12/7/1930 - 23/8/2015
Ligier was a Formula One driver who participated in 13 grands prix, debuting on May 22, 1966. He scored 1 championship point. He is however more famous as the founder and owner of the Ligier automobile company which also ran a successful Formula Team in the 70s, 80s and 90s before selling it to Alain Prost. Guy Ligier died 7 years ago, he was 85 , He would have been 92.
The son of a farmer, Guy was born in 1930 in Vichy, central France. Orphaned in 1937 he left school at 16 and went to work as a butcher. During his National Service he rowed and played Rugby for the French Army and won an International cap playing for the French B 15.
From his job at the butchers, he saved as much money as he could and bought a used bulldozer and with it, entered the construction business. He spent most part of the 1950s and 60s building the business and making a small fortune.
He had always wanted to race and now with a budget he started racing motorcycles. He moved to four wheel racing with the aquisition of an Elva-DKW Formula Junior.
In the 1960s he raced sports cars starting with a Porsche 356 Carrera in 1963 before moving to a 904 in 1964, getting some good results including a win the that year's Coupes de Vitesse. He also raced in Formula 2 that year driving a Brabham BT10 to fifth at Enna and sixth at Albi and Montlhéry.
Armed with a GT40 in 1965 he continued to get some good results in Endurance racing over the next three years.
In 1966 he aquired a Cooper-Maserati T81 and entered the Monaco GP finishing 25 laps down in sixth but unclassified. In qualifying he had outpaced Bob Bondurant's private BRM and was only 0.2s adrift of Jo Bonnier's similar private Cooper-Maserati but in the race he was held back by driveshaft problems.
At the Belgian GP he finished just 4 laps down on the winner. In France he qualified in 11th but in the race was unclassified again. The British Grand Prix was a similar story. At Zandvoort he was again still running at the end, last of the runners but on the same lap as Bonnier and John Taylor. Then at Nürburging he crashed in practice crash breaking his knee-cap and bringing his season to a preature end.
He was back in 1967 now in a more competitive Brabham-Repco BT20. At the Nürburging he was sixth, having been lapped by Hulme, Brabham and Amon. He actually finished 8th but was awarded the point for 6th as the two F2 drivers who finished ahead of him on the road were ineligible to score points. It was to be his only World Championship point.
In sportscars he teamed up with Jo Schlesser and together they won the Reims 12-hour race. In 1968, Guy and Jo ran a pair of customer McLaren M4As under their Ecurie InterSport banner during the first half of that season. Then at Rouen-les-Essarts, Schlesser got real Formula One opportunity with the experimental air-cooled Honda F1 car, the RA302. Surtees had tested the car and told the factory that it was not only not ready for racing but that it was potentially dangerous. Undaunted, with the financial help of Honda France, Honda entered it for the 1968 French Grand Prix at Rouen with Schlesser at the wheel. It ended in tragedy and Guy pulled out of the sport.
He came back in 1969 initially as a driver but then he began a sportscar project, designed by Michel Tétu, called the JS1 - 'JS' in honor of his great friend Jo Schlesser. He raced the JS1 in 1970 winning at Albi and the Coupes de Vitesse.
For 1971, Ligier had the JS1 developed into the JS2 and JS3. The JS2 was homologated for road use and used a Maserati V6 engine, while the JS3 was an open-top sports-prototype powered by a Cosworth DFV V8 engine. The JS3 won at Monthlery in 1971 but failed to finish the minimum distance in Le Mans. Ligier then installed the Cosworth DFV into the JS2 road car, finishing second overall at Le Mans in 1975 with Jean-Louis Lafosse and Guy Chasseuil at the wheel.
In 1976 he acquired the Matra F1 team's assets and entered Formula One the following year with a Matra V12-powered car, winning the 1977 Swedish Grand Prix with Jacques Laffite, the first all-French victory in the Formula One World Championship.
The team's heyday was in the late 1970s and 1980s, with a competitive peak in 1980, when they were regular front-runners, challenging for title glory before a long streak of barren, Laffite-less years set in. After Jacques' retirement Ligier took up some sort of Sauberesque role in the GP field, always there or thereabouts, not looking bad (although sometimes they plainly did), but not looking good either.
Guy sold the team to fellow Frenchman, Cyril de Rouvre, at the end of the 1992 season, and the team tool its last victory came in 1996 when Olivier Panis won the Monaco Grand Prix.
The following year Ligier was sold to four-time world champion Alain Prost, who changed the name to Prost and ran the team until it collapsed at the end of the 2001.