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Beltoise, a legendary name

02. Jun 2019 
by Guillaume Alvarez
2615 views

Jean-Pierre Beltoise, a name that proudly resonates in the long history of French motorsport. Sideburns, a legendary grin, the Matra blue color: the single evocation of the name is enough to revive the memories of this flamboyant driver who shone within racing fields during the “Golden Sixties” and part of the 70’s.

 

Like John Surtees or Mike Hailwood, Beltoise was one of the few figures in the history of racing to have competed on two- and four-wheels machines. In motorbikes, he dominated the French scene, winning 11 titles in just… three seasons (1961-64) before switching to cars. Jean-Pierre quickly climbed the ladder, aligning titles in F3 (France, 1965) and F2 (Europe, 1968) before entering Formula 1 where he was one of the spearheads of the famous Matra International adventure. Often matching the level of his teammate Jackie Stewart, Beltoise concluded the 1969 season in fifth place in the drivers’ World championship with 21 points, his best campaign at the highest level of motor racing. Still, he had to wait until 1972 to put his name on the list at a famous Monaco Grand Prix. Driving for BRM, Jean-Pierre offered that day a true driving masterclass to the Monegascan public and his opponents in a race disputed in horrific weather conditions! Fourth on the grid, he took the best start at the wheel of his P160B to put himself in the lead and never let it go, crossing the chequered flag 80 laps later with … a 38 second-gap ahead of Jacky Ickx whose “Rain Master” reputation could do little against the French craft on that rainy Sunday!

 

Nearly half a century later, the name of Beltoise remains closely linked to the history of the Monaco Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious sporting events in the World. And the memory of this victory in the rain, the only one of Jean-Pierre in 89 Grands Prix, continues to be perpetrated thanks to his son Anthony. When I recently met him as part of the I-Pace eTrophy, the first 100% electric Tourism cars series created by Jaguar and disputed ahead of the Formula E E-Prix, we spent some time evoking the Monegascan achievement of his famous father.

 

« I still meet people in the paddock, a little older now, who tell me ‘I was there back then, I stayed two and a half hours in the rain to see your father win’, says Anthony, who’s been walking for a long time in his father’s footsteps through a brilliant career in GT series. « I sincerely believe that his victory has a special place in the French motorsport’s history. It was run in very difficult conditions for nearly 2 hours and 45 minutes ! And what my father did is quite exceptional. One must remember that he didn’t really have the best car and had an partially-paralyzed arm. Good luck to control an F1 car with an arm blocked in the rain! Especially as he beat Jacky Ickx that day, and not by a little margin (Laughs)!

 

« Even today, the ‘Beltoise’ name remains famous but above all highly respected », he adds. « Many people are quite appreciative of his career. My father symbolized a bit of the motorsport revival in France. It was the Matra years, the ‘blue years’. He had a lot of success and then his personality, his disability with his left arm, might have a little participated in shaping his character for the public. »

Source: Manou Zurini

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