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Ligier in 2014
12 July 1930|
Vichy, Allier, France
|Died||23 August 2015
Nevers, Nièvre, France
|Formula One World Championship career|
|Active years||1966 – 1967|
|Teams||privateer Cooper, privateer Brabham|
|Entries||13 (12 starts)|
|First entry||1966 Monaco Grand Prix|
|Last entry||1967 Mexican Grand Prix|
Guy Camille Ligier was born in the commune of Vichy in the department of Allier on 12 July 1930 and died in the commune of Nevers in the department of Nièvre on 23 August 2015 at the age of 85 years. Although Ligier had many varied and successful careers over the course of his life, he is best known as a racing driver and Formula One team owner.
The early years
Athletic and competitive, he became French rowing champion in 1947. He also had a passion for rugby, and was good enough to play for the French Army during National Service and earn a place on the French national B team. His rugby career was cut short due to injuries.
Determined to become successful, Ligier saved all of the money he earned working as a butcher to fund his aspirations. In 1960 he rented a backhoe, and a short time later bought a bulldozer of his own and went into the construction business.
With help from Pierre Coulon, Vichy's Mayor, he founded the public works company "Ligier Travaux Publics". With motorway construction booming in France, Ligier was able to rapidly expand his business. By 1961 he had 1200 employees and 500 machines and had also diversified into bridges, dams and development. During this period his business contacts allowed him to make important friends in (then) local politicians François Mitterrand and Pierre Bérégovoy.
When his rugby career ended he switched to racing, but on motorcycles. He would win the French Motorbike Championship in the 500cc class riding a Norton Manx "LA" in 1959 and in 1960.
Ligier made an early foray into auto racing with a Simca 1300 at the 1957 Parisian Salon Cups in Montlhéry, but it was in 1960 that he first tried his hand at single-seater racing with a Formula Junior Elva-DKW, which he drove at Monaco and Montlhéry.
By 1964 Ligier was racing Porsche sportscars as part of Auguste Veuillet's team, starting with a 356 and then a 904 Carrera GTS, in which he placed 7th with Robert Buchet at the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans. That same year Ford France signed Ligier to drive one of two Formula 2 Brabham BT6 cars. These were year-old models, but one would be replaced by a newer Brabham BT10 during the season. Ligier's teammate was Jo Schlesser. Ligier finished fifth in his debut at Enna-Pergusa. So at the relatively late age of 34 Ligier began his "real" career as a driver.
In 1965 he won the 24th Grand Prix de Albi Sports in a GT40 for Ford. In 1966 he drove Shelby Mustang GT350 chassis 5R209 rented to Martial Delalande to a second-place finish in the 14th "Rallye des Routes du Nord".
Ligier broke into Formula One as a privateer, entering his own Cooper-Maserati T81 in the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix. In five starts with this car he either ran unclassified or out of the points. That year he and Schlesser also joined forces to become the exclusive importer of Ford-Shelby products to France.
Teaming with Schlesser in a Ford France GT40 again that year produced good results – a fifth-place finish at the Nürburgring 1000 km. Although his year was ended by a knee broken while practicing for the German GP, things could have been worse. Following the crash doctors had wanted to amputate and it was only through the intervention of Schlesser that the leg was saved.
In 1967 Ligier fielded another car of his own, a Brabham-Repco BT20, in the British Grand Prix. His (effective) sixth-place finish in Germany produced the only championship point of his F1 career. Ligier also won the 12 Hours of Reims when sharing a GT40 Mk IIB with Schlesser.
In 1968 Ligier drove a Ford Escort TC in the Coupes de Vitesse. That was the same year that Ford France was winding down its motorsports involvement, so Ligier partnered with Schlesser and José Behra to launch Ecurie InterSport with a pair of McLaren Formula 2 cars. Schlesser was killed that year in his Formula One debut at the French Grand Prix while at the wheel of the magnesium-bodied air-cooled Honda RA302 Formula One car. The shocking loss of his friend prompts Ligier to retire from racing.
Ligier had one outing in a Ford Escort TC in the 1969 Coupes de l'ACIF, but he returned to regular competition in 1970 for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a car bearing his own name, the Ligier JS1, and continued to participate in various endurance races with his own cars until 1974.
In total Ligier participated in thirteen Grand Prix Formula 1 races, getting one point in the drivers' world championship with an eighth-place finish in the German Grand Prix in 1966 due to the two finishers in front of him being F2 cars, and so ineligible for F1 points.
Formula One World Championship driving results
|1966||Guy Ligier||Cooper T81||Maserati V12||MON
|1967||Guy Ligier||Cooper T81||Maserati V12||RSA||MON||NED||BEL
|Brabham BT20||Repco V8||GBR
* Ligier finished 8th in the 1967 German Grand Prix, but was awarded the point for 6th place as the two F2 drivers who finished ahead of him on the road were ineligible to score points
24 Hours of Le Mans driving results
- 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans : Seventh in a Porsche 904 with Robert Buchet (winners in 2 litre GT category, for l'écurie d'Auguste Veuillet;
- 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans : Retired in a Ford GT40 with Maurice Trintignant;
- 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans : Retired in a Ford GT40 with Bob Grossman;
- 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans : Retired in a Ford GT40 Mk.IIB with Jo Schlesser;
- 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans : Retired in a Ligier JS1 with Jean-Claude Andruet;
- 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans : Unclassified in a Ligier JS3 with Patrick Depailler.
