Jacques Swaters (1926-2010) was a Belgian racing driver and team owner who was active during the 1950s. He recorded seven starts in the Formula 1 World Championship between 1951 and 1954, driving for his own team Ecurie Belgique and Ecurie Francorchamps. Swaters was also a regular participant at 24 hours of Le Mans, finishing on a podium in 1955.
Racing debut at Spa 24 Hours
Born in October 1926, Swaters made a racing debut in 1948 at Spa 24 Hours, sharing an MG Midget PB with his friend and journalist Paul Frere. Competing under the Ecurie Francorchamps banner, they finished in the 15th place.
Next year, Swaters returned to Spa in a BMW 328, sharing a car with Charles de Tornaco. They didn't finish the race.
Establishing Ecurie Belgique in 1950
In 1950, Swaters, Frere and Andre Pilette established Ecurie Belgique, a team which was preparing all kinds of race cars for themselves and other Belgian racers.
Swaters himself was driving BMW-powered Veritas RS during 1950, scoring some notable results, such as third place at the Luxembourg Grand Prix, behind Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi.
Jacques Swaters (second left) in 1950
Two Formula 1 Championship starts in 1951
In 1951, Swaters made a debut in the Formula 1 World Championship, participating in two Grand Prix races with Talbot-Lago TC26C. In July, at Nürburgring Nordschleife, he finished tenth in the German Grand Prix, two laps behind race winner Alberto Ascari.
In September, at Monza, Swaters retired after seven laps because of overheating. In 1951, Swaters also participated in some sports car races and hillclimb races.
Reactivating Ecurie Francorchamps in 1952
In 1952, Swaters reactivated his Ecurie Francorchamps team, together with compatriot Charles de Tornaco and Briton Geoff Richardson. In April 1953, Swaters and de Tornaco were driving Ferrari 225 S Vignale at Mille Miglia, not finishing the race.
In August 1953, Swaters returned to Nürburgring Nordschleife, driving a Ferrari 500 in German Grand Prix. He was seventh. In the next race, the Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten Circuit, he retired on the opening lap.
Jacques Swaters in a Ferrari 500
Le Mans 24h debut in 1954
In June 1953, Ecurie Francorchamps was running Jaguar C-Type at 24 hours of Le Mans, but without Swaters. He made his Le Mans debut in 1954, sharing the #16 Jaguar C-Type with Roger Laurent. They finished in the fourth place.
In July, they were on a podium at Reims 12 Hours, finishing third behind two factory-entered Jaguar D-Types. Swaters and Laurent raced together also in the Tourist Trophy race at Dundrod Circuit, finishing seventh.
Jacques Swaters recorded seven F1 Grand Prix starts
Three Grand Prix starts in 1954
In 1954, Swaters made three Grand Prix starts in a Ferrari. In June, he raced for the first time in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, retiring after just one lap with a broken engine. In August, he was 8th at Bremgarten Circuit in the Swiss Grand Prix, eight laps behind race winner Juan Manuel Fangio.
In October, Swaters went to Spain to drive Ferrari in the Spanish Grand Prix at Pedralbes Circuit, in the final round of the championship. His race lasted for 16 laps when he stopped with a broken engine. It was his last F1 championship start.
Johnny Claes and Jacques Swaters at Le Mans in 1955
Le Mans podium in 1955
In 1955, Swaters participated in several non-championship Grand Prix races with Ferrari 750 Monza, finishing fifth at Dakar Grand Prix, second at Spa Grand Prix and sixth at Bari Grand Prix.
In June 1955, Swaters and Johnny Claes were driving the #10 Jaguar D-Type for Ecurie Francorchamps at Le Mans 24 Hours. In the race marked by the greatest tragedy in a history of motorsport, they finished in the third place.
Retiring from racing at the end of 1957
Swaters recorded one more good result at Le Mans, finishing fourth in 1956 when he was sharing the #5 Jaguar D-Type with Freddy Rousselle. A year later, in June 1957, he and Alain de Changy were driving the #11 Ferrari 290 MM for Ecurie Nationale Belge, not finishing the race.
At the end of 1957, Swaters retired from racing, focusing on his managing duties. He was leading the Ecurie Nationale Belge, which had been formed in 1955 as a merger of his Ecurie Francorchamps, Frere's Ecurie Belgique and Johnny Claes' Ecurie Belge.
Jacques Swaters and Enzo Ferrari
Team manager, Ferrari dealer and collector
The Ecurie Nationale Belge even reached Formula 1, participating in world's premier racing competition since 1962. Parallel to ENB efforts, Swaters was also running his Ecurie Francorchamps in the sports car racing, with third place at 1965 Le Mans 24 hours as the best result. The team's last appearance at Le Mans was in 1978. The Ecurie Francorchamps was closed in 1982.
After that, Swaters retained his Garage Francorchamps and a Ferrari dealership. He was dealing Ferrari cars in the Benelux area since 1953. His relationship with Ferrari lasted over 50 years. Besides selling Ferrari cars, he became one of the main Ferrari collectors. In 1992, Ferrari introduced the Blue Swaters colour to celebrate 40 years of partnership and unveiled their Ferrari 456 to the world in Swaters' Garage Francorchamps in 1992.