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Ligier: was recruitment of French drivers a good idea?


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#51 T54

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Posted 22 December 2004 - 21:10

Bigears, it was just very funny because "La Tiff" would mean "Da Hair" in slangish French. When you know how much hair Laffite had, it's totally appropriate to smile about your unvoluntary error.

The Ligier came onto their own in 1980, and with two French drivers, Jacques "La Tiff" Laffite and my late childhood friend Didier Pironi. After a 2nd and 3rd behind the Renault of Arnoux at the South African GP, Pironi convincingly beat Reutemann and Jones in the Williams in Belgium, took pole at Monaco and lead until a lap-54 brush with a barrier when a tire began to deflate. Laffite finished 2nd to Reutemann. At the following French GP, Jones took his revenge but the Ligiers again finished 2nd and 3rd. Then came Brands Hatch and a little unknown history: the two Ligiers utterly dominated until both were sidelined by what the press called "tire failures". In fact, the ultra-light wheels made by our company were subjected to so much stress that cracks developed in the inner rim sections and they just lost air, deflating the tires. Ligier had unvoluntarily found so much down force on the side pods that themselves did not believe the numbers in the wind tunnel and dismissed them as freak errors... but the same happened at Monaco, and few at the time suspected the culprit, the enormous down force on these cars which gave them such an advantage over several races in the 1980 season.
New stronger wheels were made in a hurry and Laffite won in Germany. But things unraveled from then on, Laffite salvaging a 4th in Austria while Pironi had terminal handling problems and parked the car. Lafitte was 3rd in Holland while Pironi and De Angelis collided, punting both.

Pironi and Lafitte were 6th and 9th in Italy as the cars were losing their edge. Pironi won in Canada but was disclassified to 3rd after it was found that he jumped the start, while Lafitte ran out of fuel and finished 8th. At the Glen, Pironi and Laffite were 3rd and 5th, and so ended Ligier's most successful season. Things were never to be the same again.

By curiosity, WHICH other drivers would have been better than Laffite or Pironi in the Ligiers?
Regards,

T54

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#52 jeffbee

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 11:54

In this very good interview: http://memoiresdesta...-ducarouge.html
Gerard Ducarouge says that when Ligier entered F1 in 1976 there was a test at Ricard to decide the driver, a sort of play off between Beltoise and Lafitte, who eventually got the drive.

Ducarouge says that Lafitte was quicker than Beltoise and that his friendship with Beltoise - from the Matra days - cooled quite a bit after that test.

Anybody has more information about this test? When it took place, lap times, etc.


My recollection is that Beltoise was considered to be a shoe in for the Ligier drive and was therefore content to sit out 1975 confident he'd be gainfully employed the following year. The drive with BRM had come to an end in 1974 with the team in self destruct mode. Beltoise was favoured by the Ligier team's sponsors and all the pre release publicity included him as the driver. Unfortunately there was apparently bad blood between Beltoise and Ligier going back many years, although it seems that most of the animosity was on Ligier's side. When it came to the first tests Ligier raised concerns about JPB's ability to deliver the goods, having been on the sidelines for a year, and told the sponsors it would be in everyone's interests if they also tested Lafitte so they could get a comparison. Unsurprisingly, JH was a little quicker which rather sealed JPB's fate. I had heard that legal action was considred at the time, but I don't know if it got very far.

#53 john winfield

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 13:34


By curiosity, WHICH other drivers would have been better than Laffite or Pironi in the Ligiers?
Regards,

T54
[/quote]

I've had eight years to think about your question T54. I don't know if there were any steadier drivers, who might have picked up a few more points, but Pironi in the JS11 at Brands in 1980 was the fastest thing that I had ever seen. Watching up against the fence at the top of Paddock was impressive and frightening - I'm just glad the faulty wheel didn't fail there!

#54 Jesper O. Hansen

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 17:14

Eddie Cheever has been mentioned as one of the drivers of 1982. Had that anything to do with Talbot - sponsor and intended supplier of a 1.5 turbo for the season - just about still owned by Chrysler Corp., USA at the time?

Jesper

#55 Charlieman

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 19:35

When I first read about Eddie Cheever in F3 and F2, I presumed that he was Italian. In his early days, he must have raced under an Italian licence.

I found this contemporary report about his early career:
http://sportsillustr...35739/index.htm

A quote from the above article:
"For the moment, Cheever has enough on his mind and hands just battling for the Formula II championship. He is second in the standings, in the midst of a furious struggle with point leader Rene Arnoux, 24, Didier Pironi, 22, and 23-year-old Riccardo Patrese."

Cracking stuff, as Wallace or any other A35 van owner might say.

#56 Cavalier53

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 16:52

In this very good interview: http://memoiresdesta...-ducarouge.html
Gerard Ducarouge says that when Ligier entered F1 in 1976 there was a test at Ricard to decide the driver, a sort of play off between Beltoise and Lafitte, who eventually got the drive.

Ducarouge says that Lafitte was quicker than Beltoise and that his friendship with Beltoise - from the Matra days - cooled quite a bit after that test.

Anybody has more information about this test? When it took place, lap times, etc.


Some years ago I picked up a copy of "La Formule 1 Francaise" by Claude Caillet (guess where: the Sunday morning flea market in dowtown Spa). A strange 1975 booklet, a record of making a movie about building a 100 % French F1 car. Full of quotes from contemporaries not limited to Beltoise, Laffitte, Jarier, Lafosse, Ducarouge, Pescarolo, etc.
Was this movie ever finalized?
The final chapter, pp 116-190 are about the choice of driver and the first testing of the car.
Some highlights in my free translation:
P. 120: Ducarouge: "Gitanes, who had chosen Beltoise to drive the car, which was based on numerous criteria" [follow experience, publicity]
P. 184: Nice picture of Beltoise and Laffitte in friendly conversation, despite the politics and animosity behind the scene
P. 188: Final testing with the original teapot airduct, Saturday 8 nov 1975, Paul Ricard:
Hard tires: Beltoise 1:12:1, Laffitte 1:11:0
Soft tires: Beltoise 1:12:0, Laffitte 1:10:1
Curtain drops - Beltoise had been out of competition for a year.

