DRIVERS: GUY LIGIER
Name: Guy Ligier
Date of birth: July 12, 1930 - Vichy
Guy Ligier was an orphan who started his working life working in a butcher's shop. He saved enough money to buy a second-hand bulldozer and set himself up in the construction business. He also played rugby and was good enough to represent France at international level. After that he started racing motorcycles.
His business connections included many local politicians. Ligier struck up a friendship with Francois Mitterand and in the 1950s and 1960s their stars rose together: Ligier made a fortune helping to build France's motorway networks and Mitterand climbed the political ladder. As he became richer Ligier turned to motor sport and worked his way up from Formula Junior to sportscar racing and eventually Formula 1 in 1966 in a private Cooper-Maserati. The following year he bought a Brabham-Repco, but his results were patchy at best.
In 1968 Ligier teamed up with Jo Schlesser to run a pair of McLaren Formula 2 cars. After Schlesser was killed at Rouen Ligier retired from racing and announced his intention to build racing cars. He hired a young engineer called Michel Tetu, who was working at Charles Deutsch's Automobiles CD. Tetu designed the Ligier
JS1 - the JS designation in honour of Schlesser - and fitted with Cosworth engines the cars were both raced and sold to the public. In the early 1970s Ligier sportscars raced regularly at Le Mans but in 1974 Matra took the decision to quit racing and sold its entire racing operation to Ligier. Ligier landed backing from the French government-owned cigarette company SEITA, which owned Gitanes and Ligier moved into F1 in 1976.
The Ligier team won its first race in Sweden in 1977 and in 1979 was a serious challenger for the World Championship with Jacques Laffite and Patrick Depailler. But by 1982 the team's fortunes had begun to wane. Fortunately Ligier's old friend Mitterand became President of France in 1981 and for the next 14 years helped not only with funding from government-related companies but also with Renault engines. The team was never a great success and in 1992 Ligier, upset by being jeered by the crowds at Monaco, decided to sell the team to Cyril de Rouvre, a French politician. Ligier reinvested his profits in the natural fertiliser business and promptly made another fortune...