The Strong Starter----Ligier JS11
Speaking of Ligier, you might think about the memorable win in 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, by the time Ligier was a midfield team which is unlikely to win a race nor championship, but back in the early days of the French team, it was one of the consider of the championship.
The team was formed in 1968 by Guy Ligier, who was once a Grand Prix driver but after the death of his friend Jo Schlesser he decided to being a team principal instead. The team was first keep their focus on sports car racing, the highlights during those time would be their runner-up in 1975 LeMans with their JS2 car. After that, they switch their focus on F1.
1976 was a not bad debuted season for the team, even they only have Jacques Laffite as their driver, but still scored 1 pole, 3 podium and 5th overall in the championship. In the next season the 1977, Laffite scored himself and the team first ever F1 win in Sweden. It only took 2 years from a rookie team to a Grand Prix winning team. Achieve great, but far from the champion. The gap between the constructor champion were still 63 points.
Before the start of the 1979 season, people were still discussing about whether the Lotus will keep their dominant performance from the previous season, or the coming back of the Ferrari. Ligier this time have two driver and they are Jacques Laffite and Patrick Depailler, both are French. In the opening season Grand Prix at Buenos Aires for the Argentine Grand Prix. People were shock by the Ligier 1-2 qualifying result, the Sunday would make their chin falling off the ground as Laffite won and 15 seconds clear to the Lotus of Carlos Reutemanns, while the other Ligier finished 4th. The next race in Brazil, once again the Ligier were 1-2 for the qualifying, the race day were a glory for the French team with both cars finishing 1-2 and an enormous 45 seconds gap between the 3rd place. Laffite said that during the qualifying in Brazil, he didn’t do practice nor changing setting, instead, he put half tanks of fuel, go with raceday tyres and come back with a pole.
After a strong start of the season, the Ligier leading and were 15 points clear to the Lotus in the constructor championship, mean while Laffite were the driver championship leader as well. People at this point looking forward the Ligier would become the champion team in this season. Unfortunately they were wrong, the Ferrari repeat their dominant in the next two race and take the championship lead immediately, while Ligier suffered reliably problem with 3 retirements. The next race in Spain was a positive with 1-2 qualifying result once again, at the start of the race Depailler took the lead from Laffite, it was a teammate battle until Laffite retire with a engine failure in lap 15, Depailler eventually win the race. It was the last glory moment with the team in that season, as Liger were stuck by reliably problem, the situation became worse with the hang-gliding accident of Depailler forcing him to stop racing in the mid-season. After the Spainish Grand Prix, the team only scored points in 5 out of 9 races, 3 of them are podium finish, but none of them are race win. At the end, Ligier were 3rd overall in the championship standing and was 52 points behind the Ferrari who is the champion.
The 1979 season was a impress for Ligier, they were jumping from the midfield to a two consecutive Grand Prix winner, sadly the reliably problem make them stop from gaining points. It was also said the Ground-effect is what put Ligier strong at the start, after the two wins the other teams get adopt with the innovative design, that’s why the Ligier is losing advantage, also Depailler retire in the mid-season is one of the reason why Laffite lost motivation in the second part of the season.
The first lap of the 1979 Brazilian Grand Prix with both Ligier leading, plus you can see the layout of the old verson of Interlagos.