I am a fan of both drivers for various reasons, and look forward to the movie!


#57 BRG

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 20:48

Must have been pretty good by any standards.

Lafitte was always a bit of a favourite of mine, and one of the more underrated drivers. That 2nd in 1975 at the Ring was Williams' first really good result back in his wilderness years. Lafitte's longtime loyalty to Ligier probably held him back but his 6 F1 wins are still more than several WDCs ever managed!

#58 Cavalier53

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 06:52

it must have been '77 when Laffitte finished 2nd to Lauda in the Zandvoort Grand Prix. The Ligier was misfiring, but in the challenging high speed downhill Scheivlak righthander I timed him 0.5 secs faster then winner Lauda.
No need to explain who was my favorite!

Another interesting observation is about Jacques' driving style, often taking a line entering the corner (e.g. Tarzan) early balancing braking with entry. Not a classic "ideal line" but optimising grip vs. distance.
Another lesson learnt used in my modest Ascona career (the other the unforgettable De Adamich taking wide lines in the rain to find grip with his Alfa GTA winning the Zandvoort Trophy).

#59 eldougo

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 05:09

For those that cant get it right .....Spelling

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#60 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 08:46

For those that cant get it right .....Spelling


Yesyes, its Latiffe! :cat:

#61 eldougo

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 01:24

Dyslexia has risen since texting has been around. :well:

#62 LittleChris

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 20:13

Dyslexia has risen since texting has been around. :well:



Ture m8 :D

#63 GMiranda

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Posted 06 November 2019 - 14:10

I think Ligier could have achieved better results, but it wasn’t properly the drivers’ line-up who hampered them. It was more a question of finding enough money to be at the top – even if Guy Ligier was known for his deep connections with the French state and had some generous sponsors like Gitanes cigarettes and Elf, he wasn’t near as powerful as Renault, the state-supported manufacturer. There was another big problem, as Guy Ligier, despite being a great man and sustaining a midfielder and, occasionally, a frontrunner team, for so many years, was irascible and sometimes wanted everything his way, which led to some conflicts with drivers and chief engineers.

I always read Jean-Pierre Beltoise was the chosen man for 1976, despite being a veteran and absent from F1 for a year. However, there were some conflict from the past between them, and Jacques Laffite was noticed after being F2 Champion in 1975 (with BP support) and by some great performances with Williams between mid-1974 and 1975. For me, Laffite is one of the forgotten great drivers, as he was quite laid back and never focused himself to become a contender. Sure he wasn’t Scheckter, Lauda, Reutemann Andretti et al., but he was good enough to achieve more than what he did, just like Gerhard Berger. Nevertheless, he was younger and had some technical skills, and I understand Ducarouge and Ligier’s bias towards him late in 1975.

 

With just one car, Ligier had an interesting debut season with the Matra V12, which was a good engine, but no match for Ferrari’s and the overwhelming Cosworth DFV. Even though they were occasional points scorer, with pretty good performances and results, and in 1977 Laffite won the first race for the team, with a bit of luck, but its part of racing and they had already delivered some amazing performances that year. However, by 1978 it was obvious the next model would be a wing car, and the Matra V12 – like most V12 engines, wasn’t the best material to build a ground effect car, and was already aged. It would have been great to see Jean-Pierre Jarier in 1978, I think he tried to be part of the team, don’t know why they couldn’t expand yet that year (money issues probably), but Jarier deserved a place, instead of being sidelined for the best part of the season. Jarier was an amazing driver, perhaps one of the fastest at the moment, but he was also too laid back and extremely aggressive, which caused some avoidable mechanical issues. Nevertheless, both Laffite and Jarier would be an amazing team.

 

Well, in 1979 Gérard Ducarouge designed a tremendous wing-car, which surprised everyone on the first half of the season by being one of the main contenders for the win. I don’t believe they lost their edge because they have written the ideal set-up on a napkin after a lunch, and they lost it during or before the French G.P., instead I read on some sources that, even if their ground effect concept was great, they had some illegal trick on their shelves, and by mid-season Williams and other better funded teams had not only improved their cars, but also they knew of the trick and Ligier lost downforce and grip. There is also another factor I find extremely important – Guy Ligier had engaed two cars at last, bringing one of the greatest unrecognized drivers in F1 history, Patrick Depailler. Even if he reached F1 quite late (just as Laffite, Jabouille and most French big names from the 70’s, apart Prost, which was, in fact, on another league) and appeared quite wild sometimes, he was an aggressive driver but extremely technically-minded. Depailler was a match for Scheckter and Peterson at Tyrrell and had an ability to drive around the problems when the car wasn’t good enough, just as the P34 from 1977, something Peterson didn’t match – and Peterson, for me, is also on another league). He was also extremely regular, and his technical skills may have played a big part on Ligier’s brilliance in 1979. Both drivers were matched until Depailler had his hand-gliding accident and was immediately fired by an angry Guy Ligier (I wonder if Alfa Romeo couldn’t have done more if Depailler hadn’t died while testing the car). I didn’t know Ickx and Ligier wasn’t so keen, now I understand why the Belgian was called to replace Depailler after two years away from F1, and with a declining career since 1974 (it had a lot to do with motivation). Ickx later referred he never fancied the ground effect F1 cars and couldn’t do his best, thus he couldn’t do much more than support Laffite. Even though, the latter arrived at Monza with mathematical chances to be World Champion, which has to be praised.



