Joakim “Jo” Bonnier began his motorsports career in the 1950s, initially participating in rallies and ice racing. His talent in motor racing led him to compete in sports car events with Alfa Romeo starting in 1955. The following year, he made his Formula 1 debut at the Italian Grand Prix with the Maserati team. Although his first outing ended in a mechanical failure, Bonnier showed promise behind the wheel.
In 1957, Bonnier joined Scuderia Centro Sud, competing in four races but failing to score points. He achieved a notable fourth-place finish in a non-championship race in Caen. The 1958 season marked his first full season in Formula 1, racing his own Maserati. While his championship results were modest, he secured a second-place finish at Caen. Later in the season, he joined BRM and finished fourth at the Moroccan Grand Prix, hinting at his potential in the sport.
Bonnier’s pinnacle in Formula 1 came in 1959. At the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort, he achieved a remarkable feat by securing pole position and winning the race. This victory at Zandvoort would remain his only win in Formula 1.
The subsequent seasons saw Bonnier struggle to replicate his earlier success in Formula 1. He led races in Argentina and Monaco in 1960 but ultimately finished behind the leaders. His fifth-place finishes in Monaco and the USA were his best results that year. Meanwhile, he found more success in sports car racing, winning the Targa Florio and the 12 Hours of Sebring with Porsche, along with other podium finishes.
Bonnier joined Porsche’s Formula 1 team, partnering with American driver Dan Gurney. While Gurney achieved notable success, including near-victories, Bonnier’s best result with Porsche was a fifth-place finish in Great Britain. He excelled in non-championship Formula 1 events, securing multiple second-place finishes.
In the following years, Bonnier raced for Rob Walker’s team and later for Brabham, but he did not achieve significant results in Formula 1. He continued to score occasional points and remained active in the sport until 1971, having competed in 104 Formula 1 races.
Jo Bonnier dedicated himself to sports car racing in 1972. Tragically, during the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 11, 1972, after 18 hours of racing, Bonnier was involved in a fatal accident with a Ferrari. This accident brought an abrupt end to the career of the skilled Swedish driver at the age of 42.