Jean-Pierre Jabouille is a former Formula 1 driver from France who has also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Formula 2.
Late start of the career
He was born on 1st of October, 1942, in Paris, and studied modern art at Sorbonne before making a racing debut. Jabouille was interested in motorsport but never raced until he was 22. It was a well-known Mont Dore hill climb race and Jean-Pierre raced in his own Alpine road car. After that, he was encouraged to continue his quest, driving in different categories. Interestingly, Jena-Pierre prepared cars for every race together with his friend and another future Formula 1 driver Jacques Laffite.
Jean-Pierre Jabouille prepared the cars for the races himself
In 1967, the elegant Frenchman, as he was often called, decided to test himself in single-seaters. He bought a Brabham Formula 3 and again prepared that car for the race. He raced in the French Formula 3 driving a Matra and later he used the Alpine-Renault and was quite successful until the early 1970s when he moved to European Formula 2 Championship.
Four-times 3rd at 24 Hours of Le Mans
Jean-Piere had four starts in 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1968 to 1972, but failed to finish any of them. However, in 1973 and 1974, he was 3rd driving a Matra-Simca car, with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in 1973 and Francois Migault a year later. During his career, Jabouille had seven starts in the most famous racing event in the world. He finished 3rd twice, driving for Peugeot Talbot Sport in 1992 and 1993, driving alongside Mauro Baldi and Philippe Alliot.
Jabouile at Le Mans
Waiting for the chance in Formula 1
Finally, Jabouille got an opportunity to make a Formula 1 debut in 1974, but it wasn’t a glorious one. Driving for Williams, he failed to qualify for the French Grand Prix, while driving for Team Surtees he stayed out of the grid for the Austrian Grand Prix after giving a poor performance. However, that year was much better in Formula 2 in which the Frenchman won at Hockenheim and finished 3rd at Montjuic and again at Hockenheim, before taking the 4th place overall.
For the first time in his career, the gifted Frenchman drove the Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1975, thanks to the financial backing by Elf. It was at Circuit Paul Ricard where he finished 12th driving for Tyrrell. That was his sole appearance in F1 that year but he drove a full season in F2 in which he took the 5th place, with one win on his account, at Salzburgring.
Jean-Pierre driving a Tyrell Ford 007, 1975
Formula 2 champion and the move to the Renault F1 team
The following year, Jabouille couldn’t find a seat in Formula 1, so he stayed in Formula 2 and became a champion driving for Equipe Elf Switzerland. He scored three wins (Vallelunga, Mugello, and Hockenheim), finished 2nd at Rouen and Estoril and was 3rd at Pau. At the end of the year, he was only one point ahead of Rene Arnoux, because he won the final round of the season.
Because of his amazing performances in Formula 2, Renault F1 team signed Jabouille as a development driver of their new turbocharged car for 1977. In the second half of the year, Jean-Pierre was given a chance to race but he retired from four races and failed to qualify once.
He had many good results in the following year, but sadly the engine wasn't reliable and developed enough, which is why he could barely finish any race. He retired from 9 out of 14 races that year but also picked his first points, finishing 4th in the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen.
JAt the peak of his career he was driving for Renault F1 team
Two wins in two years
He stayed with Renault for another two years and despite continuous problems with the car reliability, Jabouille earned his place in the history of Renault. He became the first driver who won a Grand Prix for the French manufacturer, driving a turbocharged car. It was in 1979 French Grand Prix at Dijon circuit where Jean-Pierre finished almost 15 seconds ahead of Gilles Villeneuve and his new teammate Rene Arnoux.
Celebrating his maiden Formula 1 win at the 1979 French Grand Prix
That was the only Grand Prix in which he could pick points. The season of 1980 was pretty much the same. Jabouille again retired from almost every race but he won the Austrian Grand Prix after a very tight battle with Alan Jones who has become a champion that year. Unfortunately, in the penultimate round of the campaign in Canada, he had a bad crash in which he broke a leg. That injury caused him some problems at the beginning of the new season.
Video : Jean-Pierre Jabouille in a Renault RS10 at the Buenos Aires track, 1978
Short spell with Ligier and the retirement
Jean-Pierre, who was very respected within tge team and among the drivers because of his set-up skills, left Renault and joined another French outfit - Ligier, in 1981. He debuted in Argentina but failed to qualify. Later, he appeared in other four races but it was obvious that his driving skills are not competitive anymore.
Jean-Pierre as a Ligier driver in 1981
Post Formula 1 career
He decided to retire as a driver but stayed in Formula 1 as a team manager of Ligier. Later, he moved to Peugeot with which he worked as a developer of sports cars program, and in 1994, succeeded Jean Todt as a director of Peugeot Sport. The French manufacturer was an engine supplier to Formula 1 teams McLaren and Jordan but that cooperation wasn’t a successful one, so he was sacked early in 1996.
After that, Jabouille formed his own racing team that has competed in various competitions with considerable success. He also sporadically raced in the selected events, competing against much younger opponents but showing that he hasn’t lost his racing nerve at all.