#64 GMiranda

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Posted 06 November 2019 - 15:25

Ligier replaced Depailler with the greatest rising star of French motoring scene, Didier Pironi. Despite all controversies associated to him, Didier was one of the best drivers ever, and that little bit of talent he lacked to be Prost or Villeneuve or Piquet was offset by an intense dedication to hone the car set-up and an enormous focus on being the greatest. Immediately Pironi posed a serious menace to Jacques Laffite, much more than Depailler’s, and I strongly believe the ambience wasn’t the best between the drivers. The new car was, perhaps, better than 1979’s JS11, but the car had too much downforce – which caused those punctures and broken rims, the biggest example being the British GP where Ligier could have easily won a 1-2) – and has far harder to set-up, which benefitted Pironi over Laffite. There were also some rifts between Ligier and Ducarouge, which might have been determinant on some moments.

With Pironi gone to Ferrari, Ligier found himself in a dilemma. I strongly think he chose veteran Jean-Pierre Jabouille as he was already a winner and had huge technical skills, being renowned as a good engineer already with Elf 2 in Formula 2 and, then, by developing the Renault from the “Yellow Teapot” to a winning car, even if its turbo was yet extremely unreliable. It was the ideal man to develop Ligier , now that Matra, with Tlabot strong support, had returned with a brand new V12… if not for his serious leg and ankle injuries after a horrific crash at Montreal the year before. Don’t know if anybody expected Jabouille to have a complete recovery, probably yes, otherwise Guy Ligier could have engaged Jarier or Tambay…. Ironically, they would both drive for the team that season. As expected, Jabouille wasn’t fit at the season’s early beginning, and Jarier was again drafted as “super-sub”, but the new JS17, powered by a new Matra V12, wasn’t reliable. Jarier was sidelined when Jabouille was ready, but it was immediately obvious the veteran French driver was nowhere as fit as he was expected to be and his single-seater career was almost over. Laffite started to deliver some great performances and, in such a balanced season – Williams, Brabham, Ferrari and Renault fought regularly for the wins, Lotus and McLaren vied for the podiums – Laffite’s and Ligier’s consistency after the first races was rapidly rewarded as Laffite approached title contenders. In between, soundly beaten by Laffite and fighting not to fail the qualification and, surely, in pain, Jabouille took the option to retire – I think he stood as an advisor with the team – and Ligier drafted Tambay from Theodore (money was falling short) to be second driver. Tambay was another of the great drivers discovered by Elf programme, and he had already proven himself in F1 and Can-Am, but Patrick was too soft as a man to survive on the Piranha Club, and tended to perform at his best with a familiar environment where he felt valued. So it was hard for him to play second-fiddle to Laffite, as it became obvious the team hadn’t financial strength nor technical force to give two drivers the same car. Thus it was Laffite who shone, perhaps doing his best season, again winning twice and fighting for the title until the last round, despite mechanical woes forcing him to retire on two of the last four races. Laffite could hardly win, but all could happen in Vegas, and he did his best, but it wasn’t enough, while Tambay crashed after a dismal season, which made him took the decision to leave F1.

 

Come 1982 and Talbot/Matra and the French government strongly supported Ligier. It was expected the new Matra V12 was reliable and fast and able to profit from the common failure of the fastest, but extremely fragile turbo engines and, this time, Guy Ligier had finally chosen from the beginning not to hire two French drivers. The captain Laffite, who was with them since 1976 remained, but there wasn’t any great French name available, apart Tambay (which wouldn’t return), and Ligier engaged one of the most promising drivers ever, Eddie Cheever. It’s worthy to note that Cheever was always seen as a future great and was extremely precocious by late 70’s-80’s standard, and had been a shining star in F2 and part of the BMW junior programme). After one season learning his craft in F1 with Osella, Cheever surely deserved a place on a big team, and Ligier had earned a place as one of the biggest outsiders by then. However, Ducarouge had already departed after another rift with Guy Ligier and the team had to use an evolution of the previous year JS17, which wasn’t reliable nor fast. The new JS19, designed by Michel Beaujon under technical advice by Jean-Pierre Jabouille was a fiasco, and the Matra V12, after a promising season, gave a step backward (remember Matra’s F1 programme between 1968 and 1972) and both Cheever and Laffite had the worst Ligier in their hands since its beginning. Both were balanced between themselves, but Cheever had slightly better results when the car resisted the entire race.

 

