4 February 2019

Bergers... Fascinating F1 Facts: 67

There have been two Formula 1 drivers by the name of Berger, both of them with the initial G.

Everyone in the modern era knows of Gerhard Berger, the slightly loopy Austrian who raced in F1 between 1984 and 1997, winning 10 victories with Benetton, Ferrari and McLaren and finishing third in the World Championship in 1988 and 1994. He then went on to become the head of competition at BMW during the company's F1 activities between 2000 and 2003 and then in 2006 became a co-owner of Scuderia Toro Rosso, leading to the team's one and only F1 victory with Sebastian Vettel driving at Monza in 2008. In recent years Berger was head of the FIA Single Seater Commission and since March 2017 has been head of ITR, the promoter of the DTM Series.

But very few people know anything about the other Berger in F1. Georges, better known as Jojo, a Belgian who raced had occasional outings in Formula 1 cars, but enjoyed more success as a road racer.

Berger was one of that unfortunate generation who were born at the wrong time and ended up losing six years or more of their racing careers because of the Second World War.

Berger was 20 when the war began and so was not able to go racing until 1948, nine years later, when the economies of Europe began to pick up after the cataclysmic conflict between 1939 and 1945.

His first race was at Chimay in 1947 where he drove a pre-war 1.5-litre Alvis in the Grand Prix des Frontières sur Alvis. The following year he got his hands on a Formula 2 car called a Jicey, which was a reworked version of the BMW 328, which had been built by Jean Caillas and raced by Eugene Martin. Using this car, Berger finished third at Chimay in 1950. He was an all-rounder. Having also competed in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1949 and later a string of Tours de France and other road races of the era, winning his class on two occasions, paired with Willy Mairesse in 1961 and Lucien Bianchi in 1964.

In 1953 he was entered for the GP des Frontieres but the aristocratic Madame de Walckiers, who owned a Simca-Gordini, and finished fifth and then ran the same car in the Belgian GP at Spa, where he retired after just a handful of laps. The following season, he had the chance to race a factory Gordini on several occasions, which included a fourth place at Rouen. After that his career turned mainly to road races and rallies and, sadly, he was killed at the wheel of a Porsche 911 in the 1967 Marathon de la Route - an 84-hour race around the old Nürburgring in 1967 - at the age of 48.

His son Jacques raced Alfa Romeo touring cars with much success in the 1970s and then became a technical delegate with the FIA, a role he held until the end of 2016.

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