- 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans : Retired in a Ligier JS2 with Jean-François Piot;
- 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans : Disqualified in a Ligier JS2 with Jacques Laffite.
Other racing wins
- GT Class win in Coupes du Salon 1963 (de Montlhéry, in a Porsche 356 Carrera);
- 1964 Coupes de vitesse (de Montlhéry, in a Porsche 904 GTS);
- Magny-Cours 1965 (in a Ford GT40);
- Grand Prix d'Albi 1965 (in a Ford GT40, hors championnat d'Europe);
- Class S win (3L) at 1000 kilometres of Nürburgring 1966 in a Ford GT40 with Schlesser (fifth);
- Class S win (>2L) at 1000 kilometres of Monza 1967 in a Ford GT40 with Schlesser (sixth);
- 12 Heures de Reims, 1967 in a Ford Mk.IIB with Schlesser;
- Special Class win in 1969 Coupes de vitesse (Montlhéry, in a Ford Escort TC).
Constructor and Team owner
In 1968 Ligier established "Ligier Cars" to build his own sports-racing cars in fulfillment of the dream that he and former teammate, business partner and close friend, the late Jo Schlesser had shared to build a "good car". Ligier hired Michel Têtu to design the cars, and the first car produced was the JS1 prototype, the "JS" in this and all subsequent names being a tribute to Schlesser. Only three JS1s were built before production switched to its successor, the JS2.
The JS3 racing prototype was actually built in the time between the JS1 and JS2. Following limited success in the sports-racing field Ligier turned his attention to Formula 1 when he bought the assets of Equipe Matra Sports. With the experienced team, including designer Gerard Ducarouge and the Matra V12 engine Ligier formed Equipe Ligier in 1976. The team became successful in the early 1980s with drivers Jacques Laffite, Patrick Depailler and Didier Pironi.
In 1981 Ligier's old friend François Mitterrand became President of France. When Ligier ran into trouble in 1983 the President ordered that government-owned companies such as Elf, Gitanes and Loto should supply sponsorship. Ligier also had preferential treatment when it came to engines, political pressure being applied to Renault to force the company to supply the team, which used Renault engines from 1984 to 1986 and from 1992 to 1994.
The Ligier-Mitterrand-Bérégovoy alliance reached its peak in the early 1990s with the reconstruction of the Magny-Cours racing circuit as a new headquarters for Ligier and as a racing circuit to host the French Grand Prix. President Mitterrand and Prime Minister Bérégovoy backed the idea.
At the 1996 Grand Prix of Monaco driver Olivier Panis wins the ninth and final Formula 1 victory for Ligier.
Equipe Ligier managed to contest 326 Grand Prix races, make 50 podiums appearances, notch 9 victories, claim second place in the 1980 World Championship and build over 20 Formula 1 cars. It was also home to an illustrious list of drivers over the eighteen years that it competed under the Ligier name.
Post-Formula 1 life
Following the demise of the Monica car company in 1975, Ligier purchased the French assets and remaining unassembled vehicles. Ligier did not resume production of the Monica.
Having built a variety of sports-racing and Formula 1 cars, Ligier began to diversify his automobile company in the 1980s. Beginning with tractor cabs, the Ligier Group later began production of "Voitures sans permis" or "voiturettes", a class of microcar in France that may be driven without an operator's license, with the release of the Ligier JS4.
In 1992 Ligier realized that the socialist government would not last forever and sold his team to Cyril de Rouvre (The team was sold again in 1994 to Flavio Briatore). Ligier used the money from the sale to corner the market in natural fertilizer in central France and set about building another fortune.
Within a few months Mitterrand's Socialist Party experienced a major loss in the elections and Bérégovoy committed suicide on May 1, 1993. Ligier remained involved with the old Formula 1 team in an ambassadorial role until it was sold yet again, this time to Alain Prost in February 1997 and renamed Prost Grand Prix.
The name Ligier returned to the motor racing spotlight in 2014 when Jacques Nicolet's Onroak Automotive began building cars. Some were campaigned by Nicolet's own OAK Racing, which fielded a Ligier JS P2 prototype running in FIA World Endurance Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans with Nicolet and Jean-Marc Merlin driving.
Ligier's son had also become a constructor of Formula 3 cars.
Ligier was survived by his wife and their two children, son Philippe and daughter Pascale.
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- LIGIER Sport & Prototypes 1969-1975 et 2014 by Jean-Marc Teissedre. Language: French. ISBN 978-2360590520
- Guy Ligier (French) Paperback – 1976 by Jean-Pierre Gosselin. Publisher: Solar (1976). Language: French. ISBN 978-2263000119
- L'Épopée Ligier en Formule 1 (French) Paperback. ISBN 979-1028301255 - ASIN: B01GFJZI56