Turbos were undoubtedly the future and, after such a dismal season, Matra pulled the plug (The whole Talbot conglomerate, which included Chrysler Europe, Matra and the British Rootes Group) was bought by Peugeot, which turned their attention to the soon-to-be successful WRC venture. Now that was a problem for Guy Ligier, as he finally lost Laffite. Buoyed by three seasons of success, Laffite returned to Williams, which had just won the WC title with Keke Rosberg, probably expecting to fight for wins, despite the Cosworth DFV), while Cheever had proved to be good enough to replace Arnoux at Renault, despite being no. 2 to Alain Prost. Alas, despite state intervention, Renault wasn’t able to provide one more team with Turbo engines – they had already signed with Lotus and the Hethel marque only received the engines mid-season – and Ligier had to keep the old Cosworth DFV in 1983. I think that, between its beginnings in F1 till 1982, its hardly questionable the drivers’ choice. Despite being all almost French, France had one of the best generations ever and Ligier hadn’t necessity to search outside the country, whilst this way was having great drivers and pleasing their sponsors. But in 1983, most of the French names were engaged with great teams and Laffite had left, so the obvious choice was, at last, Jean-Pierre Jarier, who came from two dismal seasons driving for the underfunded Osella. Well, they had already a French driver who had deserved better after being released by Shadow in 1976 to give his place to a pay driver (Renzo Zorzi). On the second car, it was rumoured some French F3 drivers could take his place, but money (probably) played its part when the Brazilian Raul Boesel was hired from March. Many people despised most of the Brazilian and Argentine drivers back then as most came from Europe with a suitcase full of dollars and new sponsors, but how many of them had real talent? Certainly, more than we use to attribute. Boesel came from a successful campaign on the British F3 Championship – which was as good, if not better, than the European counterpart – and drove for March in 1982. The team was based on the MacDonald’s RAM squad and, in spite of Rothmans sponsoring, had a dismal season. However, the biggest problem for Ligier weren’t the drivers not the DFV, but an awful chassis, which made Ligier drop from the top-to-midfield places to the back of the grid. Alas, if any of the drivers were good to develop the car, it would be really hard to do something with the ill-conceived JS21. And the captain Jarier was already past his prime, perhaps after those two seasons fighting to be on the grid for Osella and quickly demotivated, and became known as a mobile chicane, the biggest example being Austria, where he obstructed Tambay, which ruined his race, as he was overtaken and, then, had engine or gearbox problems caused by the rhythm changes while trying to overtake Jarier. Boesel didn’t prove he was worthy for F1 – later he found his place on Sport-Prototypes and CART, building a far respectable record – and, for the first time, Ligier didn’t score a point and, now, it was definitively a backmarker.



#65 GMiranda

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Posted 06 November 2019 - 17:40

After this huge fall, recovery would be slow and harsh. Even if Guy Ligier finally had Renault turbo engines for 1984, he lost most of Gitanes sponsorship, which was offset by French national lottery, Loto. And French drivers? Well, again all of the good ones were employed, so Guy did a strange choice. First of all, he needed a good driver to push the team up to the midfield, thus engaging the Italian Andrea de Cesaris – despite all his crashes, the Roman had delivered some superb performances with Alfa Romeo and appeared to be calming down, so it was understandable. However, he wanted a French driver and chose François Hesnault, French F3 vice-champion in 1983. Well, Hesnault proved himself to be good on the French F3 Championship, but both Ferté brothers were far better rated, and I think one of them (Michel, I presume) was quite close to take the second seat, until Hesnault was chosen. In fact, money and state connections may have played a big part in this choice, as François’ family also had several big business interests. On the first races Ligier appeared to be a points contender, with de Cesaris soundly beating Hesnault, but the car wasn’t so good and reliability issues, more than Andrea’s usual excesses, played a big part on another unsuccessful season.

 

Hoever, good news arrived late in 1984. While they kept Renault engines, Gitanes decided to put substantial money on the team again, and Jacques Laffite was free, after two dismal seasons with Williams, when he rarely had chances to fight against the super-aggressive and fast Rosberg. Thus, Guy Ligier hired his prodigal son to replace Hesnault, while keeping de Cesaris… It brought a huge problem, as Ligier was supported by Gitanes and Andrea paid by rival tobacco company Marlboro. Well, initially there was no trouble, and the new JS25 proved to be far better than its predecessors. Ligier wasn’t back on its winning ways, but Laffite immediately proved he wasn’t properly over and became a regular points scorer. And de Cesaris? Well, perhaps pressed by the arrival of the house man Laffite and the sponsor conflict, the Italian initiated a long series of mistakes, crashing car after car just as in his rookie season. It all ended at Zeltweg, when de Cesaris went to the damp grass and bank-rolled for times his Ligier, one of his trademark crashes. An irate Guy Ligier fired him immediately, even if he was allowed to drive at Zandvoort because no replacement was available. Rid from de Cesaris, Guy immediately engaged one of the French promises from F2 and F3000, known for his astounding performances with the underfunded AGS team, Philippe Streiff. The latter was also sponsored by Gitanes so, for the first time since 1981, Ligier had a 100% French line-up. The season ended with more points and some great performances by Streiff, despite being no future champion, was fast enough and, after a race of extreme attrition at Adelaide, both Ligiers were running second and third!! Guy Ligier issued team orders, but Streiff decided to attack Laffite for the second place and crashed on his teammate on the last lap. Happily for Ligier, Laffite suffered minor damage while Streiff broke his front suspension, but they had such an advantage that even Philippe, in three wheels, crossed the finish line in third!!! However, the writing was on the wall and Streiff was immediately fired… It was a pity, because he deserved better cars than the Tyrrell and AGS he had until the crash that left him paraplegic in 1989.

 

However, there were even better news for Guy Ligier. First, Renault announced its withdrawal from F1 – the Renault F1 team never recovered from the lost 1983 title – and it was rumoured Ligier would have to switch to the heavy and high-consumption Alfa Romeo engines, but Renault decided to keep its support to Lotus, Tyrrell and Ligier. And Guy had the chance to have the strongest pairing since 1980…. René Arnoux was free, after being released from Ferrari after the first race in 1985… Rumours of demotivation and lack of fitness due to “La Dolce Vita” led to his demise, but René wanted to come back and signed for Ligier. Certainly, it would be hard for Ligier to fight for the wins against far better sponsored teams with engines especially made for them, apart the pair of drivers being the oldest of the grid. Despite their age, both Arnoux and Laffite were regular points-scorers on the first half of the season, as the new JS27 was the best car the team had since 1982. Reliable and fast, Ligier reached mid-season on the fourth place at the Manufacturers’ Championship, beating in the process Ferrari, Brabham and the new Benetton squad, and were on the verge of a double podium at the US Grand Prix!!!! Sadly, for them, Jacques Laffite suffered severe leg injuries when he was involved on a huge pile-up at the start of the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch and was sidelined for the rest of the season. Ligier brought Philippe Alliot, which had two inauspicious seasons with RAM, and had returned to F3000 when he found himself unemployed. He was by far outpaced by Arnoux, but the team also suffered as the direct rivals had more capacity to develop the car until the end, so Ligier’s second half of the season was marred by reliability issues, but no one could deny it was an excellent season.

 

Neverthless, new problems were coming for 1987. One year after closing its works team, the men from Viry-Châtillon decided not to pursue the engine development, instead getting ready for the normally aspirated formula announced for 1989. This time, Ligier signed a contract to have Alfa Romeo engines, which were unreliable and heavy. Concerning the drivers, Arnoux continued, but a French pair was impossible. It was rumoured Didier Pironi, after years of surgeries following his dreadful crash in 1982, could finally be able to return to F1, but insurance issues prevented him from trying to do some races. And Laffite, well, his single-seater career had ended in Brands Hatch and it seemed Guy Ligier wanted a driver to please the Italians, so they hired Piercarlo Ghinzani, who had worked already with Alfa Romeo while driving for Osella. Ghinzani never reached what he had promised in F3, but on his defense he never drove a good car in F1, but was a regular driver for Lancia Group C team. Certainly there were better drivers, but it wasn’t do bad as we may think. But everything took and ever worse turn when René Arnoux, hearth on his sleeve, publicly criticized the (bad) Alfa Romeo engine! The Italian manufacturer immediately revoked the contract, which forced Ligier to find an engine well into the pre-season. Finally, they reached an agreement with Megatron (which prepared BMW engines after the Germans had decided to retire, they only supplied Brabham due to contractual issues), but the car had been designed around the bigger Alfa Romeo, and it was too late to change it completely. The team even had to miss the inaugural Grand Prix at Rio de Janeiro, suffering a heavy fine, and the rest of the season was dismal, almost as bad as 1983, with an unreliable and slow car. After bouncing back from two bad seasons, Ligier was again on a fast way down, and they would remain there for some seasons.



#66 GMiranda

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Posted 06 November 2019 - 18:54

As the turbos would be forbidden after 1988, and FISA tried a (bad) way to equalize performances between the restricted turbos and the normally aspirated engines that had returned in 1987, Ligier decided to use Judd engines for 1988. Well past his prime, Arnoux had a new contract, while Stefan Johansson (and Philip Morris money again) was hired from McLaren. It was hardly a bad choice, as the Swede had proved himself to be fast and consistent during his three seasons among the frontrunners, despite being mainly a second driver. And, as it was said before on this debate, the new batch of French drivers hadn’t the same support as those from Elf generation, and they were appearing gradually in F3000 so, again, Ligier had the best team possible for a backmarker. Well, they remained a backmarker because the turbos continued to be substantially faster than the normally aspirated engines, and John Judd’s stable was pushing itself above its possibilities. It could have been different with the new Cosworth DFR? Perhaps. Which is obvious is that Ligier reached another bottom level, as both drivers never had pace to dream of scoring points, and often failed to qualify!

 

1989 wasn’t much better. Arnoux decided to continue, and Grouillard, one of the French new prospects from F3000 replaced Johansson. Well, I’m sure that, by then, Ligier’s seat wasn’t properly coveted… A switch to Cosworth did little to improve their fortunes and Ligier managed three points, but far more DNQ’s than 1988. And both drivers became known to be extremely hard to lap, often ignoring blue flags. At the end of the season, Arnoux finally retired (after 1986, he was a shadow of himself and was surely demotivated) and Grouillard also left. In 1990, they brought Alliot back and, for the second time, hired an Italian – the promising Nicola Larini. Larini was an Italian F3 star which had been labelled as one of the most promising Italian hot-shots. However, driving for Coloni and Osella and without big sponsors barely gave him a fair chance. 1990’s car was better than the previous ones, but it didn’t help Ligier a lot, because they were now extremely underfunded. Again, there were no points, just as in 1983 and 1988, but the JS33B-Cosworth was reliable and only once failed to qualify.

Ligier had left Vichy to Magny-Cours by 1989, as the local circuit, widely known for the Winfield Racing School and the Volant Elf finals, was revamped and enlarged, in order to apply for the French F1 round. It provided new test facilities, and the lucky chance to end, even if pointless, on the tenth place on the 1990 Manufacturers’ Championship gave Ligier some more money for expenses. With more support from Gitanes, Ligier signed an agreement with Lamborghini to use their updated V12 and hired two good drivers – the veteran Thierry Boutsen, which came from two amazing seasons with Williams, where he obtained three wins, and the promising French driver Éric Comas, the reigning F3000 Champion. Again, Guy Ligier was investing on young French drivers, and Comas did an interesting season. Even if he wasn’t the fastest guy from the young crop, he was smooth, regular and fast-learning, but he was soundly beaten by Boutsen and failed to qualify for some races. It would be a disgrace for Comas if Boutsen was scoring points, but no, again Ligier ended the season dry. The Lamborghini V12 was far more reliable than its first version, but was extremely heavy and underpowered, and the Italian company was going through financial problems, being bought by Chrysler, so the real development never occurred.  

