- July 12, 1930
- August 23, 2015
- Not Active
Guy Ligier devoted his whole life to the sports. He was a rower, a famous rugby player, then competed as a racing driver before becoming the owner of Formula 1 team.
He was born in July 1930 in Vichy, France, and had a difficult childhood as he was an orphan since the age of seven. After World War 2, he started to work as a butcher assistant, determined to earn money and buy a bulldozer to start his own construction business. In the same time Ligier became a member of the French national rugby selection but when his rugby career ended, Guy in his late twenties turned to motorsport.
In a meantime, he was fortunate enough to make some business in the reconstruction of the French road network and, what was probably more important, made valuable friendships with politicians, especially with Francois Mitterrand, then the local politician and later the first man of the Socialist Party and finally the longest serving president of France.
Ligier’s racing career started relatively late and didn’t last for long. He first appeared in the sportscar racing, driving a Porsche, before stepping into the Formula 1 in 1966. Driving a Cooper-Maserati, his best result was 9th place in the Dutch Grand Prix.
The following year was slightly better. In the German Grand Prix, he was 8th and scored his only point in Formula 1 career. Guy retired at the end of the season and decided to form his own team.
The first step was forming the team of engineers and mechanics, and the result was a production sportscar Ligier JS1. The first years were relatively successful but the turning point was the year of 1974 when Ligier bought Matra Sports and entered Formula 1 championship in 1976 with huge ambitions.
The Ligier team was pretty successful from the beginning. Many famous French drivers, like Jacques Laffite, Didier Pironi, Jean-Pierre Jarier or Patrick Depailler. Over the years many well-known names, like Jacky Ickx, Eddie Cheever, and Andrea De Cesaris, drove for Ligier so it wasn’t a surprise when the team finished 2nd in the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship in 1980 and 3rd in the previous year.
However, financial troubles arrived soon but Ligier’s close friendship with Mitterrand then proved to be crucial. The president of France ordered that national companies like Elf, Renault and Gitanes must help Ligier. Guy Ligier was happy with a support he has received from the state and in 1990 moved to the new headquarters, at the reconstructed Magny-Cours circuit which soon became the host of the French Grand Prix.
Ligier had a feeling that he will not benefit forever from the friendship with the politicians and decided to sell the team to another French businessman Cyril Hubert Marie Bourlon de Rouvre in 1992 but stay involved in the operations as an ambassador. In the following year, Socialist Party lost elections while Ligier again profited a lot after he has invested a money obtained from the sale in agriculture. In the same time, Ligier was pretty successful in the car market with its micro cars.
Ligier team scored his last win in 1996 when Olivier Panis surprisingly won the Monaco Grand Prix. That was the first triumph after 15 years but the future wasn’t bright. At the end of the year, the team was sold to former Formula 1 champion Alain Prost and Ligier name disappeared from the racing world.
The Ligier name, now owned by a specialist manufacturer, re-emerged in 2015 as a sports-racing car for a new Le Mans-type category, with Ligier himself performing its unveiling. Guy Ligier died on 23rd of August 2015, only two months after unveiling, in Nevers and was buried in his birthplace Vichy.