Eric Helary is a French racing driver who was active between 1987 and 2016 and whose greatest success in a career is a victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1993 when he was sharing a Peugeot 905 with Christophe Bouchut and Geoff Brabham. Later in a career, Helary scored three more overall podiums at 24h Le Mans (1995, 1997 and 2006) with three different cars (Courage-Porsche, McLaren F1 GTR and Pescarolo-Judd).
Helary was the winner of 24 Hours of Spa also, in 1997, when he was sharing BMW 320i with Marc Duez and Didier de Radigues. Earlier in a career, Helary was a champion in several different competitions – 1988 Formula Ford France, 1990 Formula 3 France, 1992 and 1993 Peugeot 905 Spider Cup. Helary's last championship title in a career came in 2011 when he was the winner of the Racecar Euro Series (today NASCAR Whelen Euro Series).
Championship title in only a second season of competition
Eric Helary was born on August 10, 1966, in Paris, France. He started to race in 1981 with go-karts, entering the first competition with cars in 1987. It was the French Formula Ford 1600 Championship. He was fourth in his debut season and then became a champion in 1988, beating Christophe Bouchut.
French Formula 3 champion in 1990
In 1989, Eric progressed to the French Formula 3, driving a Reynard-Alfa Romeo for Oreca team. He was fourth in his first F3 season and then became a champion in 1990. That year, he was driving Formula Project's Reynard-Honda. Helary's single-seater career ended in the 1991 Formula 3000 International. He finished 8th in the points.
In August 1991, Helary participated at 24 Hours of Spa for the first time, not finishing the race with Peugeot 309 GTi. A year later, he returned to Spa with the same car, not finishing the race again.
Two-time winner of the Peugeot 905 Spider Cup
From 1992, Helary focused on sports car racing, entering the Peugeot 905 Spider Cup. He became a champion after winning five of ten races, again beating Christophe Bouchut. Great rivals became teammates in October 1992, finishing second with factory-entered Peugeot 905 Evo 1B at 500 km of Magny-Cours. The race was a part of the World Sportscar Championship.
Victory in the 24h Le Mans debut
In 1993, Helary defended his title in the Peugeot 905 Spider Cup but the highlight of the season was his debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans. He was a member of the Peugeot factory crew in the #3 Peugeot 905 Evo 1B together with Geoff Brabham and Christophe Bouchut. Peugeot scored a sensational 1-2-3 victory, with #3 car in front.
Joining Opel for touring car races in 1994
After several successful years with Peugeot, Helary left French manufacturer to drive for Opel in the 1994 French Supertouring Championship. He was driving an Opel Vectra GT, scoring three podiums and finishing fifth in the points.
In the sports car racing, he participated in two races. At 1994 24h Le Mans, Helary was sharing GT1-spec Bugatti EB110 SS with Alain Cudini and Jean-Christophe Boullion. They retired after 230 laps. Helary also participated at Suzuka 1000 km race, sharing a Venturi 600 LM with Michel Ferte.
1995 - Supertouring vice-champion and Le Mans podium
In 1995, Helary continued to drive for Opel France, finishing as a vice-champion in the French Supertouring Championship. He lost a title by three points to Yvan Muller.
In the sports car competitions, Helary returned to Le Mans as a member of Courage Competition team, together with Bob Wollek and Mario Andretti. They were driving the #13 Courage C34-Porsche, finishing first in the WSC class and second overall, behind McLaren F1 GTR.
For the 1996 season, Helary joined Viper Team Oreca in the Global GT Championship. He was sharing a Dodge Viper GTS-R with Philippe Gache. The results weren't good, they finished far from the top of the standings. At 24h Le Mans, Olivier Beretta joined the crew as the third driver. They finished 21st overall and 12th in the GT1 class.
1997 – victory at 24h Spa, podium at 24h Le Mans
For the 1997 season, Helary changed a team again. He joined BMW to compete both in the touring car races and sports car races. The first success came at 24h Le Mans, where Helary was sharing BMW Motorsport's #43 McLaren F1 GTR with Peter Kox and Roberto Ravaglia. They finished third overall and second in the GT1 class.
Next month, at Spa-Francorchamps, Helary scored his first and only victory at 24 Hours of Spa. He was sharing the #1 BMW 320i of the BMW FINA Bastos Team with Didier de Radigues and Marc Duez. Helary recorded few more races with BMW in the Belgian Procar and German Supertouring Championship.
Driving for Opel in German touring car competitions
In 1998, Helary spent a full season in the German Supertouring Championship with Opel Team SMS, driving an Opel Vectra. With one victory and seven podiums, he finished fourth in the points.
