feet and ankles.

The first start of that fateful F3000 race

The Autosport race report, and a series of TV screenshots, capture the crash in all its horror. Some may choose not to read the report or see the photos but they have been included here as a historical record as one of the most important events in Johnny's career.   

This is how Johnny remembered it, in his F1 Racing column in 1998:

"I remember lying in intensive care while all the doctors were debating what to do with me. What I didn't know was that they were all convinced of one thing: my driving career was over. Initially it was a question of which bits they might cut off. Then when they realised what I did for a living, it was more a case of how they would try to fix the mess, and whether I'd ever walk again. I was ignorant of all this, but my parents and Becky, my wife, had to bear all of it.The remains of Johnny's car are carried away after the accident. Photo copyright Paul Harvey.

"I got a lot of press because of the accident, and of a lot of people thought my career was over. But when it's you lying there you can't afford to think that way. You daren't. I just got into a recuperation programme as soon as I could and worked as hard as I could. If I got back into racing then it was going to be worth all the effort and the pain.

"For years afterwards, bits and pieces of grass or rubber would work their way out of my feet. I think the last bits appeared in 1991! Recovery is an interesting exercise. You learn a lot about yourself in those situations; you can't rely on what other people tell you. Doctors are pessimistic. If I'd listened to them, I'd have been in bed for a year. As it was, I crashed at the end of August and I was driving a Benetton in December. If you work hard enough at something, you can overcome all sorts of problems."

Through sheer hard work, grit and persistence, Johnny was back, only seven months after that crash, making his stunning Formula 1 debut...

Race Results - Japanese F3000

1991	Circuit			Pos'n	Out (laps)
3 Mar	Suzuka			5th
24 Mar	Fuji			7th
14 Apr	Fuji			DNF	Transmission (23)
12 May	Mine			2nd
26 May	Suzuka			DNF	Accident (21)
28 Jul	Sugo			DNF	Clutch (8)
11 Aug	Fuji			DNF	Engine (16)
29 Sep	Suzuka			7th
17 Nov	Suzuka			DNF	Transmission (10)
30 Nov	Fuji			6th

Car: Ralt RT23-Mugen (number 25). Team: Suntory West
Final Ranking: 10th (7 points - limited under the scoring system)
Champion: Ukyo Katayama

1990	Circuit			Pos'n	Out (laps)
4 Mar	Suzuka			19th
15 Apl	Fuji			10th
15 May	Nisi-Nippon		DNF	Spin (17)
27 May	Suzuka			DNF	Puncture (9)
29 Jul	Sugo			7th
12 Aug	Fuji			DNF	Spin
2 Sep	Fuji			5th  
23 Sep	Suzuka			6th
28 Oct	Fuji			DNF	Electrics (31)
18 Nov	Suzuka			DNF	Accident (0)

Car: Reynard 90D-Mugen (number 25). Team Itariya.
Final Ranking: 18th (3points)
Champion:Hitoshi Ogawa (died 1992)

With thanks to Iori Kurisu and Takeshi Katoh.

Race Results European F3000

1988	Circuit			Pos'n	Out (laps)
17 Apl	Jerez			1st
8 May	Vallelunga		DNF	Accident (45)
23 May	Pau			DNS	Recovering from accident
5 Jun	Silverstone		7th
26 Jun	Monza			3rd	Fastest lap and lap record
17 Jul	Enna-Pergusa		DNF	Clutch (0)
21 Aug	Brands Hatch		DNF	Major Accident (22)
Did not compete for the rest of the season.

Final Championship standings:

1    Roberto Moreno (BR)	43
2    Olivier Grouillard (F)	34
3    Martin Donnelly (GB)	30
4    Pierluigi Martini (I)	23
5    Bertrand Gachot (B)	21
6    Mark Blundell (GB)	18
7    Gregor Foitek (CH)	15
8=   Johnny Herbert (GB)	13
8=   Eric Bernard (F)	13
10   Jean Alesi (F)		11

Formula 1 debut

Every effort is made to ensure factual accuracy but
no responsibility is accepted for this information.
The photo of Johnny's wrecked F3000 car was
used by kind permission of Paul Harvey
Last revised 30th January 1999.
All rights reserved.