One-time Grand Prix winner Jean-Pierre Beltoise is turning 75 years old today. The Frenchman claimed the last-ever Grand Prix win for the declining BRM team in 1972.
Having forged a successful career in motorcycles – indeed, he won no less than eleven national titles in the space of three years – Beltoise’s four-wheeled motorsport career almost ended as soon as it began, courtesy of a massive shunt at the Reims 12-hour race that badly broke his arm and restricted its movement ever since.
Having recovered, he moved to the F3 scene, and won at the scene of his tragedy in 1965 for Matra, with whom he graduated to F2, winning the German Grand Prix support race.
By 1968, he was duly rewarded with a full-time drive for Matra, who entrusted him with their own V12-engined machine. The highlight of his first full season was a brilliant drive to second place at the Dutch Grand Prix, doing enough to get himself noticed and promoted to Tyrrell in 1969, as Jackie Stewart’s number-two, while Matra stepped away to further develop their V12.
The Matra V12 returned for 1970, and Beltoise went back to the French squad, finishing on the podium at Spa and Monza. Victory, however, continued to elude him, as it would again in 1971. That year, he also received a lengthy suspension for his role in the death of Ignazio Giunti at the Buenos Aires 1000Km sports car race.
For 1972, he was lured to BRM with the attraction of the role as lead driver. The team was now its terminal decline, but Beltoise finally notched up his single F1 victory – and the last for the team itself – in the monsoonal Monaco GP. It was a truly great wet-weather drive, acknowledged as one of the best seen on the streets of the Principality. Even Jacky Ickx – the wet-weather maestro – finished over a minute adrift of the Frenchman, and was one of the first to congratulate JPB on his achievement.
Beltoise would never win an official F1 championship race again, and suffered the indignity of BRM’s rapid freefall from grace, retiring at the end of 1974 before turning to touring car racing.