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JANUARY 29, 2003

Recognition for de Chaunac

Hugues de Chaunac, the boss of ORECA, who has been involved in Formula 1 on a couple of occasions in the last 30 years, will receive a Legion d'Honneur tomorrow at the Automobile Club de France for his services to motorsport. The award will be made by the President of the ACF Jean Panhard.

De Chaunac started racing in 1969 but after three years he formed ORECA and began to run Martini factory teams for Tico Martini. The team won a strong of titles and in 1975 took the European Formula 2 title with Jacques Laffite. Rene Arnoux won the title in 1977 and the following year ORECA decided to enter F1 with a Martini-Cosworth car driven by Arnoux. The car did not have ground effects technology and was uncompetitive and de Chaunac cut his losses and went back to Formula 3 where in 1979 he ran Alain Prost to the European Formula 3 title. ORECA then won nine French Formula 3 titles in 11 seasons with drivers such as Jean Alesi, Erik Comas, Olivier Groulliard, Pierre-Henri Raphanel, Yannick Dalmas and Jean-Marc Gounon. The company diversified and now includes a large and successful fabrication and distribution business with motor racing parts and a public relations company. ORECA won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1991, running the Mazda operation and is one of the most successful racing teams in existence outside F1. In recent years the organization has run the successful Chrysler Viper programme in sportscar racing.

In 1989 de Chaunac was again in F1 for a brief period when he took over the running of the AGS team. He quickly realized that the organization would never be a success and departed. There was talk that he would be involved in the Prost Grand Prix team but (wisely) he decided against taking a role.