Jean-Pierre Jabouille who took Renault’s first win in 1979 has died age eighty. The Parisian, who took the European Formula 2 title in 1976, made 49 F1 starts between 1975 and 1981, getting his full debut at the 1975 French Grand Prix for Tyrrell.
Jabouille raced for most of his career for Renault taking the manufacturer first ever win at the 1979 French Grand Prix. That victory was not just a major milestone for Renault but also a first win for a turbocharged engine, with him winning the race by fourteen seconds ahead of teammate Rene Arnoux.
That race at Dijon saw him start on pole before winning the race by fourteen seconds from teammate Rene Arnoux. That race saw a thrilling battle between Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve fighting out a gripping wheel-to-wheel duel until the chequered flag.
One of the greatest duels in F1 history was eventually settled in Villeneuve’s favour after a final few laps marked by improbable overtaking moves, regular position swaps, off-track moments and wheel-banging incidents.
That win was the first for a French driver, team, engine and tyre manufacturer in France. Jabouille claimed his second and last win a year later at the Red Bull Ring, then called Österreichring.
At the opening race he had taken pole in Kyalami, and further poles at the Nürburgring and Monza, although poor reliability prevented any further wins. In 1980, Jabouille took two more poles along with his win in Austria, while Arnoux won twice in Kyalami and Interlagos.
His career was notoriously unlucky, a spate of reliability issues would prevent Jabouille from achieving more success in F1, being only classified in 10 of his 49 races. Jabouille’s career was cut short after crashing out in Montreal in 1980 causing serious injuries to his legs.
Before starting his driving career he was an engineer by trade, and joined Renault to develop the turbo engine. Initially, the car was a laughing stock, dubbed the “yellow teapot” by British rivals because of its poor reliability.
After retiring from the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix with Talbot, he called time on his time in F1. With French brands Alpine, Renault, Matra and Peugeot Jabouille also contested the Le Mans 24 Hours 13 times between 1968 and 1993, taking four overall podiums.
Jabouille retired from driving following the 1993 edition of Le Mans, in which he took third alongside Philippe Alliot and Mauro Baldi as part of a historic 1-2-3 finish for Peugeot Sport with its iconic Peugeot 905 prototype. After he retired from F1, Jabouille was briefly a manager at the Ligier team, before stepping away.
He returned as head of the ill-fated Peugeot engine programme in the 1990s. Peugeot had joined forces with McLaren in 1994, but that was ended after just one season of poor performance and reliability. Peugeot switched to Jordan from 1995-97 and then to Prost’s team from 1998 before withdrawing at the end of 2000.
He was born in Paris during the Nazi occupation in 1942.
Prost wrote on Instagram: “A black year for French F1 and a great moment of sadness. RIP Jean Pierre! You were a true friend as well as a mentor when I started [racing]. Your advice and analysis were very valuable to me. French motorsport owes you a lot! You deserved much more. We must and will remember you as a pioneer, a man with remarkable frankness and sincerity!”
On Thursday night the Alpine F1 team paid tribute to Jabouille in a statement. “BWT Alpine F1 Team is incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Jean-Pierre Jabouille. A humble racing driver, brilliant engineer, and a pioneer of our sport. Jean-Pierre was a true racer. He spearheaded Renault’s journey into F1 in 1977 with his resilient and dare to do attitude.”
Formula 1 CEO and President Stefano Domenicali said: “I am saddened by the news that Jean-Pierre Jabouille has passed away. He gave so much to motorsport and F1 and we cherish his memory and achievements. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”