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Johnny Dumfries is the heir to one of the oldest and richest families of the British nobility, the Stuart family. He chose the pseudonym ‘Dumfries’, named after the Scottish town, to disguise his social origins. Johnny Dumfries had a passion for cars from an early age and began his racing career in 1980. At the same time, he worked as a painter and decorator to finance his debut. He even became a bus driver for the Williams team.
After a stint in the Formula Ford 1600, he entered the British Formula 3 championship in 1983, winning 14 races and being crowned champion the following year. The same year, he also became vice-champion of Europe in Formula 3 behind Ivan Capelli. In 1985, he joined the ranks of the new international Formula 3000 championship, while working occasionally for Scuderia Ferrari as a test driver.
In 1986 he was recruited by Team Lotus-Renault to be team-mate to Ayrton Senna. Despite his driving ability, Dumfries was not the first choice of Lotus who wanted to recruit the Englishman Derek Warwick; Ayrton Senna, who, for fear that Warwick would overshadow him according to some or for fear that Lotus would dissipate its forces by recruiting a second driver of too much value and strongly supported by the very influential British specialist press according to others, vetoed the arrival of Warwick, forcing Lotus to turn to Dumfries.
This opportunity for Dumfries quickly turned into a nightmare: clearly dominated by Senna, who scored 55 points and won two races, and marginalised by a team that was all for the Brazilian driver, he scored only 3 points and even failed to qualify for Monaco. For 1987, Johnny Dumfries was replaced by the Japanese Satoru Nakajima, imposed by the new Honda engine manufacturer. His reputation as a driver was shattered after only one season, and Johnny Dumfries did not get back behind the wheel in Formula 1. A few years later, he only did private tests for Benetton Formula.
He then turned to Group C with the Swiss Sauber team and, in 1987, won his first race, the 1,000 kilometres of Spa. At the same time, he also won the Road America 500 in IMSA GT with Dyson Racing in a Porsche 962.
He then signed with the Jaguar team of Tom Walkinshaw Racing and finished third in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1988 before winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Jaguar XJR-9LM shared with Dutchman Jan Lammers and Englishman Andy Wallace.
He then signed up with Toyota Motorsport before ending his career in the early 1990s after a final appearance in the Sarthe for the Courage team in 1991.
After his motorsport career he was known as John (or Johnny) Bute to his friends. In 1993, on the death of his father, he became the 7th Marquess of Bute and looked after the family estate at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. He died on 22 March 2021, aged 62.
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