Former Grand Prix drivers Neville Lederle and Henri Pescarolo are celebrating their birthdays today!
Despite just two World Championship appearances to his name, South African-born Lederle (73 today) was considered one of his country’s greatest motor racing prospects during his career.
His one Grand Prix start came at his home race in 1962, where he scored a fine sixth place driving a privately entered Lotus 21. Just a week before, he’d qualified on the front row for the non-championship Natal Grand Prix alongside Graham Hill and Trevor Taylor.
Despite continuing to be a frontrunner at home, he would never grace the Formula 1 starting grid again, and retired from competition in 1965.
French-born Pescarolo (who turns 69 today) would have followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a surgeon, but the motor racing bug bit him when he was in his third year of medical school studies.
After initial outings in a Lotus 7, Pescarolo joined Matra’s works F3 team in 1966 and would go on to win the European title just a year later.
A move into Formula 2 was a mere formality, and he impressed as Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s number-two to get promoted into Matra’s F1 line-up for the final three flyaway races of the year.
Unfortunately his career suffered a massive setback when he crashed on the Mulsanne Straight while testing Matra’s Le Mans sports car. He suffered bad burns which kept him out of competitive action until the mid-season. Returning to F1 competition at Germany, he finished fifth overall in his F2-spec Matra MS7!
With Beltoise returning to Matra in 1970 after a season with Tyrrell, Pescarolo had a solid first full season in F1, peaking with third place at the Monaco Grand Prix. He and Beltoise also won the Buenos Aires 1000Km sports car race.
Despite his results, he was not part of the Matra line-up in 1971, and Pescarolo joined Frank Wiliams’ outfit, with the team renting a March chassis. The next two seasons were thin in terms of results, and expensive with the number of crashes that Henri found himself involved in.
But a move to sports car racing showed his promise once more, and he claimed a hat-trick of wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1972-4. And while his F1 career stuttered on for another three years with little success, his sports car exploits continued to make him shine.
In all, Henri has claimed 22 major sports car victories, including a fourth Le Mans win in 1984 out of his record 33 participations at the event. He now runs his own eponymous sports car outfit, which he set up in 2000.
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