Jean-Paul Driot's DAMS team knows how to create champions
DAMS is a French racing team which currently competes in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, FIA Formula E Championship and GP3 Series. Founded in 1988 by Jean-Paul Driot and a former F1 driver René Arnoux as Driot-Arnoux Motorsport, DAMS is a racing team strongly associated with open-wheel track racing, although they are no strangers to sports car racing and endurance racing too.
Among many victories and championship titles, the team’s most notable achievements are three International Formula 3000 championship titles for drivers and three GP2 Series drivers’ titles, plus four F3000 teams’ titles and two GP2 teams’ titles. Other title winning competitions includes Formula Renault 3.5 Series, A1 Grand Prix, Auto GP, Formula Le Mans, Formula Renault V6…
The most recent project was a foundation of a team in the Formula E Championship, in a cooperation with Alain Prost. The e.dams Renault team dominated in the first two seasons of the electric formula, capturing two teams’ titles and the drivers’ title in 2016 for Sebastien Buemi.
Driot and Arnoux founded a team in 1988
After being involved in F3000 championship in 1986 and 1987 through the GDBA (Gaignault Driot Blanchet Associes), Driot founded the DAMS team in 1988, together with Rene Arnoux.
DAMS was an abbreviation for Driot Arnoux MotorSport. A year later, Arnoux left the team and the name was changed to Driot Associes MotorSport, with a short name staying unchanged.
Three championship titles in the first two seasons
The first competition for the new team was the International Formula 3000 Championship. Backed by Elf, the team was running Lola-Mugen cars for Erik Comas and Eric Bernard. The team captured championship title in its debut year. Drivers were just a step from the title – Comas was second and Bernard was third in the championship, behind Jordan Racing’s Jean Alesi.
Next year, both the team and Erik Comas became champions. The second driver was Scotsman Allan McNish, who finished fourth in the final standings.
Four more F3000 championship titles
The Formula 3000 championship was the main competition for the team until 2001. The next championship-winning season was 1993 when Olivier Panis was the champion in the Cosworth-powered Reynard car. The other driver was Franck Lagorce, who finished fourth in the points and contributed to the team’s title.
In 1994, DAMS defended first place among teams. In the drivers’ classification, DAMS driver Jean-Christophe Boullion became the champion. The second driver was Guillaume Gomez in the seventh place.
The last season in the Formula 3000 was 2001 when both the team and their driver Sebastien Bourdais finished in the fourth place.
Le Mans debut in 1997 with Panoz
DAMS is based in Ruaudin, just a few kilometers from the legendary Le Mans circuit. The team had its debut at 24 hours of Le Mans in 1997, as a partner to Panoz factory team. Franck Lagorce, Eric Bernard and Jean-Christophe Boullion participated at the 24-hour race in the #52 Panoz Esperante GTR-1, retiring after 149 laps.
DAMS and Panoz returned to Le Mans in 1998, recording one more DNF with Panoz Esperante. This time, drivers were Eric Bernard, Christophe Tinseau and Johnny O’Connell.
In 1997 and 1998, DAMS also participated in the GT1 class of the FIA GT Championship, but without notable results.
A season with Lola-Judd prototype
In 1999, DAMS switched its sports car activities to LMP class, running a Lola-Judd prototype in the American Le Mans Series and the FIA Sportscar Championship. French trio Jean-Marc Gounon, Eric Bernard and Christophe Tinseau finished third in the FIA’s competition, winning three races.
At 1999 Le Mans race, Tinseau was sharing a car with Franck Montagny and David Terrien, recording one more DNF for the team.
Two Le Mans attempts with Cadillac
In 2000, DAMS partnered Cadillac in their Northstar LMP program, running a car in the FIA Sportscar Championship and one race of the American Le Mans Series. DAMS had no notable results in the championship, while at Le Mans the team’s car finally reached the finish line. It was the #3 Cadillac Northstar LMP, driven by Eric Bernard, Emmanuel Collard and Franck Montagny.They finished 19th overall and 9th in the LMP900 class.
Next year, DAMS scored its best result at Le Mans, the 15th place overall and 5th in the LMP900 class. The drivers of the #6 Cadillac were Christophe Tinseau, Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor.
Filming with Luc Besson at 2002 Le Mans race
DAMS participated for the last time at Le Mans 24h in 2002, with two different cars – the #10 Lola-Judd and the #22 Panoz LMP-1 Roadster-S. That race was remembered not because of results but because of team’s participation in Luc Besson’s filming project. The famous French director was filming ‘Michel Vaillant’ movie during the race and he was using DAMS cars as camera cars.
