Multiple F1 race winner Jean-Pierre Jabouille passes away aged 80

Henry Valantine
Former Renault driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille. France July 2019.

Former Formula 1 race winner Jean-Pierre Jabouille sat in his race-winning Renault cockpit at Paul Ricard. July 2019.

Jean-Pierre Jabouille, former Renault driver and the first Formula 1 driver to win with turbocharged power, died aged 80 on Thursday, former team Alpine have confirmed after multiple reports in French media.

The Frenchman won two races in his time as a Formula 1 driver, winning his home race in Dijon in 1979 for Renault to become the first driver to win with a turbo engine in the sport’s history.

Jabouille developed a reputation for being one of Formula 1’s unluckiest drivers during his time in the sport, only being a classified finisher in 10 of his 49 race starts – winning two races and taking six pole positions, becoming Renault’s first ever race winner in Formula 1 in the process.

The Parisian racer spent several years in Formula 2 in the 1970s, combining that with sportscar racing as he looked for a way into Formula 1, winning the F2 title in 1976 before being given a factory drive with Renault in the second half of the following year.

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He was comparatively late in his career to be a Formula 1 debutant, making his race weekend debut with Frank Williams Racing in 1974 for a one-off appearance in France, though he did not qualify for the race.

But his race finishes were strong, when he was able to cross the line, and the fast but unreliable turbocharged Renault powered him to pole position ahead of team-mate René Arnoux in Dijon in 1979, before he took a comfortable victory ahead of Gilles Villeneuve.

Another win followed in Austria a year later, edging Williams’ Alan Jones by less than a second at the line, but a serious accident in Canada after his suspension failed left him with a broken leg, just after signing a deal to race for Ligier in 1981.

His Formula 1 career would not quite recover after that, taking a break from racing for several years before returning to sportscars in the mid-1980s, helping Peugeot develop its Le Mans programme.

Already a two-time podium finisher at the legendary 24-hour race, he took two more P3 finishes around the Circuit de la Sarthe in the Peugeot 905 in 1992 and 1993, racing into his 50s.

He replaced Jean Todt at the helm of Peugeot Sport after retiring from driving, but he left the team a year later in 1995 after unsuccessful engine partnerships with Jordan and McLaren in Formula 1, before co-founding the JB Racing sportscar team.

Jabouille’s former team paid tribute to him, with Alpine writing in a statement: “BWT Alpine F1 Team is incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Jean-Pierre Jabouille. A humble racing driver, brilliant engineer, and a pioneer of our sport. Jean-Pierre was a true racer.

“He spearheaded Renault’s journey into F1 in 1977 with his resilient and dare to do attitude. He was Renault’s first Grand Prix winner in 1979, a landmark moment in Renault’s journey in Formula 1. His determination and dedication to succeed inspired many, and these values remain central to the current team in its now blue colours of Alpine.

“We are where we are today because of Jean-Pierre and his legacy lives on.

“We’d like to extend our most sincere condolences to his family and close friends.

“Merci pour tout, Jean-Pierre.”