 

But, again, Guy Ligier’s “friends in high places” gave him one last aid, persuading Renault to supply Ligier again, albeit with the older specification engines, while Williams had works contract. And one of Guy’s dreams near come through, as Alain Prost approached the team after being summarily fired by Ferrari after calling the 631 a “truck”. Ligier wanted to pair Boutsen with Prost, which was interested in buying part of the team, hoping to regain his “all-French” team! However, it soon became obvious the car wasn’t good, even with Renault engines, and Alain Prost wisely thought it could be better for his career not to race in 1992. After all, he was the best driver of the moment, alongside his nemesis Ayrton Senna, and had ambitions to take his fourth crown. Driving a Ligier, Alain couldn’t achieve more than fight for the points, and it could hamper a possible negotiation with a top-team for 1992, mainly if he held an interest on the team. And it was better for his pockets too, as he had signed for three years with Ferrari by 1989 and, despite firing him, Ferrari was obliged to pay him the salary of 1992. Thus, Guy Ligier finally gave up the idea of having Prost driving for him, and told Comas he would have his seat again. It was deeply unfair for the young Frenchman, as he was sidelined during most of the testing sessions, but wasn’t officially released by the team. And another quick note… Prost was considerably faster than Boutsen during the tests, which implied the 1992 gloomy performance was more a question of the drivers than the car. At least Ligier scored points again, and this time Comas held up against a demotivated Boutsen, with the team from Vichy ending the season with their best results since 1986!!! Would Ligier grow up again?



#67 ceesvdelst

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Posted 06 November 2019 - 19:21

I think Ligier were great and you also have to say that in those times of manufacturers and French involvement they had their hand in many pies, Talbot, Renault, Michelin, Elf, all the right places.

 

They built some amazing cars, some pups aswell.

 

But in their heyday of the late 70's and early 80's they were a force for some of those years.

 

It was sad to see them fall away as they did, especially after those initially brilliant latter years with Panis and Trulli, the last few cars were awful, but I do miss them, I miss the colour, the pariotism and the Le Bleu I must admit. ,

 

Think of the names, Pironi, Depailler, Laffite, Arnoux (albeit past his prime), Panis, Brundle, Johansson, Trulli.  And many others. 



#68 GMiranda

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Posted 06 November 2019 - 19:54

Well, there were big news late in 1992. Guy Ligier realized the socialist government of his old friend François Miterrand would last too much, and he knew the team needed investment to progress, so he sold the F1 squad to the businessman and politician Cyril de Rouvre. De Rouvre was an enthusiast of motor racing – he did the Andijan-Nice with Thierry Sabine once – and had been owner of AGS between 1989 to its demise at the end of 1991. This time, de Rouvre had a golden chance to manage a solid team, with a lot of experience in Formula 1, Gitanes sponsorship and, again previous year-spec Renault engines. And, for the first time ever, there were no French driver at Ligier. Instead, Cyril hired the F3 Senna rival Martin Brundle from Benetton, one of the most experienced drivers of the moment, and another fast Brit, Mark Blundell, whose career was marred by an absolute lack of sponsorship. Mark had been McLaren test driver in 1992, while driving for Peugeot at Le Mans, winning the mythical classic. Gérard Ducarouge had returned the season before to work with Franke Dernie, and designed the brand new JS39. Fast and extremely reliable, Ligier had an amazing season, reaching again its level from 1985-1986. Even though they were no more winning candidates, both drivers scored regularly and their performances were even better than the results, and Ligier had a season-long fight for the fourth place on the Manufacturers’ Championship against… Ferrari! They lost some momentum on the second part of the year and ended in fifth, but the English pair scored three podiums and it was undeniable that Ligier could be again one of the best midfielders.

 

It wasn’t meant to be… Cyril de Rouvre’s investments brought him to the justice and he was imprisoned for fraud late in 1993. Released on bail, Cyril hastily sold Ligier to Tom Walkinshaw and Flavio Briatore, owners of Benetton. It wasn’t good for Ligier, as they became a way for Briatore’s plays with his drivers. I think the best solution would have been the other solid proposal, a consortium led by Hugues de Chaunac from ORECA’s fame and Philippe Streiff, with backing from Renault and Williams, with would turn Ligier into a junior team of Frank’s outfit. However, it was Briatore’s money that prevailed and they were faithful to Ligier’s essence in 1994, engaging a 100% French pair, composed by the reigning F3000 champion Olivier Panis, one of the best French prospects of the moment, and the experienced Éric Bernard. The latter had debuted with Larrousse outfit in 1989, while driving yet on F3000, but a broken leg at Suzuka in 1991 forced him to an abnormally long recovery. However, Bernard had Elf support and in 1993 he was hired by Ligier as their test driver, being promoted by new owners to full-time driver in 1994. Again with Renault engines, Ligier promised to fight for the points, by the off-season problems didn’t allow the production of a brand new car, Ligier instead updated the successful 1993 version. However, most of their rivals had progressed, so Panis and Bernard fought hard in the middle of the peloton, until an unusual attrition race at Hockenheim gave them a double podium, and Ferrari’s first win since 1990! The second half of the season was better, mainly for Panis, while Bernard never returned to his former level and was sidelined near the end of the season. Briatore put Herbert (who had been replaced by a pay driver at Lotus) on the car – the Englishman had signed with Benetton for 1995 – and, for the last two races, Herbert was moved to Benetton and the seat was given to a promising French F3000 driver, Frank Lagorce, but he didn’t have any time to show his talent.

 

Benetton was Briatore’s team, despite Walkinshaw’s interest on the team, so the Englishman decided to buy 50% of Ligier, expecting to buy the remaining part in 1996. As Renault would supply now both Williams and Benetton, the fiercest rivals in 1994, Ligier no longer had the support of them, so a deal with Mugen-Honda ensued. It wasn’t a bad choice, as Mugen had produced some reliable engines since mid-80’s, first in F3000 and then in F1. Panis, after his solid performances, was retained, and Walkinshaw called again Brundle from McLaren. Yet, the Japanese wanted his driver, Aguri Suzuki, for the place, so a compromise was reached between them, with Brundle driving for most of the seasons and Suzuki having some odd races, while being the test driver. Again, it was a great season for Ligier bouncing back to the fifth place on the Championship, as the car was reliable and fast. Panis was often on the points, while Brundle hadn’t the same pace, but both reached the podium once. Suzuki was out of pace after one year away from F1 and was soundly beaten by Panis and Brundle, retiring from single-seaters after a violent crash at Suzuka.

