- September 02, 1958
- Not Active
Olivier Grouillard is a French former racing driver who recorded 41 starts in Formula One between 1989 and 1992. In the open-wheel racing, he was the French Formula 3 champion early in a career (1984), before he entered Formula 3000 and then Formula One. After leaving F1, he spent one season in the CART Champ Car World Series.
Until his retirement in 2001, Grouillard was active in different sports car racing competitions, including 24 hours of Le Mans. He participated seven times at Le Mans 24 hours, scoring two top 5 results.
French Formula 3 champion in 1984
Olivier Grouillard was born in Fenouillet in southwestern France. He started racing go-karts at the age 14 and spent nearly a decade in karting competitions before his debut in car racing in 1982. His first competition was the Formula Renault. He finished fourth in his debut season.
In 1983, he progressed to the Formula 3. Driving a Martini-Alfa Romeo for Oreca, he finished fourth in the points. Next year, he won four races on a way to his first championship title.
Four seasons in the Formula 3000
In 1985, Oreca promoted Grouillard to the Formula 3000 International. It was the inaugural season of that championship. Driving a March-Cosworth, he finished 12th in the points without wins or podiums. In 1986, he left Oreca to join Hotz-Formula Team Ltd. The team was short of funding so Grouillard participated in just four races.
Grouillard returned to Oreca for the 1987 F3000 season, again missing to score podiums or wins. In 1988, he was driving Lola-Cosworth for GBDA Motorsport in his best F3000 season. With two wins and five podiums, he finished second in the championship, losing a title to Roberto Moreno.
Two podiums at Spa 24 Hours with BMW
While racing in the Formula 3, Grouillard also participated in selected races of the World Touring Car Championship in 1987 and then the European Touring Car Championship in 1988. In both competitions, he was driving a BMW M3 for Team Bigazzi or BMW Motorsport factory team.
In August 1987, he finished second at 24 hours of Spa, sharing the #43 BMW M3 with Luis Perez-Sala and Winni Vogt. Grouillard was seventh in the final championship standings. In October 1987, Grouillard finished 11th at Bathurst 1000. In 1988, he was on a podium at Spa again, finishing third in the #52 BMW M3. He was sharing a car with Jacques Laffite and Jean-Michel Martin. The same crew returned next year to Spa in a Bastos-run BMW M3 but they retired.
1989 - Formula One debut with Ligier
After finishing second in the 1988 F3000 season, Grouillard progressed to Formula 1 in 1989. He joined Ligier to drive the #26 Ligier JS33-Cosworth, with Rene Arnoux as a teammate in the #25 car. Grouillard made his Formula 1 debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where he finished 9th.
At San Marino Grand Prix, Grouillard was disqualified because Ligier illegally repaired his car on the grid before the second start. He reached his best result at the French Grand Prix, where he finished sixth to take one championship point. It remained his only F1 point in a career.
1990 - poor F1 season with Osella
For the 1990 Formula 1 season, Grouillard and Nicola Larini swap seats. Grouillard moved to Osella Squadra Corse while Larini took his seat in Ligier. Grouillard was the only driver for Osella and he had to pre-qualify for the races. He didn't qualify for seven races, participating in nine events.
Grouillard retired five times, ending races in four occasions. His best result was 13th place at Canadian Grand Prix and Australian Grand Prix.
Le Mans 24h debut with Nissan
While racing with Osella in the Formula 1, Grouillard had two appearances in sports car races. In June 1990, he was driving Ferrari F40 LM at Grand Prix of Ohio, a part of the IMSA GTO Championship. He and Jean-Pierre Jabouille finished in the third place.
Two weeks later, Grouillard debuted at 24 hours of Le Mans. Nissan Motorsports invited him to share the #25 Nissan R90CK with Martin Donnelly and Kenny Acheson. They were fifth on the grid but gearbox problems stopped them early.
Just four starts in 1991 F1 season
For the 1991 Formula One season, Grouillard remained with the same team which was renamed to Fondmetal after Enzo Osella sold a team to metalwork magnate Gabriele Rumi. Grouillard was again the only driver for the team.
In thirteen attempts, he failed to qualify for nine races. In four starts, he ended just one race, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, where he was tenth. From 14th round at Catalunya, Grouillard was replaced by Gabriele Tarquini, so he took Tarquini's seat in the AGS team for the Spanish Grand Prix. He failed to qualify for the race.
1992 - the last F1 season with Tyrrell
For the 1992 Formula 1 season, Ken Tyrrell invited Grouillard to drive the #3 Tyrrell 020B-Ilmor. His teammate in the #4 car was Andrea de Cesaris. Grouillard started sixteen times but finished only four races, suffering from mechanical problems and having few accidents. His best result was 8th place at San Marino Grand Prix.
Having a reputation of 'blocker' and not being wanted by any team, Grouillard ended his Formula 1 career at the end of 1992.
American adventure in the CART Indy Car World Series
Not having an arrangement in Europe, Grouillard arranged to drive with the Indy Regency Team in the 1993 CART PPG Indy Car World Series. He was driving the #29 Lola T92/00-Chevrolet. His first race was supposed to be an Indianapolis 500 but he failed to qualify.
After that, he showed consistency and managed to finish eight of eleven events. His best result was 11th place in Cleveland, he finished 28th in the final standings.
Focusing on sports car racing since 1994
Following a season in the major American open-wheel racing competition, Grouillard switched his focus to sports car racing. In 1994, he was driving Venturi cars in several races, including a participation at 24 hours of Le Mans for Jacadi Racing team. He was sharing the #38 Venturi 600 LM with Michel Ferte and Michel Neugarten. They retired after 107 laps.
Two successful Le Mans participations with McLaren F1 GTR
In 1995, Grouillard was driving McLaren F1 GTR in the Global GT Championship, scoring three wins and finishing 14th in the points. At Le Mans, he contested in the #50 McLaren of Giroix Racing Team, partnered by Fabien Giroix and Jean-Denis Deletraz. McLaren cars took four of five top positions, Grouillard and his partners finished fifth.
In 1996, Grouillard returned to Le Mans with Harrods Mach One Racing, sharing the #29 McLaren F1 GTR with Andy Wallace and Derek Bell. They finished sixth overall.
The last Le Mans attempt was the best
In 1997, Grouillard came to Le Mans with Courage Competition team, sharing the #9 Courage C36-Porsche with Mario Andretti and Michael Andretti. They retired after 197 laps due to an accident. Next year, in the same car, Grouillard's teammates were Franck Montagny and Henri Pescarolo. They were 15th at the end of the race.
And then, in 2000, Grouillard scored his best Le Mans result in the last attempt. In the #16 Courage C52-Peugeot, he was sharing with Sebastien Bourdais and Emmanuel Clerico, he finished in fourth place, behind three factory-entered Audi R8s. It was Grouillard's last race in a career.
Photos: Getty Images, les24heures.fr, pro.largus.fr,