Johnny Servoz-Gavin

Johnny Servoz-Gavin

18/1/1942 - 28/5/2006

Georges-Francis "Johnny" Servoz-Gavin was a motor racing driver in both sportscars and single seaters. he won the French Formula Three Championship in 1966 and the European Formula 2 Championship in 1969. He participated in 13 Formula One World Championship Grand Prix between 1967 and 1970, achieving one podium, and a total of 9 championship points. He drove for the Tyrrell F1 team, mainly as Jackie Stewart's teammate.

<font face="Tahoma" size="2">Georges-Francis 'Johnny' Servoz-Gavin was born in Grenoble where his parents owned a bar. Johnny left home to become racing driver after he heard a report about the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the radio.

He was a handsome, blond playboy racer who loved the good life, but significantly he also possessed a great deal of talent.

After being thrown out of the Winfield driving school in 1963, 'Johnny' did a little rallying in 1964 and raced in the Coupe de Provinces representing Savoie, before spending all his money on a Brabham for 1965. He was wild but fast, taking fourth place in the French F3 series to earn a drive with Matra in 1966. That year he won the French Championship and he was promoted to the Matra Formula 2 team for 1967. However his results were moderate, and only a splendid fourth in the F1/F2 non-title Spanish GP kept him on board.

An accident to Jackie Stewart early in 1968 brought the Frenchman a glorious opportunity to show his ability. In Ken Tyrrell's Matra he sensationally led the Monaco GP, but clipped a barrier which broke a driveshaft. Later in the season he redeemed himself with a superb second place in the Italian GP, but he still lacked a full-time Grand Prix ride.

For 1969 he concentrated on the European F2 championship, and with victory in the Rome GP took the title of top non-graded driver. In Grands Prix, he was mainly entrusted with the Matra MS84, and succeeded in gaining a point with it at Mosport, the only time any 4WD car achieved this feat. He was also very active in sports car racing.

The following season he was signed to drive alongside Stewart in the Tyrrell March team but that winter he took part in an off-road event in a Jeep and was hit in the face by a branch of a tree which damaged his eyesight.

Running the difficult March 701, he finished fifth in the Spanish GP, but after he failed to qualify at Monaco he took the  decision to retire, partly due to concerns over his vision. Ultimately he had decided that the risks inherent in racing at the time were not worthwhile, but there was also, apparently, a problem with his vision, which may have been the deciding factor.

His Bohemian nature suited his life in Formula 1 during the '60's and later he lived on a boat. In 1982 suffered serious burns when a gas bottle exploded. He survived this despite his heart stopping three times as he was being operated on. He also spent much of the rest of his life wandering around the Mediterranean in a horse-drawn caravan.

historicracing.com

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