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Jacques Laffite My best race - Brazilian GP 1979

Daniel Reinhard
Jacques Laffite
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E s was my fourth year with Ligier in Formula 1. We have regularly competed for podium places, have also won once, but there was no real big success. For 1979, our designer Gerard Ducarouge had copied the ground effect principle from Lotus. No, he improved it. The Ligier JS11 went like a rocket. The grip was incredible.

I knew from the first test at Paul Ricard that I was in a winning car. After three laps, I took the Signes curve at the end of the long straight for the first time. I came back to the pits and said to Ducarouge: 'Now I know why the Lotus were so fast last year.'

Old Interlagos circuit with two banked turns

The 1979 season began for us with a win in Buenos Aires. We were all ecstatic. Everyone thought it was a flash in the pan. Nevertheless, we flew to Brazil for the next race with a good feeling. That was a different dimension. Extremely hot, extremely dangerous. The old course from Interlagos was a monster. Not comparable with today's route. Fast, wavy, unforgiving.

There was the Curva del Sol. 180 degrees, over 200 km /h fast. And there were two banked turns right after the start. I was the only one who dared to take it completely. Because the car was so good. Nevertheless, you always held your breath when you shot out of the curve with over 250 things like a cannonball. You tried with all the fibers of your body to feel whether the front axle starts to slide or the rear wants to break out.

I had already achieved the best time in training on Friday and just watched on Saturday. I knew that nobody could catch up with me. I had the same confidence in myself and the car as I do with Vettel today. My team-mate Patrick Depailler struggled with the setup. Full throttle in the banked curve was taboo for him.

Depailler in the slipstream of Laffite second

We quickly pulled away from the field, Patrick always in my slipstream. In the race, it was impossible to take the insane curve to the full on every lap. That's why I played a little mind game with Patrick. Whenever he was close to me, I stayed on the gas. At some point he'd had enough of it. The lead then quickly grew to five seconds.

Patrick wanted to go after hisFailure in Argentina this time necessarily to finish. We got along pretty well, but when we became teammates there was suddenly a wall between us. When he was still driving for Tyrrell, we went traveling together. That was over now. How are you going to fight someone on the track that you hang out with all day? Then the bite is lost.

He later won in Jarama. Unfortunately, he threw away all chances when he crashed while flying a kite and broke his legs. After our second win, the mind changed in the paddock. The French can't be that bad, they suddenly said. We popularized Formula 1 in France. A French team competed for the world championship title, which was otherwise only reserved for the English.

Ligier after a good one Only third place in the World Cup starts

Unfortunately we tripped ourselves up. The wings under the side pods were made of aluminum. To save weight, we made them out of plastic. It was only later that it turned out that the plastic wing was not stiff enough. That disrupted the aerodynamics. Unfortunately, we couldn't see the problem. The wing only bent at full speed.

Wind tunnel tests were still the exception back then. Guy Ligier was short of money and fell out with the wind tunnel folks after finding out they'd been forwarding data to Alfa Romeo. They then made a copy of our car. So we only solved the problem at the end of August. Unfortunately the World Cup train had already left. Still, I have no regrets. It was a wonderful time.


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