Olivier Grouillard

Olivier Grouillard was one of the lucky generation of Formula 1 drivers in the 1980s who were propelled into Formula 1 with the support of the Elf petroleum company. The winner of the Volant Elf competition in the autumn of 1981 Grouillard went into Formula Renault the following year. He did not win the title, that honour going to a youngster called Gilles Lempereur. Elf took Grouillard on to Formula 3 in 1983 when he was team mate to Michel Ferte with ORECA. Ferte won the title and while Grouillard did not win a race he finished fourth in the championship. Thus he became the teamís number one in 1984. His chief opposition came from Frederic Delavallade, who was driving for Serge Saulnierís Promatecme organisation.

The next step was Formula 3000 in 1985 but things did not go well and it was not until the formation of the GDBA team at the start of 1987 that things began to get better. During this period Grouillard also made his name as a touring car driver, sharing a Bigazzi BMW M3 with Luis Sala in the World Touring Car Championship.

By the end of 1988 Grouillard was a winner, finishing runner-up in the F3000 series that year to Roberto Moreno and earned his chance in F1. At the age of 30 he was old for a Grand Prix debutant but with the help of Elf secured a drive with Ligier. He had a formidable reputation as a development driver. He had just one year with Ligier as team mate to Rene Arnoux. At the end of the year Guy Ligier decided to get rid of both men and start again. Grouillard found refuge at Osella where he did a good job in difficult circumstances. A year on Osella was taken over by Fondmetal and Olivier remained with the team for most of 1991 until he was unexpectedly fired by the new team boss Gabriele Rumi in the autumn. His place was taken by Gabriele Tarquini and Grouillard switched to Tarquiniís AGS for the last events of the year but failed to qualify the difficult cars.

Despite this he was hired by Tyrrell in 1992 and partnered Andrea de Cesaris. It was not a very successful relationship and at the end of the year Grouillard departed F1 and went to America where he tried to make his name in CART with Indy Regency Racing. That was no a great success either and Grouillard returned to Europe and raced sports cars, notably with a McLaren F1 GTR in 1995.