Thierry Boutsen

Boutsen began his racing career in 1975 as a student at the Pilette Racing School at Zolder. At the time he was studying engineering but he soon gave this up to concentrate on motor racing. In 1977 he bought a Hawke Formula Ford 1600 car and ran it for himself. The following year he switched to a Crossle chassis and won the Benelux FF1600 title with 15 victories in 18 races. This was the breakthrough he needed and in 1979 he raced in German and European Formula 3 events. This led to a drive with the Martini factory team in 1980 and he won three rounds of the European Championship, finishing runner-up in the series to Michele Alboreto.

March liked the look of what they saw and Boutsen was hired by the works March team for Formula 2 in 1981. He won his fourth race and followed up with a second victory at Enna. He was second in the European Championship to Geoff Lees but had to stay in Formula 2 in 1982, driving as team mate to Stefan Johansson in the Spirit-Honda team. He won three times and finished third in the championship. He went on to test the Spirit-Honda F1 prototype but lost out on that drive to Johansson.

In 1983 he struggled to find a way into F1 and drove various cars in sports and touring cars races. He then found some backing from Diners Club and made his F1 debut for Arrows at the Belgian Grand Prix. He worked his way through Arrows to Benetton and made enough of an impression to be hired in 1989 by Frank Williams. Always good in the wet, Boutsen won the rain-soaked Canadian and Australian GPs in 1989. He followed that up with a fine Hungarian GP victory over his friend Ayrton Senna's McLaren-Honda at the twisty Budapest track where he withstood incredible pressure and did not make a mistake. At the end of the year Williams decided to hire Nigel Mansell and Boutsen went off to Ligier which looked like having potential with a Renault engine deal in the pipeline.

He struggled through 1991 with Lamborghini engines and in 1992 the car was a big disappointment. At the end of the year Boutsen was shown the door and moved to Jordan for 1993 but before the end of the year he faded out of F1, although he raced on in sports cars with the Toyota factory team. In 1999 he had a nasty accident in the Le Mans 24 Hours and suffered a fractured vertebra after which he decided to retire from the sport.