Former F1, GT and sports car driver JJ Lehto (Jyrki Juhani Järvilehto) has been sentenced to two years, four months in jail on charges stemming from a 2010 boating accident. The Finnish ex-driver is appealing.
The accident occurred Friday, June 17, 2010 around 4 a.m. when Lehto and a friend were speeding down a narrow canal connecting two coves in the city of Raasepori on the southern tip of Finland. The boat hit a bridge support, injuring Lehto and killing his companion.
At the scene Lehto denied he was driving but investigators determined, based on the injuries the two received, that there was no way the other person could have been at the wheel. Lehto failed an alcohol test at the scene, registering 0.253.
The boat was apparently traveling at 40 knots (46 mph) down a quarter-mile long, seven-foot wide canal in which the speed limit was five knots (5.8 mph.) Both passengers were thrown clear on impact; the boat burned and sank.
Lehto swam ashore to summon help, despite having head injuries and broken ribs. The body of his passenger was not recovered until several hours later.
The 45-year-old Finn was convicted of endangerment, aggravated manslaughter, and boating while intoxicated. He has been released pending the outcome of his appeal. The court also ordered Lehto to pay more than €100,000 for funeral expenses, damages and compensation and support for his dead friend’s children.
Lehto raced in Formula 1 from 1989–1994, and also in FIA GT (1996–1997,) IndyCar (1998) and the American Le Mans Series (1999–2005). Lehto won the ALMS championship in 2004, the Le Mans 24 Hours twice (1995, 2005,) Sebring 12 Hours twice (1999, 2005,) and Petit Le Mans once (2003.)
The former driver began a second career as a broadcaster in 2001, providing commentary for Formula 1 races for Finland’s MTV3.