18 May 1928|
Liouville, Meuse, France
7 July 1968 (aged 40)|
Rouen-Les-Essarts, Seine-Maritime, France
|Formula One World Championship career|
|First entry||1966 German Grand Prix|
|Last entry||1968 French Grand Prix|
Joseph Schlesser (18 May 1928 – 7 July 1968) was a French Formula One and sports car racing driver. He participated in three World Championship Grands Prix, including the 1968 French Grand Prix in which he was killed. He scored no championship points. He was the uncle of Jean-Louis Schlesser who himself became a Formula One driver in the 1980s.
Schlesser began his motor sport career in 1952, when he rallied a Panhard before, in 1954, trying the then popular French class of racing known as Monomill. His career was then interrupted for three years whilst he was working in Mozambique but he returned to Europe in 1957 when he finished second in the Rome–Liège–Rome Rally in a Mercedes. He then raced a Ferrari 250 GT but without much success until 1960 when he finished second in class at the Nürburgring 1000 km and second overall at Rouen. He also raced a Cooper in Formula Two in 1960 but only achieved a sixth place at Syracuse. In 1961 his season was cut short by an accident at Le Mans but he returned in 1962 with a Formula Junior Brabham.
In 1964 Schlesser moved to the new one-litre Formula Two and became a highly regarded competitor in European Formula Two in the pre-European Formula Two Championship era. In 1966 he joined the works Matra Formula Two team and continued with the same team as Ford France in 1967. In 1968 he joined his close friend Guy Ligier to race McLarens.
Jo Schlesser also raced in NASCAR, finishing 13th in the 1964 Daytona 500.
Schlesser participated in the 1966 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring with a Formula Two (F2) specification Matra MS5-BRM 1.0 litre and again in 1967 at the same venue with an F2 Matra MS5-Cosworth 1.6 litre. In 1966, he finished 10th in the overall classification and third in the Formula Two classification. In 1967, he was forced to retire with a clutch problem after two laps.
A real Formula One opportunity came for Schlesser in 1968 with Honda. The Honda team had completed an experimental air-cooled Formula One car (the RA302) which was tested by their works driver John Surtees. Surtees pronounced it as not ready for racing, and a potential deathtrap. Undaunted, with the financial help of Honda France, Honda entered it for the French Grand Prix at Rouen. Being the local hero, Schlesser was hired to drive it.
After two laps, the car slid wide at the Six Frères corner and crashed sideways into a bank. The magnesium-bodied Honda and 58 laps' worth of fuel ignited instantly, leaving Schlesser no chance of survival. As a result, Honda withdrew from Formula One at the end of the 1968 season after Surtees again refused to drive the car at the Italian race of the same year.
A friend of Jo Schlesser's, future Formula One constructor Guy Ligier, always gave his cars type numbers beginning with "JS" as a tribute to Schlesser.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
|1966||Matra Sports||Matra MS5 (F2)||Cosworth
|1967||Écurie Ford-France||Matra MS5 (F2)||Cosworth
|1968||Honda Racing (France)||Honda RA302||Honda V8||RSA||ESP||MON||BEL||NED||FRA
- Jo Schlesser's accident (in Italian)
| Formula One fatal accidents
7 July 1968