Jacky Ickx

Full Name: 
Jacques-Bernard Ickx
Birth Date: 
31 December, 1944
Birth Place: 
Brussels, Belgium
Driver Status: 

Jacky Ickx Biography

Jacky Ickx Career Overview

With six Le Mans 24 Hours victories, Can-Am and Formula 2 titles and even a Paris-Dakar success to his name, the F1 World Championship was the only major championship of the time that Jacky Ickx didn’t clinch.

He certainly came close, finishing twice runner-up in 1969 and 1970, and scoring eight victories during an F1 career that spanned 14 years.

Indeed, while that immense success at Le Mans - a record that stood until 2012 - remains Ickx’s most impressive legacy in motorsport, it shouldn’t discount an F1 career that makes him the most successful racer to hail from Belgium.

Jacky Ickx F1 Career

Tyrrell / Cooper: 1966-1967

After initially beginning his racing career on two-wheels in trials, Ickx found success in the F2 Championship winning in 1967 with Tyrrell. However, during this period the Belgian demonstrated truly what he was capable of by entering the lower powered machine in an F1 field with starts at the Nordschleife in 1966 and 1967.

Despite the disparity in performance, Ickx mixed it with the leaders in terms of lap times, ‘qualifying’ with the third fastest time overall in 1966 despite having to start behind the F1 field due to the rules at the time. He fought his way up to fifth place before retiring.

These efforts ultimately led to his full F1 debut in 1968 at the wheel of a Cooper - making two starts - Ickx scoring on his debut at Monza with a sixth place.

Ferrari: 1968

Ickx’s efforts quickly caught the attention of F1’s most prestigious bosses and he was snapped up by Ferrari for his first full season in 1968.

Paired with the more experienced Chris Amon, Ickx quickly stamped his mark with a podium during the third round on home soil at Spa-Francorchamps, before following it up with his maiden victory at Rouen in France just two events later. 

Despite missing two races after breaking his leg in Canada, two further podiums in the UK and Italy lifted him up to fourth in the standings.

Brabham: 1969 

Ickx’s success at Ferrari, however, created issues for his other racing commitments. At the time he competed with John Wyer in sportscars, famously sponsored by Gulf Oil, so fearing Ferrari would have written a clause in Ickx’s contract that would see him switch to its Le Mans efforts, the sponsors subsequently put money behind an F1 move to Brabham for 1969 in order to retain him. 

The switch didn’t yield initial success but after team-mate Jack Brabham was ruled out of action by injury, Ickx’s results took a step forward and scaled the podium on two occasions in Germany and Canada, which together with a trio of other top three finishes lifted him to second position in the standings.

Moreover, Gulf Oil’s intervention played into its hands as Ickx subsequently won the first of his six Le Mans 24 Hours trophies alongside Jackie Oliver in a Ford GT40.

Ferrari: 1970-1973

Ferrari eventually got its man in 1970 - which indeed included a Le Mans 24 Hours clause - and Ickx set about looking to go one better in arguably the more competitive car.

Results were hard to come by during the first half of the season with only a pair of podiums amid five DNFs from eight races, during a period in which Jochen Rindt was dominating with five victories.

It meant the Austrian racer was well on course for the title when an accident during practice for the Italian Grand Prix (Round 10 of 14) killed him. At the time Ickx was fourth overall, 26 points in Rindt’s arrears and the race was now on between himself, Brabham, Denny Hulme and Jackie Stewart to make up the deficit to their fallen compatriot.

Of this quartet Ickx emerged as the biggest threat to Rindt’s posthumous award with wins in Canada and Mexico, but a DNF in Italy would ultimately leave him five points short of overhauling the Lotus driver in the runners-up spot for the second season in succession. Besides, Ickx has gone on record to suggest he was pleased not to overhaul Rindt as he didn’t want to win against a man who couldn’t defend his advantage.

Alas for Ickx it would be the closest he’d get to the title during his F1 career. In 1971 he added to his victory tally with a win at Zandvoort but in a year beset by reliability issues for the Ferrari 312 would leave him a distant fourth overall from champion Jackie Stewart.

A more successful campaign followed in 1972 with Ickx scoring a trio of podiums from the opening four races, but highlights thereafter were limited to a win in Germany (his eighth and final victory in F1) where his experience in skill, endurance and concentration around the 14-mile venue once again played into his hands. He’d end the year fourth overall once again.

With Ickx’s fortunes at Le Mans with Ferrari also waning, another difficult start to the F1 year would see him exit the team mid-season. He returned in Germany with another podium at the Nordschleife in a McLaren before ending the year at the wheel of a Lotus.

Lotus: 1974-1975

Arguably the benchmark when it came to innovation and technology, Lotus presented a fresh opportunity for Ickx in 1974 but after scoring a podium on his second outing in Brazil driving the 72E, its successor - the 76 - proved a flop in comparison and it was dropped after only three races.

Results didn’t improve much thereafter with Ickx climbing onto the podium only one more time (at Brands Hatch), ending up 10th overall.

For 1975, Ickx form continued its downturn and though he clinched his 25th (and final) podium in Jarama, that second place result would prove his only trip to the points all year.

Williams / Wolf Racing: 1976

After being passed over for the seat vacated by Emerson Fittipaldi at McLaren (instead going to James Hunt for what would be his title-winning campaign), Ickx landed a return to Williams for 1976, for whom he’d started a race in 1973.

However, after an unhappy start to the year - which included a failure to qualify for the United States West Grand Prix - Ickx defected to the new Canadian-flagged Wolf Racing from Round 4, albeit driving the same Wolf-Williams chassis he began the year with.

Results didn’t improve though and in the five races Ickx started in Wolf colours, he failed to reach the grid for three of them, and promptly departed

Ensign: 1976 - 1978

Before the year was out Ickx was back racing again but with the Ensign, using effectively an ex-Hunt Hesketh - in which he was a more consistent performer, almost winning on his first outing at Zandvoort but for an underpowered engine that ultimately failed ten laps from the end. 

His year ended in the penultimate round at Watkins Glen when an accident left him with serious ankle injuries that ruled him out for much of the following 1977 F1 season, save for a one-off non-scoring in the Ensign.

He returned to the team in 1978 for a four-race stint but points were not forthcoming and it appeared Ickx’s F1 career was at an end.

Ligier: 1979

After failing to source a ride for the 1979 F1 season, Ickx nonetheless made a return from Round 8 to see out the season with Ligier, replacing the injured Patrick Depailler.

In a more competitive machine that had been a race winner in both Jacques Laffite and Depailler’s hands earlier in the year, Ickx was back in the points at Silverstone and Zandvoort, the last he’d score again in F1 before exiting.

Jacky Ickx - Beyond F1

While Ickx enjoyed notable success as a single-seater racer, it is his exploits in endurance racing that have ultimately left their mark. In total he won a then record six Le Mans 24 Hours races, on four occasions during his F1 career (1969, 1975, 1976 and 1977) and then twice more back to back in 1981 and 1982.

While his first two wins were achieved in Ford and Mirage machinery, Ickx would become a loyal Porsche racer and was the talisman for its iconic factory efforts during the 70s and 80s. Also three times a runner-up in the round-the-clock classic, it would take until 2012 for another driver - Tom Kristensen - to surpass his achievements.

Among his other accolades was a 1977 success in the Bathurst 1000 and perhaps most impressively, his win in the 1983 Paris-Dakar Rally in only his third attempt.