The James Hunt of France

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Words by: JPS for duncan quinn

Like a grand cru Bordeaux, Jacques Lafitte is something of a legend in France, and rightly so —

during his epic Formula One career from 1974 – 1986 he bagged six grand prix wins, all while driving for France’s Ligier team, founded by a former French rugby union player. He initially made Formula One debut in 1974 for Frank Williams’ Iso-Marlboro team, and raced for the same team, now named Williams, the following year, scoring second place in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. In 1976 he moved to Ligier, scoring 20 points and a pole position at the Italian Grand Prix, and won his first major race at Anderstorp in the 1977 Swedish Grand Prix, putting Ligier on the map.

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From there he made Ligier’s blue, white and red Talbot Gitanes livery an iconic sight – one mostly glimpsed in other drivers’ rearview mirrors. The handsome, muscular Lafitte may not have been quite the libertine that’s sometime race-mate Hunt the Shunt was, but he certainly had the Gallic eye for the ladies, and they for him. Though he retired from F1 in 1986 after tragically breaking both legs in a crash at the start of the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, he still cuts a dash these days, and in 2008, at the age of 64, tested a Renault R27 F1 car at the Paul Ricard circuit. Now a racing commentator on TV and and avid golfer, we still detect that glint in his eye at times that betrays where he’d much rather be – with hands firmly gripping the wheel…

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Words by JPS for duncan quinn