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Jean-Pierre Jabouille (1942- 2023)


Jean-Pierre Jabouille, who played a significant role in the history of F1, has died aged 80.

Indeed, not only was the Frenchman a driver and engineer, he was a pioneer who helped to change the history of the sport.

Late to take up racing, having missed out on the traditional ladder, Jabouille made his single-seater debut at the age of 26 in F2 at the wheel of a Matra.

Impressive from the outset, he secured a test and development role with Alpine and contested the Le Mans 24 Hours that same year (1968).

Over the years that followed he took part in occasional F2 races alongside his Le Mans commitments, but it wasn't until 1973 that he secured his first podium at the French classic with Matra.

The following season he finished fourth in the F2 championship while also making his F1 debut, contesting the French Grand Prix with Williams - at the wheel of an Iso-Marlboro at Dijon - then the Austrian Grand Prix with Surtees, failing to qualify on both occasions.

In 1975 he contested the entire F2 championship with Ecurie Elf, finishing 5th overall, four rounds of the World Sportscar Championship with Alpine and the French Grand Prix with Tyrrell.

In 1976, still with Ecurie Elf he secured the F2 title, beating countrymen Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay in the process, whilst also continuing his SportsCar commitments which inevitably included Le Mans.

1977 saw him make the move to Renault which was entering F1 as a constructor and engine manufacturer, having developed its controversial turbo engine over the course of 1976.

Despite his ability as both a driver and engineer it was a torrid time for the Frenchman, who over the course of the next two seasons suffered countless DNFs as the Renault engine suffered various issues.

Making his debut with the French team at Silverstone in 1977, of the five races he contested he failed to qualify for one and failed to finish the remaining four.

1978 was pretty much the same, retirements at Kyalami and Long Beach were followed by three successive finishes - albeit well outside the points - and then another seven successive DNFs.

Nonetheless, he (and Renault) persisted, and finally at the 1979 French Grand Prix at Dijon he gave Renault its first victory.

It was a historic win, for not only was it the first win for the French team, it was the first win for a turbocharged engine, and as if that wasn't enough it was a French engine, French tyres and French fuel winning in France.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that Jabouille, who had started from pole alongside teammate Rene Arnoux, had made history, the race is mainly remembered for the epic battle that raged behind the race-winner, that between Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve for second, still regarded as one of the greatest battles in the sport's history.

However, the Dijon win didn't mark a turnaround in fortune for either Jabouille or Renault as the DNFs continued well into the following season. However, other than finishing tenth at Long Beach, Jabouille was able to add a second Grand Prix win to his CV when he won in Austria.

Three races later he broke both his legs after crashing during the Canadian Grand Prix.

For 1981 he moved to Matra, while Arnoux and then Alain Prost began to reap the rewards of Jabouille's and Renault's perseverance, leading to other manufacturers heading down the turbocharger route and thereby creating a new era for the sport.

Jabouille contested five races for his new team before the pain from his Montreal crash became too much and he retired from F1.

Though he was no longer in F1, he didn't turn his back on racing, indeed he continued to compete until well into his 60s, making no less than 17 appearances at Le Mans, the most recent being 1993 when he finished third. Indeed, over the course of his career he finished third in the French classic on no less than four occasions.

His final three appearances at Le Mans - between 1991 and 1993 - were with Peugeot, for when Jean Todt left the French team to head Ferrari, Jabouille was appointed head of the French manufacturer's racing programme.

Unfortunately, calamitous partnerships in F1 with McLaren and Jordan saw him leave Peugeot and set up his own SportsCar team with Jean-Michel Boureche.

Jean-Pierre passed away on Thursday, and among the first to pay tribute was Alpine.

"BWT Alpine F1 Team is incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Jean-Pierre Jabouille," said the French team in a statement.

"A humble racing driver, brilliant engineer, and a pioneer of our sport. Jean-Pierre was a true racer. He spearheaded Renault’s journey into F1 in 1977 with his resilient and dare to do attitude.

"He was Renault’s first Grand Prix winner in 1979, a landmark moment in Renault’s journey in Formula 1. His determination and dedication to succeed inspired many, and these values remain central to the current team in its now blue colours of Alpine.

"We are where we are today because of Jean-Pierre and his legacy lives on. We’d like to extend our most sincere condolences to his family and close friends."

As we pay tribute to a true racer and engineer, these sentiments are wholeheartedly echoed by Pitpass and its readers.


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1. Posted by Greg, 03/02/2023 14:55


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2. Posted by Jet Jockey, 03/02/2023 13:31

"Sad day for race fans."

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3. Posted by Spindoctor, 03/02/2023 10:49

"Another sad loss. RIP"

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