Zolder Apr 21st 2007
World Series by Renault
Eric Bernard, posing with Carlos Ghys.
From Istres in the south of France, Bernard dreamed of being a Grand Prix driver at the age of 11 after watching Alain Prost rise through the ranks of French racing. Inspired by Prost, Bernard started karting in 1976 and in the seven years that followed won four French titles. He studied agriculture but only chose the course because it allowed him plenty of spare time to test karts. In 1983 he attended the Winfield Racing School at Paul Ricard and was one of the finalists in the Volant Elf competition in the autumn. He beat Jean Alesi and Bertrand Gachot to the prize and won a fully-sponsored drive in Formula Renault in 1984. He finished sixth in the series but won the following year, graduating to French Formula 3 in 1986 with the Winfield team. He finished fifth in the series and the following year began winning races, finishing runner-up to his old rival Alesi in the French title.
Bernard was the most impressive newcomer to Formula 3000 in 1988 and he made his Formula 1 debut for the Larrousse team at the 1989 French Grand Prix. Taken on by Larrousse the following year, he took an outstanding fourth place in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and stayed with the Paul Ricard-based team as they struggled through 1991 on a shoestring budget.
He suffered leg fractures in a practice shunt for the Japanese Grand Prix and there were complications and so he found himself sitting out both the 1992 and 93 seasons. He returned to Formula 1 in 1994 with the Ligier, the highlight of which was third place in the German Grand Prix. At the end of the year he was moved to Team Lotus for one race but that was the end of Bernard's front line career although he went on to enjoy much success in sportscar racing.