Formula 1’s first-ever race-winner in a turbocharged car, Jean Pierre Jabouille, is celebrating his 69th birthday today!
With no previous motorsport experience, Paris-born Jean-Pierre made his racing debut at the Renault Gordini Series in 1966, where his few race wins were enough to earn him a call-up to the French Formula 3 championship in 1967.
His rise through the motorsport ranks was indeed slow, and by 1974 he’d made a few unsuccessful attempts to qualify a Williams and a Surtees while attempting to run a self-designed entry in Formula 2, with the backing of fuel giant Elf. He finished runner-up to Jacques Laffite, and claimed a well-earned title the following year.
He undertook the development work of Renault’s turbocharged F1 project in 1977, taking countless engine-related retirement in his stride for the next two seasons, knowing that the outfit’s insistence on turbo power would eventually pay off.
That day came at the famous 1979 French Grand Prix at Dijon, a race better known for the scrap for second place between Arnoux and Villeneuve.
Generally overshadowed by team-mate Arnoux in 1980, he took a canny win at Austria, but suffered badly smashed legs when he crashed at Canada when his suspension failed.
Having already signed to the Ligier team for the following season, Jabouille was back in the cockpit at the start of the year, but it was clear that he’d not fully recovered from his injuries. Sensibly, he elected to retired mid-season.
He indulged in some French Supertourisme action in the following years, before joining Peugeot’s successful sports car operation, firstly as a driver and then later as a manager, going on to head up Peugeot’s motorsport division.
When McLaren teamed up with Peugeot in 1994, Jabouille was there in the background. But the marriage was a disaster, and the partnership broke up at the end of the year, before Jordan swooped to sign the works contract. But after another troubled season for the engine-builder, Jabouille was turfed from the role. Peugeot would never taste race-winning success in Formula 1.