 

Sadly for Ligier, Walkinshaw never managed to find the money to buy the remaining 50%. With all his virtues and flaws, Tom was a great boss, and he could have done more on F1 with Ligier. But money rules, and Walkinshaw wanted to have his own team and opted for buying Footwork/Arrows from Jackie Oliver during 1996 and leave Ligier. The men from Vichy had a good package, but needed cash, so Brazilian Pedro Paulo Diniz was hired to as Panis’ partner, bringing with him a lot of cash from his family’s numerous business. It’s said Walkinshaw didn’t want Diniz, but they needed the dollars and, among the candidates, Diniz was the fastest and also the most technically minded, which earned him the place. In fact, during his F1 career the Brazilian showed he was none of a slow pay driver, even fighting equally with teammates considered better than him. Yet in 1996 Ligier never had the same pace from the previous three seasons, but there was something that made up for the lack of results and performance… After fifteen years, Ligier won again. It happened at Monaco, on damp conditions. Panis made the race of his life, judging well the conditions of the track and spent the whole race fighting for the top-6 and, as his rivals made mistakes, approaching the podium, even doing an aggressive move on Irvine at the Lowes hairpin! And, then, old Lady Luck, which abandoned Ligier for so many years, finally gave them one last moment of glory, as both Hill and Alesi, who were far way in the front, were hit successively by mechanical woes and retired. Thus Panis inherited the lead and sustained the pressure from the McLarens and Irvine to grab an amazing win, after a race where he was simply perfect.

 

Well, by the end of the season Ligier was for sale, and it was bought by none other than Alain Prost, fulfilling the “Professor”’s dream of a 100% French team. However, some bad choices, mismanagement and sponsorship issues led to Prost GP’s demise at the end of 2001. Looking back, Ligier had, for almost its entire life as a F1 team some of the best drivers. Even when they were on the bottom of the well, almost all Ligier drivers were good choices. They focused on having the best French drivers available when they were on the top, then thy always tried to promote some French talent – even if the 90’s generation hadn’t at all the same value as the wishful Elf generation – while picking some great foreign drivers. Certainly some were failures, others completely imposed by the sponsors or the need of cash, as well as most of the midfielders. But it was a hell of a story!



#69 Rediscoveryx

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Posted 07 November 2019 - 13:02

Well, there were big news late in 1992. Guy Ligier realized the socialist government of his old friend François Miterrand would last too much, and he knew the team needed investment to progress, so he sold the F1 squad to the businessman and politician Cyril de Rouvre. De Rouvre was an enthusiast of motor racing – he did the Andijan-Nice with Thierry Sabine once – and had been owner of AGS between 1989 to its demise at the end of 1991. This time, de Rouvre had a golden chance to manage a solid team, with a lot of experience in Formula 1, Gitanes sponsorship and, again previous year-spec Renault engines. And, for the first time ever, there were no French driver at Ligier. Instead, Cyril hired the F3 Senna rival Martin Brundle from Benetton, one of the most experienced drivers of the moment, and another fast Brit, Mark Blundell, whose career was marred by an absolute lack of sponsorship. Mark had been McLaren test driver in 1992, while driving for Peugeot at Le Mans, winning the mythical classic. Gérard Ducarouge had returned the season before to work with Franke Dernie, and designed the brand new JS39. Fast and extremely reliable, Ligier had an amazing season, reaching again its level from 1985-1986. Even though they were no more winning candidates, both drivers scored regularly and their performances were even better than the results, and Ligier had a season-long fight for the fourth place on the Manufacturers’ Championship against… Ferrari! They lost some momentum on the second part of the year and ended in fifth, but the English pair scored three podiums and it was undeniable that Ligier could be again one of the best midfielders.

 

It wasn’t meant to be… Cyril de Rouvre’s investments brought him to the justice and he was imprisoned for fraud late in 1993. Released on bail, Cyril hastily sold Ligier to Tom Walkinshaw and Flavio Briatore, owners of Benetton. It wasn’t good for Ligier, as they became a way for Briatore’s plays with his drivers. I think the best solution would have been the other solid proposal, a consortium led by Hugues de Chaunac from ORECA’s fame and Philippe Streiff, with backing from Renault and Williams, with would turn Ligier into a junior team of Frank’s outfit. However, it was Briatore’s money that prevailed and they were faithful to Ligier’s essence in 1994, engaging a 100% French pair, composed by the reigning F3000 champion Olivier Panis, one of the best French prospects of the moment, and the experienced Éric Bernard. The latter had debuted with Larrousse outfit in 1989, while driving yet on F3000, but a broken leg at Suzuka in 1991 forced him to an abnormally long recovery. However, Bernard had Elf support and in 1993 he was hired by Ligier as their test driver, being promoted by new owners to full-time driver in 1994. Again with Renault engines, Ligier promised to fight for the points, by the off-season problems didn’t allow the production of a brand new car, Ligier instead updated the successful 1993 version. However, most of their rivals had progressed, so Panis and Bernard fought hard in the middle of the peloton, until an unusual attrition race at Hockenheim gave them a double podium, and Ferrari’s first win since 1990! The second half of the season was better, mainly for Panis, while Bernard never returned to his former level and was sidelined near the end of the season. Briatore put Herbert (who had been replaced by a pay driver at Lotus) on the car – the Englishman had signed with Benetton for 1995 – and, for the last two races, Herbert was moved to Benetton and the seat was given to a promising French F3000 driver, Frank Lagorce, but he didn’t have any time to show his talent.

