Jabouille was one of the last of a breed of Formula One drivers who were also engineers.
A native of Paris, Jabouille was one of the last of a breed of Formula One drivers who were also engineers.
With no previous experience, Jean-Pierre competed in the R8 Renault Gordini series in 1966 and won a few races, earning an invitation to drive in French F3 in a team with the more seasoned Philippe Vidal in 1967. He continued in 1968, maintaining the car himself on his way to the runner's up spot behind François Cevert. For 1969 he was contracted as a development driver by Alpine, having several disjointed runs in Formula Two and sports cars. In 1973 he co-drove a Matra to 3rd at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and repeated this feat in 1974, when he also won the Formula Two race at Hockenheim, and finished as runner-up in the European 2-litre series for Alpine. He also made his first appearances in Formula One, failing to qualify a Williams at the French Grand Prix, and a Surtees at the Austrian Grand Prix.
1975 saw Jabouille sever his ties with Alpine, and gain Elf backing to make his own Formula Two chassis. He finished runner-up to Jacques Laffite, but finally made his full Grand Prix debut, finishing 12th in a works Tyrrell at the French Grand Prix. For 1976 he concentrated on Formula Two, finally winning the title, and for 1977 was signed up by Renault to develop their new Formula One 1.5l turbocharged engine. The RS01 car debuted at the 1977 British Grand Prix, but initially the turbo engine (a first for Formula One) was fragile and suffered from severe turbo lag, making it difficult to drive on tight circuits. However, Jabouille persevered, recording several notable qualifying positions in 1978, and landed the marque's first points with 4th place at the United States East Grand Prix.
1979 saw Renault expand to run a second car for René Arnoux, and Jabouille was generally outpaced. However, he would secure Renault's first Formula One pole at the South African Grand Prix, and then won their first victory, fittingly at the French Grand Prix, and from pole to boot. He took a third pole at the Italian Grand Prix, but poor reliability meant the win was his only score.
Arnoux was very much team leader by 1980, but Jabouille took two more poles, and another win at the Austrian Grand Prix. However, a suspension failure in the Canadian Grand Prix left him with a broken leg, just after he had signed with Ligier for 1981.
His injuries saw him sit out the first two races of the 1981 season, but it soon became clear he wasn't fully fit, failing to qualify for two of his four attempts, at which point he decided to retire. He would return in the mid-1980s to drive in the French Supertourisme series, before joining Peugeot to help develop their sports car programme, culminating in a third place at the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hours. In 1994 he succeeded Jean Todt as director of Peugeot Sport, but unsuccessful seasons for the marque in association with McLaren and Jordan saw him sacked in 1995.
In 1997 he formed his own very successful sports car team, initially running a Porsche 911 GT1 for Mauro Baldi and Emmanuel Collard, and latterly a Ferrari 333SP, with which Baldi and Laurent Redon took an outright win at Spa in 1999 in the International Sports Racing Series.