Former F1 driver Jean-Pierre Jarier is celebrating his 65th birthday.
This mercurial Frenchman was considered one of the great hopes in his homeland and there were certainly moments when his talent reigned supreme. But ultimately, he flattered to deceive, paying the price of his inconsistency behind the wheel.
It was while studying economics at university that Jean-Pierre became interested in motorsport, and he started competing in motorcycle racing soon after.
Taking advantage of his parents’ concerns that two-wheeled competition was too dangerous, he convinced his mother to sell her Peugeot runabout so he could buy a Renault 8 Gordini with which to go racing. By 1971, he had moved into single-seaters and was now racing in Formula 2 – finishing second at a race at Crystal Palace – before making his F1 debut in a privately-entered March.
A handful of F2 races in 1972 followed, but he won the title the following year with the works March team, making the odd appearance on the F1 grid when his schedule allowed.
He joined the Shadow team in 1974, peaking with a podium at Monaco before leading the Brazilian Grand Prix the following year. The reliability (or lack of it) of that year’s DN5 and DN7 challengers was legendary, and Jarier predictably retired from a race-winning position.
Shadow’s decline continued in 1976, and he joined the ATS team the following year but quit before the end of 1978, taking the Lotus seat left vacant after Ronnie Peterson’s death – he promptly put the car on pole in just his second outing for the team.
A two-year deal with Tyrrell was his reward, and he collected a few podium places. And thereafter, it was stints at Osella and Ligier – achieving the odd solid result here and there – before he finally drew down the curtain on a lengthy and unfulfilled career. The last few years earned him few plaudits from his peers, as he frequently blundered into their path as they came up to lap him. BBC commentator was certainly no Jarier fan, one remarking that he was “a French wally … with the mental age of a ten-year-old”.
Jarier continued racing in GT series’ around the world for a further ten years, luckily surviving a helicopter crash in 1994.