- September 25, 1942
- Not Active
- Matra,BRM,Surtees,March,Iso Marlboro,Courage,Joest Racing
The French racing legend Henri Pescarolo probably knows the Circuit de la Sarthe better than his own pocket, as he recorded 33 starts at 24 hours of Le Mans race, more than any other driver. He did such a feat between 1966 and 1999. In that period, he scored four overall victories (1972, 1973, 1974 and 1984), becoming one of the most successful drivers in a history of the world's greatest endurance race.
Although most known as Le Mans specialist, Henri Pescarolo was a diverse race car driver. He recorded 57 Formula One starts between 1968 and 1974, scoring one podium. He also participated in Dakar Rally during the 1980s and 1990s, but also after his official retirement from circuit racing in 1999. In 2000, he formed the Pescarolo Sport team and gained many victories in the sports car races all around the world. At Le Mans, his team scored a couple of podiums in the overall classification.
Henri won his first title in the French F3 Championship
Henri Jacques William Pescarolo was born on September 25, 1942, in Montfermeil near Paris. He recorded his maiden racing attempts during 1964 and 1965, but the first notable results came in 1966 in the French Formula 3. He finished third in the championship standings, driving the Ford-powered Matra MS5 for Matra Sport.
The #43 Matra M620 was his car in debut participation at 24 hours of Le Mans, in June 1966, alongside Jean-Pierre Jaussaud. They retired due to engine failure after just 35 laps. A year later, Pescarolo and Jaussaud have paired again in the #30 Matra M630. This time, they retired after 55 laps, because of damaged suspension. However, the season 1967 was successful for Henri, as he won the French F3 Championship title, taking the crown ahead of his Matra teammate Jaussaud. Henri also won a few non-championship sports car races with Matra M630.
His talent was recognized and Matra Sports promoted him to Formula 2 for the full season, but also gave him a chance to competed in Formula One in the last three races of the season. In 1968 Formula 2 European Championship, Pescarolo scored four podiums and finished second in the points, behind his teammate Jean-Pierre Beltoise.
Formula One debut in 1968
Pescarolo debuted in Formula One at Canadian Grand Prix in September. He retired after 54 laps at Circuit Mont-Tremblant because of oil pressure problems. At the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, he didn't start, and then he took 9th place at Mexican Grand Prix in November. At 1968 24 hours of Le Mans, Pescarolo booked one more retirement, partnering with Johnny Servoz-Gavin in the #24 Matra M630.
In 1969, Pescarolo competed in the Formula 2 with Matra MS7 (Cosworth). His career was jeopardized when he crashed on the Mulsanne Straight at Circuit de la Sarthe whilst testing the Matra sports car. He was badly burned and skipped the big part of the season, including the Le Mans race. In August, he participated with the Formula Two car in the Formula One German Grand Prix at Nürburgring and scored the fifth place, the best among F2 drivers.
1970 - first full F1 season with Matra
For 1970, Pescarolo was signed as a full-time F1 driver by the Equipe Matra Elf, alongside Jean-Pierre Beltoise. The Matra-Simca MS120 was a good car and Pescarolo showed some good performances, including his only F1 podium at Monaco Grand Prix. He finished third at the streets of Monte-Carlo, behind Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham. He scored more points at Spa-Francorchamps, Charade Circuit and Hockenheimring, to finish 12th in the final classification.
Pescarolo's sports car season started with a victory at the non-championship 1000-km race at Buenos Aires in January 1970, together with Beltoise in the Matra MS630. At Le Mans, Pescarolo and Beltoise again failed to reach the finish. Their #31 Matra MS660 stopped after just 79 laps. In October, Pescarolo had a one-off attempt with another manufacturer, driving the Alfa Romeo T33/3 at Zeltweg 1000-km race, together with Andrea de Adamich. They were second overall and first in P3.0 class.
Pescarolo joined Frank Williams in 1971
In 1971, Pescarolo left Matra and joined Frank Williams' F1 team. Pescarolo started in ten Grand Prix races and scored a fourth place at British Grand Prix as the best result. He took one more point by finishing sixth at Österreichring. With four points on his account, Pescarolo was 17th in the points of the 1971 F1 championship.
As he left Matra, he competed in the sports car, including the World Sports Car Championship, with Autodelta's Alfa Romeo T33/3. At 1000 km of Buenos Aires he shared the car with Andrea de Adamich and they finished fourth. At Sebring 12h, they were joined by Nino Vaccarella and finished third overall. In April, Pescarolo and Adamich won the WSC race at Brands Hatch. One more victory for the duo followed in July at Watkins Glen 6-hour race.
At 1971 Le Mans race, Pescarolo joined another Italian manufacturer and competed with Scuderia Filipinetti's Ferrari 512 M. His partner was Mike Parkes. Unfortunately, the change didn't bring any luck, so Pescarolo recorded his fifth consecutive retirement at Le Mans.
