Henri Pescarolo

The son of a surgeon, Pescarolo was born in the Calvados region in northern France. He was in his third year of medical school when motor racing got in the way. It was 1964 and the French magazine Sport Auto had put together a series of races for Lotus Sevens which Ford France had purchased and donated to regional racing clubs. Ten thousand would-be racing drivers applied. This was eventually whittled down to 19 drivers with Pescarolo representing Paris. He won the first race at Montlhery but the competition was intense since it included Johnny Servoz-Gavin (Savoie), Patrick Depailler (Auvergne) and Jimmy Mieusset (Lyon). Mieusset ended up as champion although Pescarolo won the hillclimb award.

He got his chance in Formula 3 at the end of 1965 with a Matra and in 1966 was team mate to Servoz-Gavin and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in the Matra team. Servoz-Gavin won that year but in 1967 Pescarolo took the title and moved into Formula 2 in 1968 with Matra. His career was stopped temporarily in the spring of 1969 when he suffered facial burns after crashing a Matra sports car at Le Mans but he was soon back in action.

In 1968 and ë69, he competed in three F1 races for Matra, before doing a full season in 1970. The high point of this period was third place at Monaco. He moved to Frank Williamsís team in 1971, finishing fourth at the British GP. A poor season in 1972 saw him switching his attention to sports car racing with Matra and he won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He would return to Le Mans on many occasions, ending his career with a record 33 participations in the event. He added a fourth victory in a Porsche in 1984.

His single-seater career revived briefly with Ron Dennisís Rondel Racing in F2 which was followed by a season of F1 with the Motul-sponsored BRM team. Although he returned to F1 again in 1976 with a rented Surtees he never made a big impression.

In sports car racing he was enormously successful with 22 major victories including the Daytona 24 Hours in 1991. In the 1990s he competed on the Paris-Dakar Rally on eight occasions and became an important figure in the Filiere Elf, picking young drivers and helping to train them. He raced at Le Mans for the last time in 1999. In 2000 he started his own team, Pescarolo Sport, to run sports cars and has enjoyed some success in recent years.

In 1984 Pescarolo and Patrick Fourticq set the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic from New York-Paris in a single-engined plane and he was a stunt driver in the hugely-successful French movie Taxi in 1998.