CONSTRUCTORS: AGS (AUTOMOBILES GONFARONNAISE SPORTIVES)
Name: AGS (Automobiles Gonfaronnaise Sportives)
Henri Julien was in his twenties when he began working at the Garage de l'Avenir in Gonfaron, a small village 25 miles to the northeast of Toulon in the south of France. In his spare time he built a single-seater racing car fitted with a modified Simca engine and in 1950 he began racing this 500cc device in local races. He called it the JH1. It was followed by other 500cc cars with BMW engines and in 1957 by a front-engined Formula Junior car with an 850cc Panhard motor, which he called the JH3.
He gave up building cars in 1960 and bought an Alpine Formula 3 car but found himself uncompetitive and stopped racing in 1965. The creation of the new single-seater Formule France in 1968 spurred Julien back into racing car construction. He established Automobiles Gonfaronnaise Sportives and working with Christian Vanderpleyn, who had joined him as an apprentice in 1960, he built the JH4 which was driven in 1969 by Francois Rabbione. The following year there were two JH5 cars for Rabbione and Gerard Cerruti, the latter finishing third at Paul Ricard.
In 1971 the series became known as Formule Renault and Julien built a JH6 which was raced to good effect by Francois Guerre-Berthelot. The car did not win any races but Guerre-Berthelot set a number of fastest laps.
A series of designs followed in both Formule Renault and Formula 3. Success was slow in coming but driver Alain Jallot went well at Monaco in Formule Renault, finishing fourth in 1972 and third the following year. The team failed to win but moved into Formule Super Renault and in 1977 began to score consistently good results with Richard Dallest in the JH14.
For 1978 Julien decided to enter Formula 2 with the BMW-engined JH15 and Dallest was hired to drive. Results were slow in coming but in 1980 Dallest won two European Championship races at Pau and at Zandvoort. Dallest stayed on in 1981 but for the 1982 season the team hired two new rising stars called Philippe Streiff and Pascal Fabre to race the JH19s and both drivers scored podium finishes, Streiff finishing sixth in the championship with two second places. In 1983, despite losing its long-term sponsorship deals from Motul and GPA helmets, the team ran Streiff to fourth place in the European Championship, while Fulvio Ballabio's sponsorship kept the team alive. Streiff stayed with the team in 1984, finding money from Gitanes, Elf and Blanchet Locatop and he finally won his first F2 victory in the very last round of the European F2 Championship at Brands Hatch that autumn.
With the arrival of F3000 in 1985 Streiff continued with the team but without much success. AGS decided that in 1986 it would enter Grand Prix racing but supplied the Danielson team with chassis which were run with limited success for Dallest. The AGS-Motori Moderni JH21C made its first appearance at the Italian GP with Ivan Capelli driving. The car was built around an old Renault Sport monocoque which Julien had acquired and it failed to finish at both F1 races it took part in that year. The car was revised that winter and fitted with a Ford Cosworth engine. It was renamed JH22 and with backing from clothing firm Charro the team hired Fabre to drive. At the end of the year Fabre was replaced by Roberto Moreno and it was the Brazilian who scored AGS's first World Championship point with sixth place in Adelaide.
The team was struggling for sponsorship in 1988 but Streiff returned to the team and there were some good showings with the JH23. In August, however, the team was torn apart with the departure to Coloni of Vanderpleyn, his assistant Michel Costa and team manager Frederic Dhainhaut.
Julien hired Claude Galopin to design the JH24 and Joachim Winkelhock was signed to partner Streiff thanks to his Liqui Moly sponsorship. In March 1989 Streiff was paralyzed in a testing accident at Rio de Janeiro and Julien decided to sell the team to French businessman Cyril de Rouvre. Former driver Francois Guerre-Berthelot became director of development with the team being run by Henri Cochin. De Rouvre arranged sponsorship from French electrical company Faure and Gabriele Tarquini was hired to replace Streiff.
In the autumn the team was restructured with Costa returning as chief designer. Hugues de Chaunac was appointed team director and Claude Rouelle becomes head of research and development. The team landed backing from Paris fashion house Ted Lapidus, and Dalmas and Tarquini were re-signed. The team moved into a purpose-built factory at the Circuit du Luc but things soon started to go wrong with De Chaunac leaving after a couple of months. Costa departed as well but the JH25 was developed and managed to qualify for some races in 1990, the best result being Dalmas's ninth place in Spain.
It was not enough. Over the winter it became clear that the team had serious financial problems. Costa's JH26 design was not built and Tarquini and Stefan Johansson began the 1991 season amid rumors of a merger between AGS and Larrousse. When talks broke down AGS sought protection from its creditors with the French courts. The team was bought by Italians Patrizio Cantu and Gabriele Raffanelli. Vanderpleyn returned and was joined by Mario Tolentino and the two rushed through a new JH27 design. Johansson was replaced by Fabrizio Barbazza but he and Tarquini struggled to qualify the old JH25s.
The JH27 arrived in September but proved to be little better than the older car and soon afterwards the team closed down. The AGS cars and the Le Luc circuit were later rented out to drivers wanting to experience what it is like to drive an F1 car - a successful business for some years after the team's demise.