MAY 15, 1995
Happy Jacques Laffite
French racing star Jacques Laffite has been brought back to Formula 1 racing to act as a public relations man for the Ligier team.
Laffite's involvement with Ligier dates back to 1976 when he was chosen by Guy Ligier to be the team's first F1 driver and in 1977 won the team's first GP in Sweden. In total he spent nine seasons with Ligier, scoring six wins, 10 second places and 16 third places before suffering nasty leg injuries when he crashed at Brands Hatch in 1986. He never raced in F1 again but has since competed in Paris-Dakar Rally Raids, touring cars and ice racing events. The 51- year-old still races, competing this year with the Opel factory team in the French touring car championship.
The appointment of Laffite at Ligier - and the sudden reappearance for the last two races of former owner Guy Ligier, who had not been seen in F1 circles for some years - appear to be fairly transparent attempts by Ligier owners Flavio Briatore and Tom Walkinshaw to make the team appear to be French and thus hold on to the vast sums of sponsorship money which come to Ligier from Gitanes Blondes, Elf and Loto. At the same time, the arrival of Laffite will stop rumors that Alain Prost is trying to take over the team, as it is well known that Prost and Laffite fell out some years ago and are no longer the big buddies they once were.
All the indications at the moment are that Gitanes and Elf will make a decision in July. If they decide to stick with Ligier, the team will probably have to stay in France and will probably be sold; but, if not, the French end of the operation will be closed down and the team moved to Walkinshaw's new base at Witney in England. Further evidence of the increasingly British involvement in Ligier is the news that the team has decided not to use its windtunnel at Magny-Cours and will now do all its aerodynamic work at the Royal Aircraft establishment tunnel at Farnborough in England.