Jean-Pierre Beltoise (b. 1937)

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Jean-Pierre Beltoise (b. 1937)

Jean-Pierre Beltoise
ONE OF the most determined racing drivers of all, Jean-Pierre Beltoisc achieved the high spot of a patchy Formula One career by winning the rain- soaked 1972 Monaco Grand Prix at the wheel of a BRM. Born on 6 April 1937 Beltoise married Jacqueline Cevert (sister of the late Francois).

Beltoise come up the the ranks of motor racing the hard way, with more than his fair share of tribulation and injury. He won eleven French national motor cycling championships before turning to four wheels, in 1963, with a drive in a 1-litre Bonnet.

He had a few inconsequential races for the team and took a class win at Le Mans before suffering a terrible crash in the Reims 12 hour race the following year - this would leave his with a permanent limp and a weak left arm.

By the time he recovered, he found that the French Matra missile firm had taken over the Bonnet organisation and built a Formula Three car. Thereafter he helped to mould the late-runes rennaissance of French motor racing.

Despite being only partially recovered, Beltoise won the French Formula Three Championship, in 1965, and went on to triumph in the prestigious Monaco Formula Three race the following year. He was then invited to drive the Matra-Ford Formula Two car and campaigned in several Grand Prix races with this machine in 1967.

The Matra had to be fitted with extra ballast to bring it up to the minimum weight limit but Beltoise still finished seventh in the United States and Mexican Grands Prix. He was given his first real Formula One opportunity in the 1968 Spanish Grand Prix at Madrid, deputising for Jackie Stewart in Ken Tyrrell's new Matra-Ford V8, after the Scot had injured his wrist in a Formula Two incident.

Beltoise led the race for several laps before an oil leak caused his retirement. For the remainder of the season he drove the Matra V12 for the factory team - scoring a very impressive second, in soaking wet conditions, at Zandvoort but the team decided to withdraw from racing for 1969 in an effort to get their motor performing reliably. Beltoise also became European Formula Two Champion in 1969, driving a Matra-Ford.

For 1970 Beltoise joined Ken Tyrrell's team and drove Matra-Ford V8s alongside Stewart. He took second place at Clermont-Ferrand and nearly won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza after spectacularly outbraking both Stewart and Rindt into the last corner, only to run wide coming onto the finishing straight.

Driving one of the V12 Matra sports cars, he scored the team's first major success by winning the Paris 1000 kilometres race at Montlhery and, when Matra returned to Grand Prix racing with their works cars in 1970, was invited back to lead the team. He led the French Grand Prix at Clermont Ferrand for many laps before being delayed with an oil leak and puncture and the best placings of a rather disappointing year were thirds at the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix.

Tradgedy For Ignazio Giunti Following The Illegal Push

In 1971 he was joined in the team by Chris Amon. That year started on a low note with Beltoise being held responsible for the death of Italy's Ignazio Giunti, after Giunti's Ferrari prototype crashed into the Matra which Beltoise was pushing (contrary to regulations) slowly towards the' pits at Buenos Aires. He ran for much of the 1971 season with the threat of licence suspension and even criminal proceedings threatened, taking just a single sixth place in the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona.

Beltoise was dropped from the works Matra Formula One team at the end of 1971 when it was decided to field just a single car for Amon. A controversial move, this was quickly followed by Beltoise signing to lead the multi-nation British BRM team, which had just received major sponsorship from the Philip Morris cigarette operation. He distinguished himself by leading the first wet Monaco Grand Prix for over thirty years from start to finish, out-pacing acknowledged wet weather maestro Jacky Ickx, who freely admitted that there was just no way he could catch the Frenchman.

The rest of the year was indifferent for Beltoise. The works BRMs lacked power and he did not feature in the victory circle again until the end of the year, when the unsuccessful BRM P180, which was subsequently abandoned, took a freak victory in the final Brands Hatch non-championship race. He stayed with BRM in 1973; although the arrival of Clay Regazzoni and subsequently Niki Lauda demoted Beltoise to effective 'third string' status. It was a less happy season, punctuated by accidents at Monaco and Silverstone, although he was actually running second in the controversial and confusing Canadian Grand Prix until two laps from the finish, when Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Oliver passed him and pushed him down to fourth.

In Formula Two he was asked to join the works March-BMW team for several races, but many of these clashed with his Matra sports car commitments and, when he did race, the BMW engines did nothing but give him trouble. He drove a Matra MS670 with Francois Cevert at Le Mans but mechanical difficulties forced them to relinquish their lead and the car was subsequently retired. Beltoise signed with BRM for 1974 but once again his talent was hardly matched by the car. He started the season well, scoring fifth place in Argentina, second - in the new P201 - at Kyalami and fifth in Belgium. They were his only points of the season and at the end of 1974 he left Formula One to concentrate on sports car racing.

Beltoise then became involved with the French Ligier team, who were spending a further year in sports car competition until their Formula One project reached fruition. Again the arrangement was a failure, the cars were totally uncompetitive. When the Ligier Grand Prix car appeared, for the 1976 season, Beltoise did the initial testing of the car but was soon usurped by his young countryman Jacques Lafitte. Many believed this signalled his retirement from motorsport, but soon he was doing most of the testing for the Ligier F1 team and afterwards turned his attention to touring car racing in France, twice winning the French title for BMW before entering rallycross in an Alpine-Renault with which he won the French title.

In 1981 he returned to touring cars and raced for Peugeot throughout the 1980s. He was also a regular ice racer. He had two sons, Anthony and Julien, who were both race drivers. In fiction, Beltoise frequently appeared in the Michel Vaillant series of comic books, amongst others being part of the winning Vaillante Le Mans team.
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