Ex-Formula 1 team principal Guy Ligier died on Sunday at the age of 85.
An accomplished sportsman and racing driver in his own right, Ligier bought the assets of the Matra F1 team and launched his eponymous effort in 1976. For the first few years of its existence the team ran a single car for Jacques Laffite, a driver who became synonymous with its patriotic blue and white cars. And although it was a low-key effort compared to some of its front-running contemporaries, Ligier and Laffite scored a podium in only their fifth grand prix, at Zolder. The first win followed a year later at Anderstorp.
More than any of his team’s achievements on track, what Ligier brought to F1 was a sense of personality. He was renowned for fiery tirades and an occasionally haphazard approach to an increasingly professional sport. As individual touches disappeared, his own endured: every Ligier’s number featured the prefix ‘JS’, after his friend Jo Schlesser who was killed at Rouen in 1968. This tradition continued even after his involvement with the team ceased in 1992.
Here’s what those who knew Ligier had to say about the man and his team:
“In the early days it was incredible. There were about 16 of us when we started in 1976. The mechanics were used to Le Mans (where Ligier used to enter his own sport prototypes) and maybe two-three other races per year, but that was it, nothing that bore any relation to F1. The arrival of Matra, Gerard Ducarouge, Jean-Francois Robin helped… They were all very professional, with lots of F1 and sports car experience. We had one truck, a 300 square metre workshop… complete artisans, but fantastic. What Ligier achieved in 1976 and 1977 was amazing.
Jacques Laffite returns to Ligier (1995)
“After a particularly spectacular effort at the Österreichring, Andrea was sacked and replaced by Philippe Streiff. He, too, brought Guy Ligier’s blood to boiling point by colliding with Jacques on the last lap of the last race as they cruised to a surprise 2-3 finish in Adelaide. They survived, but Streiff’s contract did not.”
David Malsher interviews Laffite (2004)
“People claim I was fired by Guy Ligier, but this is bullshit, too.”
Andrea de Cesaris disputes his bad reputation (2012)
“The combined effect of Ducarouge and the patron role of Guy Ligier made this more like a family. Guy was the father, the rest were the children, and Ducarouge was the oldest child helping bring the family up.”
Mark Hughes looks at life at Ligier in the early days (2004)