1972 - maiden Le Mans victory with Graham Hill
In 1972 Formula One season, Henri stayed with Frank Williams, but the results were worse than the year before. Henri failed to score points, finishing best at the season-opening Argentine Grand Prix.
Pescarolo's sports car career was on hold in 1972. His only race was 24 hours of Le Mans. He partnered two-time F1 champion Graham Hill in the #15 Matra MS670 of the Equipe Matra-Simca Shell and they won the race. Unfortunately, the victory was overshadowed by the death of Joakim Bonnier, who was fighting for the win when crashed. The tragedy left the Matras without any serious opposition and the French team scored a 1-2 finish. It was the first ever win for Matra at Le Mans.
1973 - one more Le Mans victory with Matra
In June 1973, Pescarolo repeated his Le Mans triumph. This time, he was sharing the #11 Matra MS670B with Gerard Larrousse. They won with a six-lap advantage over Ferrari 312PB of Arturo Merzario and Carlos Pace. Prior to Le Mans, Pescarolo and Larrousse were victorious in two more races, at Vallelunga 6hrs and Dijon 1000km. After Le Mans, they won the Zeltweg 1000km and Watkins Glen 6 hours.
While he was so dominating in the sports car racing, Pescarolo struggled in the Formula competitions. Sponsored by Motul, he participated in six races of the Formula 2, winning one race. In 1973 Formula One championship, he participated in three Grand Prix events, driving for STP March and Frank Williams' Iso-Marlboro team. Motul was also Henri's sponsor in few races of the European Touring Car Championship with BMW 3.0 CSL, but without notable results.
1974 - third consecutive Le Mans win for Henri Pescarolo
In the 1974 Formula One season, Pescarolo joined Team BRM, bringing his sponsor Motul with him. In twelve races, his best result was ninth place in Argentina. In the sports car racing, Pescarolo was again victorious as the year before, winning five races (Imola, Watkins Glen, Zeltweg, Kyalami and Le Mans). His third consecutive Le Mans win came again with Gerard Larrousse as the co-driver, in the #7 Matra MS670C.
Pescarolo didn't compete in the Formula One in 1975, driving only sports cars. In the World Championship, his was sharing the Willi Kauhsen's Alfa Romeo T33/TT/12 with Derek Bell, scoring two wins at Spa-Francorchamps and Zeltweg. At Le Mans, Pescarolo joined Ligier to drive Ligier JS2 prototype together with Francois Migault. They retired after 146 laps.
1976 - Pescarolo's last Formula One season
One more change of the manufacturer followed in 1976 when Pescarolo joined Renault Sport to drive Alpine A442 in the World Sportscar Championship. His best result was 2nd place at Monza, alongside Jean-Pierre Jarier. At Le Mans, Pescarolo scored GTP class victory together with Jean-Pierre Beltoise in the #1 Inaltera LM prototype, finishing 8th overall.
In the second part of the season, Pescarolo returned to the Formula One, joining John Surtees' privately entered by B&S Fabrications. The Cosworth-powered Surtees TS19 wasn't so competitive and Henri's best result was 9th place at the Austrian Grand Prix. His last F1 race was the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in October.
Pescarolo failed to finish three times at Bathurst 1000
After leaving Formula One, Pescarolo competed in only two races in 1977 - at 24 hours of Le Mans and Bathurst 1000. He partnered Jacky Ickx in the Martini Racing's #3 Porsche 936, they retired after just 45 laps. In October 1977, Pescarolo traveled to Australia to participate for the first time in the famous race at Mount Panorama. His co-driver in the Goss Garage's Ford Falcon was John Goss. They retired after 113 laps.
In 1978, Pescarolo repeated the participation in both races, again recording two DNFs. His co-drivers at Le Mans were Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass, at Bathurst, he partnered John Goss. During the season, Pescarolo also competed with Kremer Racing's Porsche 935 in the World Championship races, sharing the car with Bob Wollek. They won three times (Dijon, Nurburgring, Misano and Vallelunga).
Five Le Mans participations with Rondeau cars
In 1979, Pescarolo participated for the third and last time at Bathurst 1000, again failing to finish the race. He was much more successful at Le Mans 24-hour race, driving for the first time Rondeau M379. His partner was Jean-Pierre Beltoise and they finished second in the S+2.0 class.
Pescarolo was driving Rondeau's cars four more times at Le Mans. In 1980, he and Jean Ragnotti retired after 124 laps. In 1981, his partner was Patrick Tambay and their race lasted for only 41 laps. One more DNF result followed in 1982 when Pescarolo was sharing the car with Jean Ragnotti and Jean Rondeau. The final retirement was at 1983 race, when sharing the Ford France's Rondeau M482 with Thierry Boutsen.
