Former Grand Prix driver Érik Comas is celebrating his 48th birthday today!
Érik was part of the glut of French racing stars who rose through the ranks in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He began racing karts at the relatively late age of 19, and almost immediately switched to car racing, buying an old Renault 5 from none other than Jean Alesi.
He won a place at the Volant Elf finals at Paul Ricard in 1983, winning the competition and moving to Formula Renault in 1984, finishing fourth in the season with a race win to his name. He dominated the championship in 1985 with eight wins, and moved to the Renault works team in the Superproduction series, winning that title as well.
He then stepped up to Formula 3 and then Formula 3000, finishing equal on points with championship-winner Jean Alesi in 1989 (losing on count-back) and winning the title in 1990.
Very much the new darling of the French motorsport scene, he debuted with Ligier in 1991 as the rookie partner to Thierry Boutsen in the Lamborghini-powered car. But it was a dreadful year and neither driver scored a point, and he was lucky to survive a huge practice accident at Hockenheim, where his car flipped as the Ostkurve chicane (pictured).
Switching to Renault power in 1992, he finished in the points on three occasions, peaking with fifth at Magny Cours.
For 1993, he joined Larrousse – running its own chassis design for the first time in its history – and he picked up a solitary point at Monza.
Staying on for 1994, he earned two more sixth place results at Aida and Hockenheim in the underpowered car. But his morale took a huge hit when he was inexplicably released from the pit lane during the San Marino Grand Prix race stoppage for Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash, and was devastated to arrive on the scene when his friend – who had himself come to Comas’ aid during a heavy crash at Belgium in 1992 – was critically injured.
With funds quickly running dry, Comas was stood aside for the final race so Jean-Denis Délétraz could bring some desperately-needed cash to the operation.
He was briefly involved in DAMS’ abortive attempt to enter F1 in 1995, even testing the outfit’s agricultural prototype chassis during the off-season before the project was abandoned.
Comas now carves out a successful career in the Japanese Grand Touring Championship series.