Jacky Ickx – one of Formula 1’s finest wet-weather drivers – is celebrating his 67th birthday today!
Undoubtedly Belgium’s best-ever racing driver across a variety of disciplines, Ickx claimed 25 Formula 1 podiums and a record six wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ickx was viewed as so talented that it seemed that a World Championship title would be a mere formality. As is sadly the case with too many gifted drivers, this was never the outcome, and his form faded as he drove a succession of less competitive cars towards the end of his very long Grand Prix career, which spanned 1966 to 1979.
The son of a motorsport journalist, Jacky was a multiple motorcycle champion in his homeland before he started racing cars and was pitched into Formula 2 in 1966 under the watchful eye of Ken Tyrrell.
It wouldn’t take long for him to be noticed, as he qualified his Formula 2 Matra third-quickest at the 1967 German Grand Prix, although he was forced to start at the back of the grid with the other F2 machines. By lap 12, he was up to fourth before his suspension failed.
With everyone now interested, he had two outings with Cooper – scoring his first championship point next time out at Italy – and then joining Ferrari for the 1968 season.
In just his fifth race for the Scuderia, he scored his maiden F1 win with a tremendous drive in the wet at Rouen, and his consistent results kept him in the championship hunt until an accident in practice for the Canadian Grand Prix.
Contractual considerations saw him move to Brabham in 1969 in order for him to keep driving for the Gulf sports car team on the side, and he picked up two wins, before switching back to Ferrari for 1970 and landing a further three victories.
He stayed at Ferrari until 1973 and switched to Lotus for 1974, but he wasn’t delivering the results, and switched to intermittent drives with Williams, Wolf, Ensign and Ligier from 1976 onwards, retiring from F1 at the end of 1979.
He went on to become the circuit director at Spa-Francorchamps, but was lured back into sports car racing, twice winning the World Championship crown and adding a further two Le Mans victories. He also won the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1983, and finally retired from all motor racing in 1992.