Jacky Ickx is a former racing driver and one of the most versatile drivers in the motorsport history. He participated in 122 Formula One races and achieved eight victories, won 1979 Can-Am Championship, triumphed six times at 24 Hours of Le Mans and also won at 1983 Dakar Rally.
Jacky started racing with motorcycles
Jacques Bernard Ickx was born on January 1, 1945, in Brussels, Belgium. His father was a motoring journalist and young Jacky visited lots of races, but he had no interest in participating. However, his father bought him a Zundap 50cc motorcycle in 1962 and Jacky started to race with it. He became the Belgian Trail Champion in 1963 and continued to race with motorcycles for two more seasons.
Versatile driver in the early days
Parallel to motorcycle racing, he tried few touring cars during 1964. In the same year, he debuted at 24h Spa driving Ford Lotus Cortina. In the following two seasons, he drove the same car in various races across Europe, but also raced with Ford Mustang and BMW 2002. Even in his early days of racing, he was already a versatile driver, so during 1966, he raced with touring cars, sportscars, open-wheelers and finally he debuted in Formula One.
Le Mans debut with Ford GT40
On July 19th he debuted at 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving Ford GT40 Mark I alongside Jochen Neerspasch. They retired due to an engine failure. Ickx was much more successful at 24 Hours of Spa in July, when he and Hubert Hahne took the win driving BMW 2002 TI. Good performances attracted Ken Tyrrell and he gave a chance to 21-year-old Ickx to debut in Formula One.
Formula One debut with fatal consequences
His first F1 race was the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring Nordschleife on August 7th, 1966. Unfortunately, Ickx's debut was marked by the death of his rival John Taylor. Ickx and Taylor had a collision soon after the start and Taylor was badly burned in a crash. He succumbed to his injuries few weeks after the race.
Ickx was driving F2-spec Cosworth-powered Matra MS5. The following year he had a second attempt at Nurburgring, with a newer version of Tyrrell's Matra, but he retired again. Later in the season, Ickx competed at Italian Grand Prix with Cooper T81B and finished sixth, earning his first point in the Formula One championship. He raced one more time with Cooper at Watkins Glen but he retired.
Ickx was 1967 Formula Two champion
In 1967, Ickx entered Le Mans 24-hour race for the second time. His co-driver in the John Wyer's Mirage M1-Ford prototype was an Australian Brian Muir. They retired early in the race, after just 29 laps.
Nevertheless, season 1967 was successful for Ickx because he became Formula Two champion. He was driving Tyrrell's Matra MS5 and took two wins in eight races, at Zandvoort and Vallelunga. His main rivals in the fight for the title were Frank Gardner, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, and Piers Courage. Jochen Rindt won five races during the season but, as a graded driver, he was ineligible to earn points and Ickx became the champion.
Full Formula One season with Ferrari
In 1968, Ickx finally had a full-season arrangement. He entered the championship with Scuderia Ferrari, driving V12-engined Ferrari 312. He retired at South Africa and Spain, but at his home race at Spa-Francorchamps he started from the front row and finished 3rd. At the French Grand Prix at Rouen, he took his first Formula One victory.
Ickx finished third at Brands Hatch, fourth at the Nürburgring, and third at Monza. In Canada, he crashed and broke his left leg during practice. He missed the next race in the United States but returned in time for the final race of the season in Mexico. In nine races, Ickx collected 27 points and finished fourth in the championship.
The runner-up in the 1969 Formula 1 championship
In 1969, Ickx moved to Brabham's Formula One team. The start of the season was poor, with retirements at South Africa and Monaco. After Jack Brabham broke his foot in a testing accident, Ickx was the main driver of the team and his results improved. He won in Germany and Canada, added three more podiums and finished as runner-up in the drivers' championship, behind Jackie Stewart.
First Le Mans 24 hours victory with Jackie Oliver
Earlier in the year, Ickx achieved his first victory at Le Mans. He and Jackie Oliver were driving John Wyer's Ford GT40 MkI. It was the last event with the traditional Le Mans-style start, in which the drivers ran across the track to enter their cars. Jacky Ickx surprised the fans with the slow walk to his car, putting on his safety belt properly and then starting the car. Later in the first lap, John Woolfe was killed. He fell out of the car because he didn't put on the belts properly.
Unsuccessful NASCAR attempt
In 1969, Ickx traveled to America to compete in the famous NASCAR Daytona 500 race. He was driving the car owned by Junior Johnson and he crashed during the practice, few days before the race. Jacky wasn't injured but the car was damaged beyond repair. The team had another car, but it was driven by the race winner LeeRoy Yarbrough, so Ickx missed the opportunity to add a NASCAR race to his CV.
Return to Scuderia Ferrari
In 1970, Jacky Ickx returned to Ferrari. Season opening was worse than the year before because he retired three races in a row (South Africa, Spain, and Monaco). At Spanish Grand Prix he suffered burns after the crash. Later in the season, he scored three victories with Ferrari 312B and added two more podiums. Ickx finished second in the championship, which was the only F1 season with the posthumously awarded champion, as Jochen Rindt was killed during Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Ickx later stated in an interview that he was glad he did not win the championship because he didn't want to win against a man who could not fight for the title.
Jacky Ickx competed at 1970 24 Hours Le Mans with factory-entered Ferrari 512S, together with Peter Schetty. They retired after 142 laps. In the next two Formula One seasons (1971 and 1972) with Ferrari, Jacky scored one victory each year and finished fourth in the championship both years. The victory at 1972 German Grand Prix at Nurburgring remained the last F1 win in his career.
