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NOVEMBER 18, 2005

Jabby Crombac

Gerard "Jabby" Crombac has died in Paris. The most experienced Formula 1 journalist of them all, Jabby reported on Formula 1 before the World Championship began in 1950. As an indication of his standing, although everyone knew him as Jabby, in recent years his friends had taken to calling him Legend.

Born into a well-to-do Swiss family, which owned department stores in Switzerland, Crombac was intended to work in the cloth trade but his passion for motor racing began early and he lost an early job, having been recognized by his employer in a photograph in a local newspaper, helping out at a race track as a mechanic.

In the summer of 1949 Jabby hitchhiked to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. While he was in England he met Gregor Grant, who was running the Light Car magazine. Crombac agreed to supply Grant with European coverage while working as a mechanic with French driver Raymond Sommer. He was thus able to attend the major European events without having to pay his own way. This arrangement continued until Sommer was killed in the autumn of 1950. That year Grant decided to launch a new publishing venture called Autosport, a weekly racing magazine. It was a great success and, with Crombac reporting at events around Europe, it became popular with the British racing public.

By 1954 Crombac had decided that France could use a similar magazine and so launched Sport Auto. This became one of the most important racing publications in France and funded Jabby's constant travels from race to race. While working as a reporter Crombac was also involved in other aspects of the sport in those early days: he was involved with the management of early Matra racing efforts, worked as a steward at races and was even an FIA delegate for a national club which could not afford to send a representative to Paris for the big meetings. He was a close friend of many of the drivers in the 1960s, shared an apartment in Paris with Jim Clark and owned one of Clark's road cars.

In the 1970s, as the sport grew, so did Crombac's reputation and he eventually sold Sport Auto to a large publishing house. By the early 1980s Crombac was so well-established as a Formula 1 expert that he was consulted by Honda when it decided it wanted to enter F1 as an engine-manufacturer.

Jabby's other great love was flying and he continued to do that until he became too weak from cancer. Jabby accepted his fate with grace, reckoning that he had had a great life and that if it time to go there was not point in making a fuss about it.

He takes an enormous knowledge with him to the grave but one hopes that a book he was working on in the last few years will one day be published so that his many and varied stories do not disappear from the sport.

Click to read an appreciation by David Tremayne: Jabby Crombac