F1: Jean-Pierre Jabouille dies at 80

Jean-Pierre Jabouille, winner of two Grand Prix died today at the age of 80.

The Frenchman raced for Tyrrell and Ligier in F1 and gave Renault its first win in F1. He raced in 55 Formula One Grands Prix, collecting two wins during the first years of Renault’s turbocharged program in the late 1970s and early 1980s

At the Dijon-Prenois circuit, Renault and Jabouille won with a turbo engine for the first time in history.

His victory was unfortunately overshadowed by the fantastic battle between the other Renault of René Arnoux and the Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve.

A year later, he won another victory with Renault in Austria on the Osterreichring track.

Jabouille also raced the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, driving for Alpine, Matra, Sauber and Peugeot and collecting four 3rd overall finishes in 1973, 1974, 1992 and 1993. Jabouille was one of the last of a breed of Formula One drivers who were also engineers.

Jabouille was signed up by Formula One team Renault to develop their new 1.5l turbocharged engine for 1977. 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, who was an engineer by trade persevered and developed the RS01 throughout, recording several notable qualifying positions in 1978, and landed the marque’s first points with 4th place at the United States Grand Prix East at Watkins Glen, a circuit particularly tough on fuel consumption- one of the Renault turbo’s biggest weaknesses.

1979 saw Renault expand to run a second car for René Arnoux. Jabouille secured Renault’s first Formula One pole at the South African Grand Prix, and then won their first victory, fittingly at the French Grand Prix, also from pole. This was the first victory for a turbocharged car in Formula One. He took two more poles, at the German and Italian Grands Prix, but poor reliability meant the win was his only score.

In 1980 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 from Formula One, and he then became manager of the Ligier/Talbot team in 1982.

Mark Cipolloni reporting for AutoRacing1.com