FESTIVAL OF SPEED
Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, posing with my brother Luc
Without a doubt, victory in the 1978 Le Mans 24 Hours with Renault was the highlight of Jean-Pierre Jaussaud’s successful racing career. In 1970, eight years before his Le Mans triumph, he was crowned French F3 Champion and also won F3’s ‘blue riband’ Monaco Grand Prix support race. He was also a major force in European Formula 2, finishing championship runner-up in 1972 before going on to drive for the Motul-Ford team run by Ron Dennis, now boss of the McLaren F1 team. It is surely every French driver’s dream to win Le Mans and, in 1973 and ’75, Jaussaud finished third, first in a Matra with Jean-Pierre Jabouille, then in a Mirage-Ford with Vern Schuppan. Among the field in 1975 was Renault with the prototype Alpine A441. Come 1977, the car, now upgraded to A442 spec, was a strong contender for victory. Four cars were entered and Jaussaud was drafted in to drive one of them with French F1 ‘rookie’ Patrick Tambay. It was six on Sunday morning when their engine broke, but Jaussaud had impressed the Renault hierarchy enough to merit a second chance the following year. Again, four cars were entered, Jaussaud this time partnered with another French F1 ‘rookie’, Didier Pironi. In their number two Alpine A442B, they took command of the race when the team’s lead car retired on the Sunday morning. Between them, Jaussaud and Piron.