Today marks the respective birthdays for two of Formula 1’s rather more obscure drivers, with Guy Edwards (pictured left) turning 68 and François Hesnault (pictured right) turning 54!
Born as the son of a Royal Airforce squadron leader, Cheshire-born Edwards graduated from Durham University and caught the motor racing bug at a racing school course at Brands Hatch.
Starting off in a Ford Anglia in 1965, he moved to a Mini and made his open-wheeler debut in Formula 3 in 1968. Finances were tight and it forced him to return to the cheaper sports car series’, but he returned to open-wheelers in 1972 with Formula 5000, driving a McLaren 10B. His results secured him backing from the Barclays Bank group, and in 1974 he talked his way into a seat at Graham Hill’s Embassy Racing F1 outfit.
He would only last seven races – admittedly with modest results in a not very good car – before breaking his wrist in a Formula 5000 crash.
Ever the wheeler-dealer, he returned to F1 in 1976 with Hesketh, in a controversial Penthouse- and Rizla-liveried car, and was one of four drivers to rescue Niki Lauda from his fiery accident at the German Grand Prix.
A single attempt to qualify a BRM in 1977 came to nought, and he joined the Aurora AFX championship and then sports cars, winning two rounds in the World Sports Car Championship in 1981.
It was no surprise that Edwards would move back into sponsorship acquisition, working for the March F1 concern until 1985, and he would later secure the Silk Cut sponsorship for the Jaguar sports car outfit. He continues in sponsorship management to this day.
The heir to a hugely successful French transportation company, Hesnault entered motorsport relatively late and it was perhaps more by dint of his family wealth – as opposed to outright talent – that he managed to climb the heights of Formula 1.
He made his motorsport debut at the age of 24 in Formula Renault, and graduated to the French Formula 3 championship in 1982, winning two races and placing third overall, and finishing runner-up in his second season.
Then Ligier made the surprise announcement that it had signed Hesnault to partner Andrea de Cesaris for the 1984 F1 season, no doubt with a little bit of financial support from the Elf-owned Antar organisation, one of Hesnault’s principal backers. Hasneult generally impressed, and was occasionally able to match the more experienced Italian in outright pace.
Brabham then secured the Frenchman’s services for 1985, but Hesnault struggled alongside team-mate Nelson Piquet, and suffered a terrifying accident during testing at the Paul Ricard circuit, which saw him trapped in the car with it wrapped around the catch fencing.
Not surprisingly, Hesnault was too spooked by this to want to continue in the sport, but he was coaxed to appear for one more race by Renault – the German Grand Prix – to use an onboard camera. He disappeared from the motor racing scene shortly afterwards