“And so now! A French driver in a French car with a French engine on French tires is leading the French Grand Prix,” Murray Walker stated on the forty seventh lap of the 1979 French Grand Prix. Jean-Pierre Jabouille would go on to win that day in Dijon for his first Formula 1 victory, Renault’s first F1 victory, and the primary F1 win for a turbocharged automobile. Jabouille, 80, died on Thursday, in response to reviews. Jabouille would win solely as soon as extra in F1 — in Austria in 1980 — however the 1979 victory in a notoriously unreliable Renault cemented his legacy.
You can discover video highlights of the 1979 French Grand Prix right here. (Formula 1 doesn’t enable some content material to be embedded.) You can see Jabouille take the lead beginning at 5:00, after which, round 6:50, you may see what is likely to be essentially the most thrilling battle for second in Formula 1 historical past, as Jabouille, far forward of Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux, cruised to victory. And right here’s a shorter model of that in French:
Jabouille described in an interview in 2019 the facet eye that turbo engines had been met with on the time.
“There was a lot of scepticism in the F1 in the early days about the use of turbos. Lots of jokes were made about it, particularly among the other teams – the competition did not believe in it at all. Perhaps there was every reason for that at the time. Only in the middle of the straights, engine power was optimally available while in the bends there was nothing at all. The engines ran great under cold conditions, in hot weather they were hopeless.”
“Renault’s development of the turbo engines started in 1972/1973. Initial tests were carried out with one large turbocharger (RS01), but soon two small turbos, with a much-improved response time (from the RS10-on) were used. We were also slowly but surely gaining benefits of improved streamlining. When I drove a turbo powered Renault RS10 over the finish line as the winner during the French Grand Prix in 1979, that gave a full French victory: a French driver in a French car on a French circuit and on French tires. We were very proud!”
The jokes, it ought to be stated, weren’t unwarranted, as Renault’s turbos within the early days had been extremely unreliable. Jabouille retired from all however one race in 1977, from 9 races in 1978, from ten races in 1979, and from eleven races in 1980, the season when he crashed on the Canadian Grand Prix and broke each of his legs.
“I broke both my legs and then had troubles with both legs and knees. At that time, a driver was positioned very much in the front of the car, which meant that you were hit even in the slightest collision. I remained in the car for 30 minutes after the crash took place.”
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He would by no means be the identical once more, trying solely 5 races in 1981 earlier than calling it quits in Formula 1 for good. Still, Jabouille’s level had been made in Dijon, and turbocharged engines dominated the Eighties earlier than getting banned in 1989.
Alain Prost took to Instagram to share his regrets:
“A black year for French F1 and a great moment of sadness even today! RIP Jean Pierre! You’ve been a true friend and mentor in my beginning! Your advice and analysis were very valuable to me. French Motorsport owes you a lot! You deserved so much more. We must and will remember you as a pioneer, a man with outstanding frankness and sincerity! Hugs to you”
The BBC additionally printed a press release from Alpine, Renault’s present consultant in F1:
“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. He was Renault’s first Grand Prix winner in 1979, a landmark moment in Renault’s journey in Formula 1.
“His determination and dedication to succeed inspired many, and these values remain central to the current team in its now blue colours of Alpine.
“We are where we are today because of Jean-Pierre and his legacy lives on.”