Francois Hesnault

Francois Hesnault

30/12/1942

Wealthy French racing driver who drove in 21 Grand Prix for Ligier and Brabham. He quit after a huge testing accident at Paul Ricard.

Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in France, Hesnault was heir to a transportation business with many important government contracts. Wealthy and well educated, he started racing in Formula Renault in 1980 after completing his military service as an officer in a parachute regiment, seeing action in West Africa.

He graduated to Formula 3 in 1982, winning two races and finishing third in the series.

For 1983 he drove for Dave Price and in a season long duel with Michel Ferte, narrowly missed out on the title despite taking five wins.

Never the less it was still with some surprise that Hesnault was drafted into the Ligier team in 1984, though backing from French government company Antar, part of the Elf empire, no doubt helped. Hesnault however acquitted himself well, sometimes proving more than a match for his team-mate Andrea de Cesaris, particularly at Dijon.

A move to Brabham in 1985 to be Nelson Piquet's team mate, proved a big let-down, and after an enormous testing accident midseason at Paul Ricard, in which he ended up trapped in his car wrapped in catch-fencing, his heart was no longer in it. It was an unnerving experience for Hesnault and he was sacked after four uncompetitive races, only returning for a one-off race in a Renault at the end of the season to test a prototype onboard camera, making it the first use of this technology in a Grand Prix. It was also the last race in which three cars have been entered by the same team.

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