- April 26, 1937
- January 05, 2015
- Not Active
Jean-Pierre Beltoise (1937-2015) was a French racer who has competed in both motorcycle and Formula 1 Grand Prix racing but also in sports car races, rallycross and rally.
He was active in motorcycle races until 1964 then completely switching to cars. In the Formula One World Championship, he made a debut in 1966, recording 86 starts until 1974. He won only one Formula 1 race, the Monaco Grand Prix in 1972.
He participated 14 times at 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the fourth place overall in 1969 and GTP class victory in 1976 as his best results.
Beltoise started a career in motorcycle racing and had good results
Jean-Pierre Maurice Georges Beltoise was born in April 1937 in Paris, as a son of a butcher. His first racing steps were in motorcycling. Beltoise was very successful at the national level as he won 11 titles in three years.
Jean-Pierre was ready for the international level and spent three years (1962-1964) competing in the various classes of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. His best result was 6th place in 1964 50cc World Championship.
Le Mans 24 Hours debut in 1963
While he was still active in motorcycle racing, Beltoise started to race in sportscars racing events. In 1963, he was driving Rene Bonnet Djet at Targa Florio and Nurburgring 1000 Km.
Then, in June 1963, he made a debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the #53 Rene Bonnet Aerodjet LM6 with Claude Bobrowski. They finished 11th overall and fourth in P3.0 class.
Broken arm didn't prevent Jean-Pierre to win F3 title
In 1964, Beltoise continued to driver Rene Bonnet's cars in sports car races, including Le Mans 24h. In his second attempt at Circuit de la Sarthe, he retired after 54 laps. He also raced with Rene Bonnet's car in Formula 2.
In July 1964, during the Reims 12 Hours endurance race, Jean-Pierre crashed and broke his arm. That injury left him unable of fully controlling arm movements, but he returned to racing in Formula 3 in the following year. It was a victorious comeback because he won the French Formula 3 Championship as Matra factory driver in a Matra MS1 (Ford).
Formula One debut in 1966 at Nürburgring Nordschleife
In 1966, Beltoise had a wide schedule of races, including his debut in the Formula One World Championship. Over the season, he raced with Matra in the French Formula 2 and participated in Formula 3 European Cup and then, in August 1966, it was a time for Formula 1 attempt. He was driving Matra MS5 F2 car in the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring Nordschleife, finishing 8th overall and the best among nine F2 drivers.
In sports car races, Beltoise was driving Porsche 906 at Nurburgring 1000 Km and Matra M620 in five more races. At Le Mans 24 Hours, sharing a car with Johnny Servoz-Gavin, he retired after 112 laps.
Debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo in 1967
In 1967, Beltoise expanded his wide schedule of racing competitions with rallying. In January, he made a debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo in the #80 Matra Djet, failing to finish the race. In open-wheel racing, he participated full season in the inaugural Formula 2 European Championship, scoring three podiums to finish third in the points, behind Jacky Ickx and Frank Gardner.
In the Formula One World Championship, Beltoise participated in three Grand Prix events in 1967, again using a Matra F2 car. He failed to qualify for Monaco Grand Prix and finished seventh both in the US Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix.
In sports car races during 1967, his greatest succcess was a class victory at Trophee d'Auvergne in a Matra M630. At Le Mans, he and Johnny Servoz-Gavin recorded one more DNF.
1968 - F2 champion and first full season in Formula 1
The season 1968 was a milestone year in Jean-Pierre's career because he won the championship title in Formula 2 European Championship that year and spent his first full season in the Formula One World Championship. At the wheel of Matra MS7-Cosworth, he won three F2 races and scored maximum points in two more races because Jochen Rindt was not eligible to score points, winning the championship ahead of his teammate Henri Pescarolo.
In the F1 Championship, Beltoise started a season with Matra MS7 F2 car at South African Grand Prix, scoring his maiden point by finishing sixth. After that, he drove Matra MS10-Cosworth in one race and then Matra MS11 for the rest of the season. The highlight of the season was the second place at Dutch Grand Prix, behind his teammate Jackie Stewart.
1969 - three F1 podiums for the fifth place in the championship
In 1969, Beltoise spent a full season with Matra both in the Formula 1 and Formula Two, although he wasn't eligible to score points in F2 races. He scored three F1 podiums in a Matra MS80-Cosworth, finishing third in Spain, second in France and third in Italy. At the end of the season, he was fifth in the championship points, what remained his career-best result in Formula 1. His teammate Jackie Stewart won his first championship title that year.
In Formula 2 races during 1969, Beltoise has won at Hockenheim. After skipping Le Mans 24h in 1968, he returned to Circuit de la Sarthe in 1969. Sharing the #33 Matra MS650 with Piers Courage, he finished fourth overall and second in P3.0 class. Later that year Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo won Paris 1000 Km race in a Matra MS650.
Victory at 1970 Tour de France with Jean Todt
In 1970, Beltoise spent a season in Formula 1 with Henri Pescarolo as his teammate in the Equipe Matra Elf. Driving a Matra MS120, he was on a podium two times to finish ninth in the championship points.
In June 1970, Beltoise and Pescarolo raced at Le Mans 24h as co-drivers for the first time, not finishing the race in a Matra MS660. A few months earlier, they won 1000 Km race in Buenos Aires. The greatest win that year was in September at Tour de France endurance race, in which Beltoise was sharing Matra MS650 with Patrick Depallier and Jean Todt.
Tragedy in Argentina and license suspension
One of the saddest moments in Beltoise’s career was an accident at 1000 km of Buenos Aires race in January 1971. Driving a Matra MS660, he was involved in the crash in which Italian racer Ignazio Giunti lost his life what caused that Jean-Pierre’s international racing license was suspended for a while.
Later that season, Beltoise participated in seven F1 Grand Prix races, scoring just one single point with the sixth-place finish in Spain. At Le Mans 24 Hours, he and Chris Amon retired in a Matra MS660.
Victory at 1972 Monaco Grand Prix with Marlboro BRM team
In 1972, Beltoise left Matra and joined Marlboro BRM Team in the Formula 1 Championship. The initial results were not good as he retired in South Africa and Spain. And then, in May, Beltoise clinched his sole victory in Formula 1 by winning the Monaco Grand Prix. He started fourth on the grid and achieved pretty dominant victory, with 38-second gap ahead of Jacky Ickx.
Interestingly, that was the last ever win for BRM in Formula 1. Later in the season, Jean-Pierre's results were disappointing as he failed to score a single point. With nine points from Monaco, he finished 11th in the final championship classification. He scored one more win in non-championship races, being the best in the Victory Race at Brands Hatch in October.
Racing with BRM in Formula 1 until 1974
Beltoise stayed with BRM for further two years which were marked by too many retirements. In 1973, he recorded eight DNF. A year later, he had nine DNFs and once failed to qualify for the race.
However, he had several good races. In 1973, he finished fourth at Canadian Grand Prix. In 1974, he scored his last F1 podium by finishing second in the South African Grand Prix.
Six consecutive DNFs and one class victory at Le Mans 24h
Parallel to his F1 commitments, Beltoise continued to race at Le Mans 24 Hours with Matra. He and Chris Amon retired again in 1972, then Beltoise and Francois Cevert retired in 1973. In 1974, Beltoise and Jean-Pierre Jarier were teammates at Le Mans for the first time but they didn't reach the finish in a Matra MS680. The sixth consecutive retirement followed in 1975 when Beltoise was sharing Ligier JS2-Cosworth with Jarier.
After all those disappointments, Beltoise finally had a reason to celebrate at 1976 Le Mans race. In that event, he was sharing Inaltera LM-Cosworth with Henri Pescarolo, finishing 8th overall and first in GTP class. A year later, Beltoise drove an Inaltera again. He and Al Holbert finished 13th.
Outside Formula 1 and Le Mans, Beltoise scored some notable results. In 1973, he and Gerard Larrousse won Paris 1000 Km in a Lola T280-Cosworth. In 1974, Beltoise and Jean-Pierre Jarier won four times in a Matra MS670, at Nurburgring 1000 Km, Watkins Glen 6 Hours, Le Castellet 1000 Km and Brands Hatch 1000 Km.
Two-time French touring car champion with BMW
Following his withdrawal from Formula 1 at the end of 1974, Beltoise continued to race in sports car events, touring car competitions, rallycross and rallying. He tested Ligier’s car in 1976 and had a chance to replace Jacques Laffitte, but decided to go in another direction.
It turned to be a good decision as he became the French Touring Car champion in 1976, driving BMW 3.0 CSL for his own team. He defended championship title a year later, again in a BMW but this time, in a BMW 530i. He added one more championship title to his CV in the late 1970s, winning the French rallycross championship with Alpine-Renault.
One last start at Le Mans in 1979
Beltoise returned to Le Mans 24h race for one more last time in 1979, partnering Henri Pescarolo in the #4 Rondeau M379-Cosworth. They finished tenth overall and second in S+2.0 class.
During the 1980s, Beltoise was active in the French Touring Car Championship until 1985, driving Peugeot 505. After that, he participated in Porsche one-make competitions. His last active season was 1993 in the Porsche Carrera Cup France.
Jean-Pierre Beltoise died aged 77, in January 2015, in his holiday home in Dakar, Senegal, after having two strokes. His two sons, Anthony (born 1971) and Julien (born 1974), were keeping his legacy by becoming racing drivers.
Photo: Getty Images,