DRIVERS: JACQUES LAFFITE

Name: Jacques Laffite
Nationality: France
Date of birth: November 21, 1943 - Paris

The son of a Parisian lawyer, Laffite started his racing career as a mechanic, working with a friend called Jean-Pierre Jabouille. The relationship would eventually become that of brothers-in-law as the pair married two sisters. It was not until he was in his late twenties that Laffite began to climb the racing ladder. In 1972 he won the French Formula Renault Championship and the following season moved into Formula 3 with Automobiles Martini, winning the French title and the Monaco Formula 3 Grand Prix.

In 1974 he moved into Formula 2 with March and won a race in his first season. Later that summer he made his F1 debut with Frank Williams's Iso Marlboro team in the German Grand Prix. He stayed with Williams the following year and finished second at the Nurburgring but the team ran out of money and in the end Laffite dropped out of F1. That year he won the European Formula 2 title and helped Alfa Romeo to win the World Championship for Makes with Arturo Merzario, Derek Bell and Henri Pescarolo.

In 1976 he was taken on by the new Ligier F1 team and the following year won the Swedish Grand Prix, becoming the first Frenchman driving a French car, powered by a French engine, to win a World Championship race. He stayed at Ligier for seven seasons during which he won six races and finished fourth in the World Championship for three consecutive years.

Happy-go-lucky Laffite was one of the top F1 stars of the day and always retained his sense of humour in an era when other stars were taking life too seriously. At the end of 1982 he went to Williams to partner Keke Rosberg and stayed two seasons before returning to Ligier in 1985.

At the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch in 1986 he lined up to start his 176th Grand Prix - to equal Graham Hill's record which had stood for over 10 years - but at the first corner he had to swerve to avoid a crash and hit a wall head-on, smashing his ankles badly. His F1 career was over but Jacques returned to racing in 1987 to take part in the World Touring Car Championship and was a regular touring car racer, while also competing in rally-raids and ice racing.

In the 1990s he finally drifted into TV commentary in F1 and remains a regular and very popular member of the F1 fraternity.

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