Guy Ligier, who founded the iconic French team in 1976, has passed away of natural causes. He was 85 years old.
A former F1 driver himself, Ligier began his sporting career in rugby. He played for the French national team after spending a number of years working as a butcher’s assistant. Orphaned at an early age, he built a construction empire after capitalising on the motorway construction business booming in France. Although his motor-racing career began with big names – Cooper-Maserati and Brabham, it never took off.
Ligier quit racing following the death of his friend and countryman, Jo Schlesser, founding the team soon after. Initially intended as a sports car manufacturer, Ligier bought over the assets of another Formula One team, Matra, and entered F1 in 1976. They found success quickly, and with Jacques Lafitte as their pilot, won the following year’s Swedish Grand Prix.
The team saw several big marquee names race for it – among them Lafitte, Didier Pironi, Jacky Ickx, Martin Brundle, Aguri Suzuki, Olivier Panis and Andrea de Cesaris. Considering this, they did not have as much success as they should have – over the 20 years of the team’s existence, they won only 9 races and no drivers’ championships despite being frontrunners in the 1980s. They had 50 podium spots and a total of 388 points over their F1 run.
Ligier would eventually be bought over by another Formula 1 legend – 4-time drivers’ champion Alain Prost purchased the team, renaming it Prost GP. Prost GP suffered a similar fate – with notable names like Panis, Nick Heidfeld and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the team did not make much of an impact and folded 4 years after its 1997 inception, in 2001.