Patrick Neve

Full Name:
Patrick Marie Ghislain Pierre Simon Stanislas Neve
Born:
13th October 1949
Liege, Wallonia
Died:
13th March 2017 (Aged 67)
Brussels
Nationality:
Belgian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni figured strongly in the early days of Williams Grand Prix Engineering but its original driver was Patrick Nève. Having sold the assets of his previous company to Walter Wolf, Williams returned in the 1977 World Championship with a year-old March-Ford and this Belgian driver.

Background and early career

Born into an influential Liège family, Nève initially worked as a gopher at Snetterton’s Jim Russell Racing School. A Formula Ford race winner with the school’s Merlyn, he entered a Lola T340 in the 1974 BRDC Formula Ford 1600 Championship and won the STP-sponsored series.

He had also made his Formula 3 debut that year in an old Brabham and Nève graduated to the category fulltime in 1975. He was due to drive a ShellSport-backed works Lola but the deal fell apart at the 11th hour. Rescued by an offer from Ray Jessop’s Safir concern, Nève impressed despite limited funds and the less-fashionable Ford engine. Often Gunnar Nilsson’s closest challenger, he was disappointed to only finish second at Monaco but he won a British Championship race at Knockhill.

Formula 1 with RAM and Williams

Formula 1 was next with Nève driving RAM Racing’s Brabham BT44B-Ford in both British non-championship races at the start of 1976. He then retired from his GP debut in Belgium and switched to the Ensign N176-Ford to finish 18th in the French GP.

He began 1977 driving a works March 772P-BMW in a one-off in the opening Formula 2 race at Silverstone. He was leading with eight laps to go when a wheel nearly fell off and Nève dropped to third in the subsequent pitstop.

The new Williams team made its F1 debut in the 1977 Spanish GP with Nève’s March 761-Ford bedecked in new sponsorship from Belle-Vue Breweries and Saudia Airlines. He started eight races and failed to qualify for another three – a career-best seventh at Monza being the highlight of his season.

Subsequent racing career

Williams signed Alan Jones for the 1978 season and Nève never raced in F1 again – bowing out after 10 GP starts. Instead, he made a disappointing return to F2 at Thruxton with a private March 782-BMW and raced in sports cars for BMW Belgium. Nève shared the fourth-placed BMW 320i in the Misano Six Hours with Harald Grohs but that was his only top-six finish.

Driving Onyx Race Engineering’s F2 Pilbeam MP42-Hart at the start of 1979 and one-off outings at Zolder in 1980 and Járama three years later provided his last, disappointing international single-seater outings.

A retiree at Le Mans in 1980 and 1982, Nève continued to race in the Belgian touring cars and the Spa 24 Hours into the early 1990s. He then concentrated on running his Brussels-based sports-promotion agency.