Thursday, December 4, 2008

French F1 Drivers, Jean-Pierre Beltoise

Jean-Pierre Maurice Georges Beltoise was born April 26, 1937 in Paris, France and is a former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer and Formula One driver who raced for the Matra and BRM teams.
Beltoise won 11 national motorcycle titles in three years. He competed in international Grand Prix motorcycle racing from the 1962 to 1964 seasons in the 50, 125 and 250 cc classes. His best finish was a sixth place in the 1964 50 cc World Championship.

He made his four-wheel debut at Le Mans in 1963, winning the Index of Performance, but a year later his career was nearly ended when a horrendous accident at Reims left him with burns and multiple injuries, the most serious of which was a left arm so badly broken that its movement was permanently restricted. Nevertheless he was back in 1965 racing the F3 Matra (the aerospace company having taken over the René Bonnet concern) and scored a great first win for the marque at Reims. His pre-eminence in this formula was later to be confirmed when he won the 1966 Monaco F3 race, and all four rounds of the Argentine Temporada series early in 1967. This success encouraged Matra to continue with their racing activities, and Beltoise was the spearhead of the team's Formula 2 programme from 1966, winning the F2 class of the German GP and later the European F2 championship for non-graded drivers in 1968 when he won rounds at Hockenheim, Jarama and Zandvoort.
In 1969 he was recruited by Ken Tyrrell to the Matra team, driving alongside Jackie Stewart, finishing second in the 1969 French Grand Prix, while development work was undertaken on the V12 project and scored seven point-scoring finishes, but the following season he raced the new Matra MS120-V12 and was unlucky not to win the French GP when a puncture robbed him of the lead. Athough Jean-Pierre had done well enough on occasion, Matra signed Amon for 1971, frustrating the Frenchman's F1 aspirations, and it was not a happy season for Beltoise.

In 1971, racing in the Matra sports car team, he was involved in the accident which killed Ignazio Giunti in Buenos Aires, and his international racing license was suspended for some time. In 1972 he joined the BRM team and won what turned out to be BRM's final Formula One victory at the 1972 Monaco Grand Prix under heavy rain.

Monaco 1972

He finally retired from Formula 1 at the end of the 1974 season.

An established member of the Matra squad, Jean-Pierre enjoyed a tremendous year in sports car racing, winning four championship rounds (the Nürburgring, Watkins Glen, Paul Ricard and Brands Hatch) but at season's end he was looking for work on two fronts. With Matra out of endurance racing, Beltoise was forced to scratch around for drives and the prospect of an F1 return with Ligier in 1976 evaporated when the seat went to Laffite. Jean-Pierre was involved with both the Ligier and Inaltera sports car projects before successfully switching to the French touring car scene, where he was to drive and gain much enjoyment for many years.
He won the French title twice for BMW before entering rallycross in an Alpine-Renault with which he won the French title. In 1981 he returned to touring cars and raced for Peugeot throughout the 1980s. He is also a regular ice racer.
He has two sons who are both race drivers.

In fiction, Beltoise frequently appeared in the Michel Vaillant series of comic books, amongst others being part of the winning Vaillante Le Mans team.

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