Ickx was racing with three teams in 1973 F1 season
In 1973, the Ferrari 312 was no longer competitive and Ickx's best result was fourth place at Argentine Grand Prix. Ferrari was more focused on the sportscar programme and they decided to skip F1 race at the Nürburgring. Ickx adored that track, so he left the team and competed at German Grand Prix with McLaren M23. He finished third, behind Jackie Stewart and François Cevert.
Ickx returned to Ferrari for the Italian Grand Prix but left one more time for the last race of the season at Watkins Glen, where he drove Frank Williams' car. After 12 races with three teams, he finished 9th in the championship. In his final year with Ferrari, Ickx competed at Le Mans alongside Brian Redman in Ferrari 312PB. They retired after 332 laps.
Two Formula One seasons with Lotus
In 1974, Ickx moved to Lotus. He raced two seasons with the British team and scored his last two podiums at 1984 Brasilian GP and 1974 British GP. He finished 10th in the 1974 championship and 16th in the 1975 championship. It was obvious that his Formula One career was going to fade out. On the other side, the most successful Le Mans period followed, with three consecutive wins from 1975 to 1977.
Three consecutive victories at Le Mans
In 1975, Ickx partnered Derek Bell in the Gulf Mirage GR8-Cosworth and they scored their first Le Mans win as a pair. In 1976, Ickx became Porsche factory driver and earned two consecutive Le Mans victories driving Porsche 936. In 1976, his co-driver was Gijs van Lennep, one year later his partners in the cockpit were Jürgen Barth and Hurley Haywood.
Jacky Ickx set the Le Mans record
Between 1976 and 1979 Ickx competed in Formula One for Wolf-Williams, Ensign and Ligier. He scored only two points finishes in the last season, driving Ligier JS11 at British GP and Dutch GP. After 1979 US Grand Prix he finally said 'goodbye' to Formula One.
He focused on sportscar and endurance races and recorded seven more Le Mans participations between 1978 and 1985, all with different types of Porsches - 936, 908, 956 and 962C. He was second three times (in 1978, 1980 and 1983) and scored two more victories (1981 and 1982), both with Derek Bell as a co-driver. Their partnership became one of the most legendary in the motorsport history. Ickx was a record holder with six Le Mans victories until 2005 when Tom Kristensen scored his seventh win.
World endurance champion in 1982 and 1983
Le Mans 24-hour race was the greatest of all races, but Ickx regularly competed in the endurance events all over the world. He took two World Endurance Championship titles in 1982 and 1983, driving for Rothmans Porsche. His partners in the championship-winning seasons were Jochen Mass and Derek Bell.
Fatal crash with Stefan Bellof
In 1983, when Ickx was a leader of Porsche's team, a younger and faster teammate appeared. It was Stefan Bellof, who set the record lap time at Nordschleife, Ickx's beloved circuit. Unfortunately, two years later Ickx and Bellof crashed at Spa-Francorchamps and Bellof lost his life. At the end of that season, Ickx retired from circuit racing. He scored six Le Mans victories in 15 attempts, but also took the top podium spot at almost all famous racing circuits, like Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Spa-Francorchamps, Nürburgring, Mugello, Fuji, Mosport Park, Zandvoort etc.
Formula One and Le Mans marked the career of Jacy Ickx, but he also won some other major events and championships, which made him probably the best versatile driver in the world.
Debut and victory at Bathurst 1000
In 1977, Ickx paired Allan Moffat in the victory at the famous Bathurst 1000 race. They were driving Ford XC Falcon. Ickx impressed the fans with good lap times during the practice, with the car he had never driven before. Moffat and Ickx started from third and won ahead teammates in another Ford. Ickx was the last debutant to win Bathurst 1000 until 2011.
Five wins for Can - Am championship title
In 1979, while he was a member of Ligier F1 team and Porsche endurance team, Ickx competed in Can-Am Championship. It was very respected series with many former and current F1 drivers, so Ickx had to race against greats like Keke Rosberg, Alan Jones, Bobby Rahal etc. Ickx won five of ten races, driving Haas Racing's Lola-Chevrolet, and won the title. He didn't return to defend his title the following season.
Dakar victory with Mercedes
Since 1980, after leaving Formula One, Ickx turned his focus to sports car racing but also to cross-country rallies. He debuted at the famous Dakar Rally in 1981, driving Citroen CX. His co-driver was Claude Brasseur. They won one stage but retired. For the next year's attempt Ickx had Mercedes 280 GE and he finished fifth overall. At 1983 Dakar Rally, Ickx - Brasseur again competed with Mercedes and they won the event.
From 1984 to 1992 Ickx participated nine more time at Dakar Rally, driving for four different manufacturers - Porsche, Lada, Peugeot, and Citroen. His best results were second place in 1986 with Porsche 959 and second place in 1989 with Peugeot 405 T16.
Controversial win for Ari Vatanen
The result of the 1989 event was controversially decided by Peugeot Talbot Sport's boss Jean Todt, who decided the result on the toss of a coin because two Peugeot drivers were on the top. The rally was won by Ari Vatanen, Jacky Ickx was second. In 1995, Jacky Ickx competed at Dakar driving Toyota and in 2000 he returned to the race for the last time, again with Toyota. His co-driver in the 2000 Dakar Rally was his daughter Vanina. They finished 18th in the classification.
It was Jacky's last official race, but he never left the motorsport. He retired as a driver, but he was further involved as a consultant, marshal or clerk, and a regular participant on historic and revival events with classic cars.