Formula Renault championship title with Argentinean Lopez
After leaving Formula 3000, DAMS returned to single-seater racing in 2003, entering the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup. Team’s driver Jose Maria Lopez became the champion. The Argentinean has won five races, beating a runner-up Neel Jani by just four points. The team finished second in the points.
In 2004, Neel Jani and Memo Rojas was the full-time drivers in the Formula Renault. The team finished in the third place, Jani was fourth in drivers’ standings.
Running in the GP2 Series from beginning
In 2005, DAMS entered the newly formed GP2 Series, the main feeder series for the Formula One. Jose Maria Lopez remained with the team, together with Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy, but the results weren’t good.
During the years, DAMS was running cars for some driver who later entered F1 and other premium competitions, such were Kazuki Nakajima, Nicolas Lapierre, Jerome d’Ambrosio, Kamui Kobayashi or Ho-Pin Tung, but they have never been classified better of 5th place.
Three GP2 championship titles for DAMS drivers
The first big success in the GP2 Series came in 2011, when Romain Grosjean became a champion, after winning five out of 18 races. The other driver was Pal Varhaug, who slightly contributed to the team’s second place in the teams’ standings.
In 2012, Davide Valsecchi and Felipe Nasr were driving for DAMS, securing the maiden championship title for the team. Valsecchi was drivers’ champion, Nasr finished 10th.
Two years later, Jolyon Palmer and Stephane Richelmi formed an another championship-winning combination. The team won its second GP2 title, Palmer became the drivers’ champion.
Winning the inaugural season of the A1 Grand Prix
While competing in the GP2 Series, DAMS also participated in the A1 Grand Prix series. In the inaugural season (2005-2006), DAMS was operating three A1 teams (France, Mexico, Switzerland), winning the title for the Team France with Alexandre Premat and Nicolas Lapierre as drivers. In the next season (2006-2007), A1 Team France finished in the fourth place. DAMS didn’t return to A1 Grand Prix in the third season.
Dominating in the Formula Le Mans
In 2009, DAMS entered the inaugural season of the Formula Le Mans Cup, dominating in the competition. DAMS drivers Nico Verdonck and Gavin Cronje were first and second in the points.
In 2010, Formula Le Mans was integrated into the Le Mans Series as one of five classes. DAMS was the best team again, winning the teams’ title and having two drivers (Andrea Barlesi and Gary Chalandon) on the top of drivers’ standings.
Two victorious seasons in the Auto GP
In 2010, DAMS participated with three cars in the Auto GP Series. Although he participated in only four of six rounds, Romain Grosjean managed to win the championship title. DAMS captured a title among teams.
In 2011 Auto GP season, DAMS was again on the throne. The team’s driver Sergey Afanasyev finished in the third place.
Two doubles in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series
One more championship in which DAMS successfully participated few years was the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. In 2013, DAMS driver Kevin Magnussen was the FR 3.5 champion. Norman Nato was the second driver, contributing to team’s title.
In 2014, Norman Nato stayed with the team when his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr became the champion. DAMS defended its first place among teams. The last year of the participation in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series was 2015 when DAMS finished in the second place and Nyck de Vries was third among drivers.
Dominating power in the first global electric championship
DAMS’ reputation as the championship-winning team led to an agreement with Alain Prost and Renault to form e.dams Renault team for the inaugural season of the FIA Formula E Championship in 2014. Nicolas Prost and Sebastien Buemi had been chosen to drive electric single-seaters against other nine teams from all over the world. The team clinched a title in the first global electric racing championship whilst Sebastien Buemi lost driver’s title for just one point behind Nelson Piquet Jr. Nicolas Prost was sixth in the points.
In the second season (2015-2016), Renault e.dams defended the championship title. Both Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost were again among the front-runners.This time, Buemi captured a title with a slight advantage over the second-placed Lucas di Grassi. Prost finished third in the points.
For the 2016-2017 Formula E season, Renault e.dams retained both drivers, starting a season with three consecutive wins for Buemi.
Double program in the GP3 and GP2/Formula 2
A current racing program of the French team consists of the Formula 2 Championship and GP3 Series. In 2017, GP Series is converted into Formula 2. DAMS enters the first season of new Formula 2 with Oliver Rowland and Nicholas Latifi as drivers.
In the GP3 Series, which DAMS entered for the first time in 2016, the current driver line-up consists of Santino Ferrucci, Tatiana Calderon and Bruno Baptista.
Photos: Renault, flagworld.com, dams.fr, autonewsinfo.com, motorsport.com,