Gerard Larrousse is a racing legend from France whose greatest achievements in a career are two overall victories at 24 hours of Le Mans (in 1973 and 1974), both along with Henri Pescarolo in Matra-Simca cars. He was on the Le Mans podium two more times with Porsches.
In Formula One, Larrousse recorded only one start in 1974 but he was later involved in F1 as a team manager for Renault and as an owner of his racing team Larrousse between 1987 and 1994. Larrousse was also successful in rallying, winning one French national title and finishing three times as a runner-up at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Starting a career in rallying
Gerard Larrousse was born on May 23, 1940, in Lyon. In the early 1960s, he started his racing career in rallying, with Simca and Renault Dauphine as his first cars. After that, he was using a Renault 8 Gordini and different NSU models. In 1966, while using NSU TT in rallies, Larrousse also participated with that car in his first 24-hour race, at Spa circuit. He didn't finish the race.
The best French rally driver in 1967
In 1967, he gained a first success while driving Renault Alpine A110, recording several rally victories and being the most successful French rally driver. Alpine A110 was also his car in many famous circuit races or road events. He had no success at Spa 1000 km or Targa Florio but clinched overall or class victories at Coupes de Vitesse, Ronde Cevenole or 12h Reims.
Unsuccessful Le Mans debut in 1967
In June 1967, Larrousse debuted at 24 hours of Le Mans, together with Patrick Depailler in the #56 Alpine A210. An engine broke up after 204 laps and they had to retire. Larrousse returned to Le Mans in 1968, this time with Alpine A220, but didn't reach the finish line again. His co-driver was Henri Grandsire.
In 1968, he was also driving for Alpine in the Formula France, finishing in the ninth place. He participated in some endurance sports car races together with Patrick Depailler, finishing 6th at Paris 1000 km and 9th at Nurburgring 1000 km.
1969 - podiums with Porsche at Rallye Monte-Carlo and Le Mans
In 1969, Larrousse became Porsche factory driver, both in circuit racing and rallying. That year was marked with two second-place finishes. In January, he was second at Rallye Monte-Carlo, driving a Porsche 911 S and finishing behind teammate Bjorn Waldegard.
Of other races, Larrousse scored GT 2.0 class victories at 12h Sebring and Spa 1000 km, driving a Porsche 911 T. In September 1969, he won both Tour de France and Tour de Corse, driving Porsche 911 R.
1970 – again podiums in Monte-Carlo and Le Mans
In 1970, one more successful year with Porsche followed. At Rallye Monte-Carlo, Larrousse was second with Porsche 911 S, again being beaten by teammate Bjorn Waldegard. Later during a year, he was third at Tour de France and sixth at British RAC Rally.
In the sports car racing, he was a member of Martini Racing team, participating in the International Championship for Makes. He and Rudi Lins take the class win at 1000 km of Spa in a Porsche 908/02. At 24 hours of Le Mans, Larrousse's co-driver in the #3 Martini Racing Porsche 917 LH was Willi Kauhsen. They were second, five laps behind Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood in a Porsche 917K.
Victory at 1971 Sebring 12 hours
In 1971, Larrousse started a season by winning the Sebring 12 hours. He and Vic Elford were driving the #3 Porsche 917K for Martini & Rossi Racing. The same pair scored one more win a few months later at 1000 km of Nurburgring. In June, at Le Mans 24 hours, they didn't finish the race.
Of other races that year, Larrousses greatest success was a victory at Tour de France, where he was driving Matra MS650 Spider.
Third podium at Rallye Monte-Carlo
In January 1972, Larrousse was on a podium at Rallye Monte-Carlo for the third time. Driving a Porsche 911 S, he finished second, behind Sandro Munari in a Lancia Fulvia 1.6 Coupe HF.
Larrousse's teammate Bonnier lost a life at 1972 Le Mans
In the sports car racing, Larrousse spent a season with Ecurie Bonnier, driving a Lola T280 and Lola T290. At 24 hours of Le Mans, the team had two cars and Larrousse was driving both. Unfortunately, the race was interrupted by a fatal accident of Joakim Bonnier on Sunday morning, while driving the #8 Lola T280. Bonnier collided with one Ferrari and went into trees, being killed instantly.
Le Mans win for Larrousse and Pescarolo
In 1973, Larrousse joined Equipe Matra-Simca to drive Matra MS670B, starting a season with a victory at Vallelunga 6 hours, along with Henri Pescarolo and Francois Cevert. Next win for Pescarolo and Larrousse followed at Dijon 1000 km and then at 24 hours of Le Mans. They beat factory-entered Ferrari 312PB by six laps.
One more victory at 24h Le Mans
In 1974, Pescarolo and Larrousse continued to be a successful pair, winning the 1000 km of Imola and then 24h Le Mans. Their car was the #7 Matra MS670C. They beat Martini Racing's Porsche by six laps.
Of other races in 1974, Larrousse recorded a notable win at Targa Florio, sharing a Lancia Stratos HF with Amilcare Balestrieri. Larrousse also won the second place in the European Sports Car Championship for Makes, driving an Alpine A441 for Team Archambeaud.
Two unsuccessful Formula 1 attempts
Larrousse's Formula One record consist of only two races. He debuted in Formula One on May 12, 1974, at the Belgian Grand Prix at Nivelles. He was driving the #43 Brabham BT42-Ford for Scuderia Finotto. After starting 11th on the grid, he retired after 53 laps.
His second attempt was on July 7 at the French Grand Prix at Dijon-Prenois circuit. He failed to qualify and after that, his F1 career was over.
Finishing a career with Alpine
Larrousse ended his professional career in 1975, driving Alpine cars in the sports car races and Formula 2 European Championship. In the Formula 2, he joined Equipe Elf Switzerland and finished fourth in the championship. In the sports car racing, he gained some success with Alpine A441. He and Jean-Pierre Jabouille won the world championship race at Mugello.
New career as a team manager
After retiring as a race car driver, Larrousse started his new career as a team manager, first leading his former team Elf Switzerland and then taking over Renault F1 team. He was working for Renault until 1984. After that, he was a sporting director for Ligier F1 team.
In 1987, Larrousse and Didier Calmels founded a team originally named Larrousse & Calmels. In 1989, the team was later renamed to Larrousse after a departure of Calmers due to legal reasons. The team was based in Antony, in southern suburbs of Paris.
Larrousse F1 team competed until 1994
Larrousse F1 team debuted in 1987 with one Cosworth-powered Lola chassis. The team participated in eight F1 seasons, using services of thirteen drivers in total. At the end of 1989, Larrousse sold 50% of his shares to the Japanese Espo Corporation.
The season after that was the most successful for the team. Japanese driver Aguri Suzuki scored the only podium with a third-place finish at Japanese Grand Prix, and the team finished sixth in the Constructors' championship. In 1991, the financial partner was Venturi. Disappointing results and financial difficulties followed the team in the early 1990s and the end came in 1995 when Larrousse didn't return to the F1 grid.
French GT champion at the age 60
Gerard Larrousse returned to racing as a gentleman driver in 1999, participating in the French GT Championship. He was driving Venturi cars for Riverside Competition. Next year, he joined Perspective Racing to drive Porsche 996 GT3 R, winning a championship title in GT Cup class, with Thierry Perier as a co-driver.
In 2001, Larrousse was driving Lamborghini Diablo GTR at 24h of Spa. In 2003, he returned for one more full season in the French GT Championship, driving Riverside's Lamborghini Diablo GTR-S.
In recent years, Larrousse was active at historic circuit racing and rallying events. At the age 77, we still could see him in a racing suit.