1984 - fourth win at 24 hours of Le Mans
After all that disappointing results, the fourth Le Mans victory came in 1984, when Pescarolo was driving for Joest Racing. His partner in the #7 Porsche 956B was Klaus Ludwig. Pescarolo competed a full season for Joest Racing, finishing fourth in the World Endurance Championship standings.
In 1985, Pescarolo's switched to Martini's Lancia LC2-85 at Le Mans, sharing the car with Mauro Baldi. They finished in seventh place. In the next two editions (1986 and 1987), Pescarolo was a member of the Kouros Racing team, driving the Sauber C8 and Sauber C9 at Le Mans, retiring both times.
In 1988, Henri recorded his only Le Mans participation with Jaguar, partnering John Watson and Raul Boesel in the Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9. In 1989, Pescarolo rejoined Joest Racing and competed for three years in a row with Porsche 962C. His best result was the sixth place overall in 1989.
1999 - 33rd and the last Le Mans race for Henri Pescarolo
In 1992, Henri Pescarolo, Bob Wollek and Jean-Louis Ricci took the Le Mans victory in the C3 class with Courage Competition's Cougar C28LM. Between 1994 and 1999, Pescarolo participated six times with Courage prototypes at Le Mans, scoring his best result in 1996 - 7th place overall and 2nd place in LMP1 class. His co-drivers were Franck Lagorce and Emmanuel Collard.
It was Pescarolo's last Le Mans podium in a career. His last Le Mans participation was in 1999, when he was driving the Courage C50-Porsche for the Pescarolo Promotion Racing Team alongside Michel Ferte and Patrice Gay.
Pescarolo started his Dakar adventure with Vespa
The special chapter in Henri Pescarolo's career is his participations at Dakar Rally. All started with crazy adventure in 1980, when Henri was the part of the four-men Vespa team in the second edition of the famous cross-country rally.
He returned to Dakar Rally in 1985, driving Land Rover alongside navigator Patrick Fourticq. They were in the fourth place when retired because of mechanical problems, just 40 kilometers before the finish. In 1986, Pescarolo returned to the African desert with Range Rover, but he ran only a few kilometers before the car was caught by fire and disappeared in the flames. One more retirement followed in 1987, when Pescarolo and Fourticq were competing in Toyota.
The most notable Pescarolo's participation at Dakar Rally was in 1988, when he was a member of the Peugeot factory team in the #206 Peugeot 405. Despite 10-hour penalty, he scored few stage wins and finished 18th in the final classification.
Returning to Dakar until 2006
In 1989, Pescarolo's Range Rover suffered from mechanical problems and he again received the 10-hour penalty, but he fought back and finished 22nd. In 1990 edition, Pescarolo's Range Rover stopped three days before the end, when he was 10th in the standings.
Pescarolo missed Dakar Rally between 1991 and 1996, returning in 1997 with privately entered Toyota. He was the best in T3 class and finished 10th in the overall classification. In 1998, he was driving Protruck Chevrolet for Jerome Boussier and retired three days before the end.
In 1999, Pescarolo finished 11th overall with Generale Routiere-sponsored Nissan Patrol. His navigator was Alain Guehennec. A year later, the same team scored ninth place overall, being the best among privateers. Nissan Terrano was Pescarolo's car at 2001 Dakar Rally and he finished 17th. Two years later, Henri Pescarolo and Serge Liedekerke finished 21st overall with Nissan Pathfinder.
Pescarolo recorded his last participation at Dakar Rally in 2006, driving the Technov-Matmut Buggy prepared by Philippe Gache. As few times before, he retired with three days to go.
Pescarolo Sport was founded in 2000
After his first retirement from circuit racing in 1999, Pescarolo finally retired from all kinds of racing in 2006, at the age of 64, focusing on leadership duties in his team. As we already mentioned, the Pescarolo Sport was founded in 2000. In 2007, he purchased Jacques Nicolet's Saulnier Racing and created Pescarolo Automobiles, with the racing team becoming a division of a new company.
The Pescarolo Automobiles went into receivership in June 2010. Following a liquidation sale, the company was resold back to Henri Pescarolo and rebranded as Pescarolo Team for the 2011 season. However, the team's financial situation did not improve and was wound up in January 2013.
Two overall podiums at Le Mans for Pescarolo Sport
The team debuted at 24 hours of Le Mans with fourth place in 2000. The drivers of Pescarolo Team's #16 Courage C52-Peugeot were Sebastien Bourdais, Olivier Grouillard and Emmanuel Clerico. The same success was repeated in 2004, when Erik Comas, Benoit Treluyer and Soheil Ayari finished fourth in the #18 Pescarolo C60-Judd.
The best ever result followed in 2005, when Erik Comas, Emmanuel Collard and Jean-Christophe Boullion finished second overall, two laps behind ADT Champion Racing's Audi R8. One more podium was scored in 2007, when Emmanuel Collard, Jean-Christophe Bouillon and Romain Dumas finished third overall in the #16 Pescarolo 01-Judd.