1971 French at Paul Ricard by François Mazet
You drove Jo Siffert’s March 701 in the French GP. How did you know him?
I knew him for quite a few years before I started motor racing. I was friends with guys like Jo, Jim Clark and Jo Schlesser through Jabby Crombac; he was in charge of the Sport Auto Club in Paris — and I was always there! They encouraged me, saying you can go racing easily, just do the Volant Shell series.
How did your career progress?
I won the Volant Shell title in 1967 — the year after François Cevert had — beating Jean-Claude Andruet. I had a Formula Three Tecno from Shell for 1968; I finished fourth in the French championship, and first the year after. In 70, I drove a Formula Two Brabham with Tim Schenken. In 71, I did 2-litre prototypes with Gerard Larrousse in a Chevron, and F2 with a Chevron that belonged to Siffert.
What was your connection with Paul Ricard?
I was the first one to get involved in the circuit design, along with Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Johnny Rives. After the last F3 race in 19691 was contacted by Monsieur Paul Ricard. He said, “I want to build a circuit” I came over, and it was a jungle! I went there every week that winter.
What was the March 701 like?
It wasn’t a great car. It was very heavy. I remember I had some engine problems — most of the time I had seven cylinders instead of eight The man who tried to help me get the engine working was Guy Ligier. We were good friends, and he was involved in prototypes at that time. The only sponsor we had on the car was Shell.
Was it a good feeling sitting on the grid for your home race? It was very emotional. But you have to remember that at the time most of the cars were works cars with regular driven with lots of experience. I was very slow because it was not a good car, and on your first time in F1 you don’t want to hold up the drivers who are fighting for the world championship. There was a big battle between Ferrari and Jackie Stewart.
But at least you made it to the flag…
For sure it was better to finish than to retire. I don’t have bad memories of motor racing. Even when it was really difficult, it was a very exciting time.
Why did you never do another GP?
I was supposed to do Nürburgring with the same car, but I didn’t Jo wanted to lend me another car, but the organisers didn’t accept the change. After Jo’s death at Brands Hatch it was more difficult to find another seat I had my business going on, and I said, “Okay, I stop now. I’ll start again next year.”
Did your background help you when you worked for Essex and Lotus in the 1980s?
Of course my experience helped me. I was doing everything, because [Essex boss] David Thieme didn’t know anything about motor racing.
What are you doing now?
I’m involved in the Automobile Club de Monaco, and I’m in banking. And I have a villa in Menton, where I’m trying to make one of the nicest gardens on the Riviera, with lemon trees, exotic flowers and spice plants. It’s going well, but it’s taken 30 years!