- January 18, 1942
- May 28, 2006
- Not Active
Johnny Servoz-Gavin (1942-2006) was a French racing driver who was active during the 1960s, ending his career in 1970. The most of his career he spent with French manufacturer Matra.
Servoz-Gavin recorded twelve starts in the Formula One World Championship with three different teams (Matra, Cooper, Tyrrell), scoring one podium (1968 Italian Grand Prix). But, more important was his sixth-place finish at 1969 Canadian Grand Prix when he became the only driver in a history to score a championship point with the four-wheel-drive Formula 1 car (Matra MS84).
In the sports car races, he participated four times at Le Mans 24 Hours, all four with Matra and not finishing neither one of those four races.
During his short career, he captured two championship titles, becoming the French Formula 3 champion in 1966 and European Formula 2 champion in 1969.
Ski instructor became a racing driver in 1965
Born in January 1942 in Grenoble in the Rhone-Alpes region, Georges-Francis Servoz-Gavin worked as a ski instructor during his teenage years. In that period, he became known as Johnny.
His first experience in car racing was through rallying but he decided to enter French Formula 3 Championship in 1965. In 1966, his only second year of racing, he became the French F3 champion, driving a Matra MS5-Ford.
Matra factory driver at Le Mans
In 1966, Servoz-Gavin also became Matra factory driver in sports car races, including Le Mans 24 Hours. He was driving Matra MS620 at Monza and Spa, sharing a car with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Alan Rees, before making Le Mans debut.
At Le Mans, his partner in the #41 Matra MS620 was Jean-Pierre Beltoise. They retired after 112 laps. Later during the season, Servoz-Gavin scored a podium at Coupe de Paris and retired at Paris 1000 Kilometers.
1967 – participating both at Rallye Monte-Carlo and Monaco Grand Prix
In January 1967, after two previous attempts as a navigator, Servoz-Gavin made a driving debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo. His navigator in the #162 Matra car was Francois Janin. They didn't finish the race.
A few months later, in May 1967, Servoz-Gavin made his Formula 1 debut in Monte-Carlo, driving the #2 Matra MS7-Cosworth at Monaco Grand Prix. It was a Formula 2 car and he retired early, after just four laps.
Formula 2 European Championship was his main competition in 1967. In six races Servoz-Gavin scored one podium to finish sixth in the final points. In June 1967, he returned to Le Mans with Matra, sharing the #29 Matra MS630 with Jean-Pierre Beltoise. They retired after 155 laps.
Five Formula One starts in 1968
In May 1968, Servoz-Gavin returned to Monaco Grand Prix in an F1 car, driving the Matra MS10-Cosworth as a replacement for injured Jackie Stewart. A car was fantastic and Johnny was the second-fastest qualifier, behind Graham Hill. Johnny took the lead at the start but suffered a driveshaft failure on lap 3 and crashed.
Servoz-Gavin was back in an F1 car in July, driving the #32 Cooper T86B-BRM at French Grand Prix at the Rouen-Les-Essarts Circuit. He crashed out after 14 laps.
Second place at 1968 Italian Grand Prix
The highlight of his Formula 1 career came in September 1968 at Monza. Driving the #5 Matra-Cosworth, Servoz-Gavin was only 13th on the grid but he reached a podium, finishing second in a dead-finish against Jacky Ickx (Ferrari). The race winner was Denny Hulme (McLaren).
After a fantastic result at Monza, Servoz-Gavin went to North American tour with Matra, participating at Canadian Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix. He had an accident in Canada and a technical failure in Mexico.
Unbeatable in national sports car events in 1968
Besides racing in Formula One in 1968, Servoz-Gavin participated in one round of the Formula Two Championship and spent a season with Matra MS630 in sports car races. He was unbeatable in French national non-championship events, winning at Coupes de Vitesse, Magny-Cours (twice), Dijon, and Paris GP.
At 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours, Servoz-Gavin recorded one more DNF, third in a row at Circuit de la Sarthe. This time, he was sharing the #24 Matra MS630 with Henri Pescarolo.
European Formula 2 champion in 1969
In 1969, Servoz-Gavin switched his focus to European Formula Two Championship, spending a full season in a Matra MS7-Cosworth. He scored just three wins in six races, including season's finale at Vallelunga, where he secured a championship title ahead of Hubert Hahne.
In 1969, he recorded his last Le Mans attempt and one more DNF. His partner in the #34 Matra MS630 was the Swiss driver Herbert Müller. Servoz-Gavin participated in few more sports car races that year, including two races when he was sharing a car with Pedro Rodriguez.
Scoring a championship point in a 4WD Formula One car
In the 1969 Formula One World Championship, Servoz-Gavin recorded his first start in the seventh round at Nürburgring Nordschleife where he was driving Matra MS7 F2 car. He stopped after six laps.
After that, he participated in all three races of the North American tour in an exceptional Matra MS84-Cosworth four-wheel-drive F1 car. He took one championship point at Mosport, finishing sixth in the Canadian Grand Prix. He remained the only driver to score a point in a 4WD F1 car. He was close in other two races, seventh at US Grand Prix and eighth at Mexican Grand Prix.
1970 – two F1 starts and one DNQ with Tyrrell
For the 1970 Formula One season, Servoz-Gavin joined Tyrrell Racing Organisation together with his Matra teammate Jackie Stewart. While Stewart stayed with Tyrrell until the end of the season, Servoz-Gavin participated in just three rounds.
He retired at South African Grand Prix in a March 701-Cosworth and then earned two points with a fifth-place finish at Spanish Grand Prix. Servoz-Gavin ended his F1 career at the same place where he started, at the streets of Monte-Carlo. He failed to qualify for Monaco Grand Prix. For the rest of the season, he was replaced by Francois Cevert.
Finishing a career at Monza
In the sports car competitions during 1970, Servoz-Gavin continued to race with Matra. In March, he and Henri Pescarolo finished fifth at Sebring 12 Hours in the #34 Matra MS650.
After that, they retired at Brands Hatch and finished sixth at Monza 1000 Kilometers. The race at Monza was his last in a career. He was listed for Le Mans but didn't join the team in the race.