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Former F1 team boss Guy Ligier dies aged 85

JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images

Former racing driver and Formula One team owner Guy Ligier has died aged 85.

Ligier had a brief motor racing career and competed in 12 grand prix races between 1966 and 1967, but he is best known in F1 as team owner of the outfit which shared his name. Ligier operated between 1976 and 1996, enjoying its most competitive spell in the late 1970s and early 1980s when it was a regular front runner.

The team won nine races during its existence, the last being Olivier Panis' famous victory at the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix four years after Ligier had sold the team. Other winners for the Ligier team were French drivers Jacques Laffite, Patrick Depailler and Didier Pironi.

Born in Vichy, France in 1930, Ligier played rugby union and represented the France B team before injuries ended his career prematurely. He started a large construction company - helping develop France's motorway system in the process - before starting his motor racing career in the 1960s, competing with privately-entered Cooper-Masterati and Brabham-Repco machinery.

Ligier also competed in sports cars and drove at the 1964 Le Mans before his switch to F1. However, his career there was short-lived as the death of close friend Jo Schlesser at the 1968 French Grand Prix prompted an early retirement from the sport. He decided to pursue his racing ambitions as a manufacturer.

What followed was the sportscar Ligier JS1, the initials of his good friend, before the purchase of Matra Sports in 1974 allowed him to return to F1 with his own team two years later. Laffite claimed a victory in Ligier's second season at the Swedish Grand Prix before the team's biggest period of success in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Ligier finished third in the constructors' championship in 1979 and second in 1980. In 1981 his old friend François Mitterrand became president of France and, when the team hit financial trouble in 1983, ordered that government-owned companies such as Elf, Gitanes and Loto should supply Ligier with sponsorship.

The team's on-track fortunes waned in the late 1980s and the Frenchman sold the team to compatriot Cyril de Rouvre in 1992. The team was then sold to Alain Prost four years later, becoming the Prost Grand Prix outfit which operated until 2001.

Ligier invested the proceeds from his 1992 sale to enter the natural fertiliser market in France and amassed another fortune, which helped him create another venture called Ligier Microcars.