23 August 2015
Guy Ligier passes away aged 85
Former Grand Prix racer and race-winning F1 team owner Guy Ligier passes away, aged 85.
Guy Ligier, the eponymous founder of the long-serving Equipe Ligier F1 team, has died aged 85, it has been announced.
A former French national rugby player, Ligier forged a path towards F1 after building a successful construction business specialising in building motorways across France.
Through this Ligier indulged in his passion for motorsport by racing Porsches in sportscars initially before entering Formula 1 driving a Cooper Maserati in 1966 and a Brabham in selected rounds of the 1967 season, claiming a best finish of eighth in the German Grand Prix at the Nordschleife.
The death of his good friend Jo Schlesser in 1968 prompted Ligier to step away from racing in favour of team management, starting off in sportscars and peaking with a second place finish at Le Mans in 1975, a result that spurred him on to return to F1 in 1976 having acquired the assets of the defunct Matra team.
Success was swift, with Jacques Laffite scoring three podiums in the team's maiden season, before giving the team the first of 9 F1 wins in the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp.
Of those nine wins, Laffite delivered the team seven of those victories during the early years of its existence, the team finishing third overall in 1979 before ending up runner-up to Williams in 1980.
Indeed, Ligier ensured his team remained patriotic, always ensuring it ran at least one French driver (with exception to 1993) over the course of its 20 year existence, including the likes of Didier Pironi, Patrick Tambay and Rene Arnoux.
However, after early success and strong support from the French government – which ensured backing from Gitanes and Elf -, Ligier's form dwindled over the course of the 1980's, its nadir coming when it scored just four points between 1987 and 1991.
Eventually, Ligier sold the team to businessman Cyril de Rouvre and it went on to enjoy solid mid-field success under that name until the end of the 1996 season – which unexpectedly yielded its ninth and final win courtesy of Olivier Panis' shock win at the Monaco Grand Prix -, when it was sold to Alain Prost and renamed Prost Grand Prix.
Equipe Ligier started 326 races and notched up 50 podiums, nine wins and 388 points.
The Ligier name lives on in the production of micro-light cars, while it has also returned to sportscar competition with its successful JS P2 LMP2 racer.
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