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GP Week : Issue 173
contract with Rue for me to drive the rally. I had originally decided to take Jean Todt as my co-driver. In the end Jean withdrew, saying that one week for practice was not enough, we would not stand a chance of winning. Also, to do the rally was a bad thing as it was not an official entry. “At that moment I contacted Vincent Laverne. In fact we only had the chance to do two days of recce together, though I had three different friends to come with me to practice on earlier occasions, just in case we did the rally. We borrowed a friend's Peugeot 104 to drive the recce! Luckily not so much of the route was new, and I had made a good practice the year before when I competed in an Opel, but in which we had to retire before we even reached the stages ... “The 1978 event was snowy which was good for me, because Michelin had made special tyres for me and also for our closest rivals in the Renault 5 Alpines.” Victory at Monte Carlo kept Jean- Pierre's name alive. He had a contract with both Ford France and Ford England to provide cars but had no sponsor: "Rue's company Publimmo agreed to help, by paying the expenses, salary and starting money, but I think Publimmo then found it more difficult to find sponsors than they thought. I was very tempted to drive Ford because the year before I had driven for the Ford works team in the 1977 Tour de Corse. The car we had then was fantastic, but for whatever reason I never had such a good Ford again.” All the time Peugeot were in the background, offering cars for the African events (Morocco, Ivory Coast and Safari), and Jean-Pierre won each of these events once. The old 504 was a solid but slow car, the 504 V6 Coupe was a powerful machine: "The Peugeot was quite a different car to the Ford. Very strong, very heavy (1300kg, about the weight of some World Rally Cars today!) When the team changed from four-cylinder to six-cylinder cars the suspensions were almost exactly the same but the power output was almost double". In his post-Renault days Jean-Pierre had the chance to compete with a wide variety of teams: "In 1976 I entered three rallies with Opel, and never finished a single special stage! Either the engine failed or a wheel fell off.” Jean-Pierre drove a front-wheel drive Renault 5 Alpine on the 1977 RAC Rally: "The model was in its infancy and it was not so pleasant to drive. Front- wheel drive was for me not so nice as rear-wheel drive.” A Frenchman who preferred the dirt to the tarmac was unusual in those days: "I always preferred gravel rallies, because asphalt rallies are too much like race driving for my liking. I did a lot of racing but I never really liked it. I had some success. Jean-Claude Andruet shared the car which won the Index of Performance at Le Mans in 1968. I reckoned Andruet was the best asphalt rally driver in our country. For me if I had the chance to do just one rally a year, it would be the Safari Rally in Kenya." His connections with the old time Peugeot team based at Sochaux continued into the new Peugeot team which Jean Todt set up in Paris, and provided Jean-Pierre with the sort of home feeling he used to have with Renault Alpine: "I liked the car and the people, and of course it was more easy to work with a French team because my English was never so good.” Peugeot was to be Jean-Pierre's final home, and his last competition appearance was Sanremo 1984, at the end of the first season of the 205 Turbo 16. Many of the other people with whom Jean-Pierre rallied ended up with Peugeot. Jean-Claude Lefebvre became the team's press officer; Vincent Laverne became the team's world championship coordinator. After a long time developing and testing the new 205 Turbo 16 and then rallying this for three events, Jean-Pierre was given the work of developing the customer competition car market, which became a major commercial operation for the company. Things changed over the years. For a long time, drivers like Jean-Pierre were frustrated by the lack of French cars which were competitive on the world rally scene, but that was set to change. Jean-Pierre's driving career ended with the arrival of the top-flight Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 team at a time when the team had just started its series of wins. Once he was out of the driving seat we got to see him more, got to know him even better. At the start of the IRC project in 2006, he left Peugeot when Eurosport Events invited him on board as Motorsport Development Manager, keeping a close eye on every aspect of the IRC calendar, rules and promotion. In May 2012 he was appointed the official IRC Manager. More chance to know JP, but for me there was one thing I could never fully understand about him. His cuisine. I know that he comes from the South of France where they have unusual habits, but I was astonished when he urged me to eat live fish. During recce for the 1977 Tour de Corse, we were in a restaurant in Corsica and I commented that a very small fish in his soup seemed to be moving. It was strange, just like it was alive, then I noticed some others. "They are alive, and they are a delicacy. You eat them like this!" In one gulp there were no more moving creatures on the plate. In a flash I realised I never had the bravery to be a top line rally star ... IRC >>> FEATURE ABOVE (left to right): Monte Carlo 1978; Monte Carlo 1975; RAC Rally 1973 – Renault Alpine A110 (Images – Martin Holmes Rallying) 44 GPWEEK.com // 44 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: