Francois Cevert, Tecno 68 Ford F3 1968

Francois Cevert applies some gentle correction to his Tecno 68 Ford F3 car, Rouen, France 1968…

I was researching another article and tripped over some photos of a very young Francois Cevert in an Alpine in his F3 days…

It reminded me of how many talented young drivers were killed before their prime well into the 1970’s, Francois, Tom Pryce, Gerry Birrell, Roger Williamson, Piers Courage and Tony Brise all spring readily to mind.

The monocoque chassis’ of the 1970’s were far stronger than the spaceframes of ten years before but as the width and grip of tyres, and the aerodynamic downforce the cars produced improved, meant that accidents, when they occurred at the higher cornering speeds were particularly horrific.It was a collision with an armco fence of this type, when his Tyrrell got away from him, which killed Francois at Watkins Glen in 1973.

John Barnards’ pioneering use of a carbon fibre chassis in the first McLaren MP4 in 1981 was a driver safety ‘game-changer’.

Francois Cevert 1968

Cevert in his ‘Bell Magnum’ 1968 (unattributed)

As a young teenager just getting interested in racing, to me Cevert ‘had it all’; dazzling film star looks, talent aplenty and he was in a team which was carefully nurturing his talent.

Ken Tyrrell recruited Francois into his Elf sponsored team…after the retirement of Johnny Servoz-Gavin due to an eye injury. Jackie Stewart spotted Cevert in 1969 when contesting F2 races and suggested to Tyrrell he keep an eye on him.

Stewart immediately clicked with the young Frenchman, they had a remarkably mature relationship as teammates by the standards of today (Piquet/Mansell, Prost/Senna, Rosberg/Hamilton for example!) with Stewart mentoring the younger man, exactly as Graham Hill had done for him in 1965, and Francois fitting into the ‘family team’ that Tyrrell was. Norah and Ken, Jackie and Helen Stewart, Derek Gardner and the mechanics a famously friendly place to be. Albeit a very competitive one.

Cevert made his Grand Prix debut in the teams March 701 Ford at the 1970 Dutch GP, by the end of 1971 he won his one and only GP victory at Watkins Glen, ironically the circuit at which he would lose his life.

Stewart freely admitted Ceverts’ equal or superior speed in 1973, the team leading role Cevert was to play in 1974, when JYS retirement was planned, cruelly stolen from him.

This article and photos celebrate his time in his formative years in F3 and F2…Cevert, born in 1944, originally became interested in racing via Jean Pierre Beltoise, his sister was dating the future French champion at the time.

Francois Cevert, Alpine A280 Renault, Brands Hatch F3 October 1967

Francois in the Brands Hatch paddock for the ‘ER Hall Trophy’ Meeting October 29 1967. Alpine A280 Renault, DNF in a race flagged off after 10 laps due to the conditions…the top 10 finishers included future F1 drivers Henri Pescarolo, John Miles, Peter Gethin, Reine Wisell, and Derek Bell…the field also included future F1 drivers Ian Ashley, Gijs Van Lennep, Jean -Pierre Jaussaud, Dave Walker, Clay Regazzoni, Piers Courage, Howden Ganley…a field of some depth! (unattributed)

After two years doing National Service he enlisted in a racing school at Magny Cours, winning the Volant Shell competition, the prize an Alpine A280 Renault F3 car.

Francois’ Magny Cours drive was funded by a married woman ‘Nanou’, he had met at 19, and fell for him, on holiday who also did the course. The shot below is of his wet, winning drive in a Martini.

cev vol

(unattributed)

Patrick Depailler also contested the final, finishing second, here are the pair of them looking very sodden after the race.

cev dep

Francois and Patrick, Volant Shell 1966 (unattributed)

The Winfield Racing entered car was underfunded and relatively uncompetitive in 1967 but Francois did enough to be offered a works Alpine drive for ’68, he turned this down and talked his way into the Tecno team, a much more competitive car.

Francois Cevert , Pau F3 1967, Alpine A280 Renault

Early in the 1967 season, April 2 with the Alpine A280 Renault, at Pau. DNF in the race won by Jean-Pierre Jaussaud’s Matra MS6 Ford (unattributed)

He missed five rounds of the French Championship but won the first he entered at Monthlery on May 12, immediately competitive in his Tecno. A strong fourth place followed in the  Monaco F3 GP put his name into prominence, Ronnie Petersen placed third, he too would make his F1 debut in a March 701 in 1970.

Francois took further wins at La Chatre, Nogaro and Albi winning the French F3 championship that year.

Francois Cevert, Albi 1968, Tecno 68 Ford F3

1st place in the 1968 French F3 Championships’ final 1968 round at Albi. Tecno 68 Ford (unattributed)

He progressed to a factory F2 Tecno in 1969…the Ford FVA powered Tecno 69 a very competitive car also driven by fellow 1970 F1 ‘newbee’ Clay Regazzoni. The class was hotly contested by drivers including Jochen Rindt, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Piers Courage, the class containing both pretenders to the thrones of current champions and the champions themselves.

Johnny Servoz-Gavin won the European F2 Championship in 1969 in a Matra MS7 Ford from Hubert Hahne in a Lola T102 BMW/ BMW 269 from Francois in third, it had been a strong debutant F2 season in a field of great depth.

Francois Cevert, Tecno 68 Ford FVA, Pau 1969

Francois Ceverts Pau 1969 was more successful then his 1967 visit…4th in the F2 race in the Tecno 68 Ford FVA  won by ‘F2 king’ Jochen Rindts’ Lotus 59B Ford FVA. High wings banned shortly thereafter by the FIA during the 1969 Monaco GP weekend (unattributed)

Francois Cevert, Tecno 69 FVA, German GP 1969

Francois in the Tecno 69 Ford FVA F2 car during the 1969 German GP. He qualified 16th, and second quickest of the F2 cars in a field of 26 cars. DNF after 9 laps with gearbox failure (unattributed)

Into 1970 Francois continued in F2 and was also picked up by Matra for their endurance program, the 3 litre V12 Sports Cars a taste of real power. Cevert drove for the team for the rest of his life…Servoz retired and the rest, as they say, is history…and one of Grand Prix Racings’ great mighta-beens…

Francois Cevert , Matra MS660, Monthlery 1970

Jack Brabham and Francois Cevert teammates at Matra in 1970…Jack in his last year of F1 and Francois in his first. Winners of the Paris 1000Km at Monthlery in 1970, Matra MS660 (unattributed)

Francois Cevert, March 701 Ford, Dutch GP 1970

First Grand Prix, the Dutch in 1970, Team Tyrrell March 701 Ford. Q 15 of 24 cars, DNF with an engine failure on lap 31 of the race won by Jochen Rindts’ Lotus 72 Ford, and the tragic race in which Piers Courage lost his life in a high speed crash in his DeTomaso 505 Ford (unattributed)

Francois Cevert, TecnoTF71Ford FVA , Imola 1971

Cevert continued to do the occasional F2 race after he had broken into GP racing, here in a Tecno TF/71 Ford FVA, in the ‘City of Imola GP’ in July 1971. He was non-classified 10th in the race won by Carlos Pace March 712M Ford FVA…’Tyrrell nose’ quickly adopted by others after appearing at the French Grand Prix earlier in July!

Brigitte and Francois 1971

Francois and Brigitte Bardot, Paris Racing Car Show 1971. By this time Cevert is a GP star if not an ‘ace’. The car is Graham Hills F1 mount of 1970, the Rob Walker owned Lotus 72 Ford…make an attractive couple!

 

Etcetera…

image

Cevert F3 victory celebration with parents, Tecno 68 Ford , 1968

Francois celebrates a 1968 F3 victory with his parents, circuit not disclosed. Tecno 68 Ford F3 (unattributed)

Monaco F3 pit scene 1968

Ceverts # 44 Tecno in the Monaco F3 paddock 1968. #39 Francois Mazet also Tecno 68 Ford mounted and #40 Etienne Vigoureux Martini MW3 Ford

Francois Cevert, Tyrrell 002 Ford, USGP 1971

Francois Cevert first GP win at Watkins Glen 1971. Tyrrell 002 Ford (unattributed)

Tecno logo

Credits…

Automobile Year 16, DPPI, The Nostalgia Forum, F2 Index

Finito…

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Comments
  1. […] Francois Cevert: Formative years… […]

  2. […] Servoz departure of course created the opportunity for Francois Cevert, another story and another flame extinguished way too early but in a much more gruesome kind of way. Click here for an article on Francois early years; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/07/francois-cevert-formative-years/ […]

  3. […] I wrote articles about Jack’s 1969/70 seasons and Francois’ early years, click on these links to read the articles which remain amongst my ‘most read’; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/ and; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/07/francois-cevert-formative-years/ […]

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