 

Benetton was Briatore’s team, despite Walkinshaw’s interest on the team, so the Englishman decided to buy 50% of Ligier, expecting to buy the remaining part in 1996. As Renault would supply now both Williams and Benetton, the fiercest rivals in 1994, Ligier no longer had the support of them, so a deal with Mugen-Honda ensued. It wasn’t a bad choice, as Mugen had produced some reliable engines since mid-80’s, first in F3000 and then in F1. Panis, after his solid performances, was retained, and Walkinshaw called again Brundle from McLaren. Yet, the Japanese wanted his driver, Aguri Suzuki, for the place, so a compromise was reached between them, with Brundle driving for most of the seasons and Suzuki having some odd races, while being the test driver. Again, it was a great season for Ligier bouncing back to the fifth place on the Championship, as the car was reliable and fast. Panis was often on the points, while Brundle hadn’t the same pace, but both reached the podium once. Suzuki was out of pace after one year away from F1 and was soundly beaten by Panis and Brundle, retiring from single-seaters after a violent crash at Suzuka.

 

Sadly for Ligier, Walkinshaw never managed to find the money to buy the remaining 50%. With all his virtues and flaws, Tom was a great boss, and he could have done more on F1 with Ligier. But money rules, and Walkinshaw wanted to have his own team and opted for buying Footwork/Arrows from Jackie Oliver during 1996 and leave Ligier. The men from Vichy had a good package, but needed cash, so Brazilian Pedro Paulo Diniz was hired to as Panis’ partner, bringing with him a lot of cash from his family’s numerous business. It’s said Walkinshaw didn’t want Diniz, but they needed the dollars and, among the candidates, Diniz was the fastest and also the most technically minded, which earned him the place. In fact, during his F1 career the Brazilian showed he was none of a slow pay driver, even fighting equally with teammates considered better than him. Yet in 1996 Ligier never had the same pace from the previous three seasons, but there was something that made up for the lack of results and performance… After fifteen years, Ligier won again. It happened at Monaco, on damp conditions. Panis made the race of his life, judging well the conditions of the track and spent the whole race fighting for the top-6 and, as his rivals made mistakes, approaching the podium, even doing an aggressive move on Irvine at the Lowes hairpin! And, then, old Lady Luck, which abandoned Ligier for so many years, finally gave them one last moment of glory, as both Hill and Alesi, who were far way in the front, were hit successively by mechanical woes and retired. Thus Panis inherited the lead and sustained the pressure from the McLarens and Irvine to grab an amazing win, after a race where he was simply perfect.

 

Well, by the end of the season Ligier was for sale, and it was bought by none other than Alain Prost, fulfilling the “Professor”’s dream of a 100% French team. However, some bad choices, mismanagement and sponsorship issues led to Prost GP’s demise at the end of 2001. Looking back, Ligier had, for almost its entire life as a F1 team some of the best drivers. Even when they were on the bottom of the well, almost all Ligier drivers were good choices. They focused on having the best French drivers available when they were on the top, then thy always tried to promote some French talent – even if the 90’s generation hadn’t at all the same value as the wishful Elf generation – while picking some great foreign drivers. Certainly some were failures, others completely imposed by the sponsors or the need of cash, as well as most of the midfielders. But it was a hell of a story!

 

Nice little exposé on the history of the team - thanks!

 

On the original topic; I think that anytime you decide that your driver/employee or whatever has to be from a certain group (in this case frenchmen), you limit the pool of available candidates and your best-case scenario is to be lucky enough to have the best available candidates within that particular group. Ie, the best possible scenario is to end up no worse than you would have had you selected freely from all available candidates.

 

Now, it's not clear to me whether the choice of predominantly french drivers was a team policy, or whether it just happened to be so that other circumstances (connections, sponsor requests etc) aligned to produce a predominantly french driver lineup. The talent pool from France certainly was deep around the time of the teams foundation.



#70 GMiranda

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Posted 07 November 2019 - 13:07

Many Thanks!!! Hope I didn't write many mistakes.

Well, I think in part it was team's policy to engage at least one French driver, and as there were so many great ones till mid-80's, it was normal that a French team with French sponsors would hire them. Later, sponsorship issues dictated a lot of changes, mainly when the team was on the verge of collapse.



#71 pacificquay

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 10:37

Many Thanks!!! Hope I didn't write many mistakes.

Well, I think in part it was team's policy to engage at least one French driver, and as there were so many great ones till mid-80's, it was normal that a French team with French sponsors would hire them. Later, sponsorship issues dictated a lot of changes, mainly when the team was on the verge of collapse.

 

Just the one mistake I could see - Tom Walkinshaw was not English



#72 GMiranda

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 10:56

Just the one mistake I could see - Tom Walkinshaw was not English

Ahh sorry :well:



#73 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 20:58

Originally posted by GMiranda
.....For me, Laffite is one of the forgotten great drivers, as he was quite laid back and never focused himself to become a contender. Sure he wasn’t Scheckter, Lauda, Reutemann Andretti et al.....


One of my favorites...

I was so pleased for him as he lined up at Brands, was that his 200th race, or enough to match or eclipse Graham Hill's record?

I'm sure my disappointment at what happened next wasn't as great as his, but I still remember it today as a real tragedy.

#74 LittleChris

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 22:05

176th Grand Prix start I think Ray thus equalling Graham 



#75 GMiranda

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Posted 08 November 2019 - 23:06

Yes, had he started he would have equalled Graham. He had one or two years yet at top level in front of him, as he was driving better than Arnoux.