At 1998 Le Mans 24 Hours, Helary joined Toyota Motoport to drive the #28 Toyota GT-One. His teammates were Martin Brundle and Emmanuel Collard. They started second on the grid but retired after 191 laps due to an accident.
Two seasons with Opel Team Holzer
In 1999, Helary returned with Opel to the German Supertouring Championship. He was driving Opel Vectra for Team Holzer, scoring one victory and four podiums to finish 8th in the points.
In 2000, the Team Holzer entered the revived DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters), fielding four Opel Astra V8 Coupe cars for Uwe Alzen, Joachim Winkelhock, Eric Helary and Timo Scheider. Without wins or podiums, Helary finished 9th in the points.
Slowing down in 2001 and 2002
In 2001, Helary slowed down his racing activities, participating only in the 24 Hours of Spa with Paul Belmondo Racing. He was sharing the #12 Chrysler Viper GTS-R with Emmanuel Clerico and Vincent Vosse. They finished in the fourth place.
In 2002, Helary joined Pescarolo Sport at 24h Le Mans to drive a Courage C60-Peugeot together with Stephane Ortelli and Ukyo Katayama. They retired after 144 laps. In September, he rejoined Opel for two DTM races at Zandvoort.
Moving to French Supertouring Championship in 2003
In 2003, Helary became Peugeot driver in the French Supertouring Championship, driving a Peugeot 406 Coupe for Gemo Sport. With two wins and six podiums, he was fifth in the points.
At 2003 Le Mans 24h, Helary was driving Peugeot-powered Courage C60 for Pescarolo Sport. He, Nicolas Minassian and Soheil Ayari finished ninth overall. At 2003 Spa 24h, Helary joined Ruffier Racing to finish 19th with Porsche 996 GT3 Cup.
Two-time French Supertouring Championship runner-up
In 2004, Helary continued to drive Peugeot 406 Coupe for Pescarolo Sport in the French Supertouring Championship. He was the race winner six times, finishing second in the final standings behind teammate Soheil Ayari.
Helary and Ayari also raced together at Nurburgring 1000 km, a part of the Le Mans Endurance Series, finishing fifth in Pescarolo-Judd LMP1 prototype.
In 2005, Helary was again the French Supertouring Championship runner-up. He was driving Pescarolo Sport's Peugeot 407, winning five races and finishing second behind Ayari.
Final Le Mans podium with Pescarolo Sport
During 2005, Helary competed with Ruffier Racing's Porsche in the French GT Championship but also returned to 24 Hours of Le Mans with Pescarolo Sport. At Le Mans, he was sharing the #17 Pescarolo C60 Hybrid with Sebastien Loeb and Soheil Ayari, not finishing the race.
Next year, Helary scored his fourth and final podium at Le Mans. This time, he was sharing the #17 Pescarolo C60 Hybrid with Sebastien Loeb and Franck Montagny. They finished second, four laps behind the first ever diesel-powered Le Mans winning car (Audi R10 TDI) and nine laps ahead of third-placed Audi.
Three seasons with Italian machines
For the 2007 season, Helary decided to try something new. He joined Risi Competizione to drive a Ferrari F430 GTC in the American Le Mans Series. He was sharing the #61 car with Niclas Jonsson and Gianmaria Bruni. With three GT2 class podiums, Helary finished 11th in the points.
Another change of the manufacturer followed in 2008 when Helary returned to Europe to drive Lamborghini Gallardo LP520 GT3 for Ruffier Racing. He competed for two seasons in the French GT Championship and International GT Open, not scoring wins.
European stock car racing champion in 2011
In 2010, Helary entered the Racecar Euro Series, the European stock car competition which was inaugurated a year earlier. In his first season, Helary was driving for Orhes Team Competition and he finished second in the points of the Elite 1 class.
In 2011, driving Dodge Challenger for his own team and scoring five wins in twelve races, Helary became the European stock car racing champion.
One more Le Mans attempt in 2014
With one more championship trophy in his hands, Helary slowed down his racing activities but never quit racing. He occasionally competed in GT races (Blancpain GT Series, French GT Championship, European Le Mans Series) and stock car races (NASCAR Whelen Euro Series).
He was most active in 2014, spending a full season in the European Le Mans Series with IMSA Performance Matmut and returning one more time to 24h Le Mans. In his last Le Mans attempt, he was sharing Porsche 997 GT3 RSR with Erik Maris and Jean-Marc Merlin, finishing 13th in the GTE Am class.