dep thruxton

Jean Redele’s Dieppe ‘Alpine’ workshops evolved into Renault’s competition arm from the early 1950’s and were absorbed by the Regie in 1973. The F3 A360 had a spaceframe chassis, Renault R16 based pushrod OHV engine giving circa 120-125 bhp breathing thru the mandatory F3 air restrictor. Gearbox 5 speed Hewland Mk8 (Mike Fairholme)

Patrick Depailler slices through the Thruxton chicane in his Alpine A360 Renault on 19 September 1971 during his victorious French F3 season…

At last really! He had been thrashing around in F3 since 1967; he was 5th in the ’67 French Championship won by Henri Pescarolo, 6th in the ’68 title won by Francois Cevert and 4th in ’69 when Francois Mazet won.

monaco 1

1968 Monaco GP winner Jean Pierrer Jaussaud smiles at camera before the off, he won in a Tecno 68 Ford, Depailler sits on the tyre of his Alpine A330 Renault (DNF crash) and Ronnie Peterson is in the yellow Tecno 68 Ford 3rd. # 57 is Charlie Lucas’ Titan Mk3 Ford DNF. Ronnie won the race in ’69 and PD in 1972. Jaussaud very fast in single seaters and victorious at Le Mans twice; in a Renault Alpine in ’78 with Didi Pironi and a Rondeau Ford with Jean Rondeau in 1980 (Schlegelmilch)

monaco 2

Monaco F3 GP 1968, Peterson’s Tecno in front of Depailler’s Alpine, chassis as per pic above (unattributed)

In 1970 Depailler did some F2 events in a Pygmee and Tecno and then stepped back to F3 in 1971 taking the French title from Jean-Pierre Jabouille also Alpine A360 mounted.

Just look at that roll call of French drivers at the time fuelled by a mix of the Volant Shell drivers program, Elf, Matra funding and talent!

pyg 1

European F2 championship1970, here at Rouen in Pygmee MDB15 Ford FVA, DNQ in the race won by Jo Siffert’s BMW 270 (unattributed)

pyg 2

F2 Pygmee MDB15 Ford with PD left of cockpit. Marius Dal Bo (MDB) built around 42 F3 and F2 cars from 1965 to 1973 in Annecy, France, initially to provide more competitive cars for his son Patrick. 4 MDB15 F2 cars were built in 1970, the cars  aluminium monocoques of the day using the circa 215bhp 1.6 Ford FVA engine and Hewland FT200 gearbox (unattributed)

The F3 event pictured at the articles outset is a team one ‘The European F3 Cup’ held at Thruxton won by a French Team comprising Pierre-Francois Rousselot, Jacques Coulon and Jean-Louis Lafosse. Depailler was in the second placed team along with Jean-Pierre Jabouille. Other future F1 drivers contesting the event representing their respective countries included Alan Jones, Vern Schuppan, James Hunt, Roger Williamson, Jochen Mass and Conny Andersson.

The individual finishing order of the talent filled Thruxton race was Rousselot in a Brabham BT35 Ford from Depailler with Brit Barrie Maskell third in a Chevron B18 Ford.

I tripped over the shot of PD researching an article on Dave Walker, an F3 contemporary of Patricks who took a similar length of time to break free from the F3 ruck, what a tough school of talent it then was. And has always been I guess.

Walker perhaps peaked in F3, noting the twice badly broken arm which impacted him from ’73 whereas perhaps PD never really peaked, he improved as time went on right until that fateful day at Hockenheim in 1981? James Hunt was another who was ‘thereabouts’ in F3 and peaked in F1. Conversely Jan Magnussen an example of unfulfilled F3 promise in F1 from a more recent era.

dep tecno

Depailler contested the Hockenheim, Thruxton, Pau and Nurburgring (here) rounds of the 1971 Euro F2 Championship in a Tecno TF71 Ford, he was classified 21st having retired with a loss of oil pressure, Francois Cevert won in another Tecno TF71. Ronnie Peterson took the title that year, the last of the 1.6 Litre F2 in a factory March 712M Ford FVA (Schlegelmilch)

dep monaco

PD on his way to winning the Monaco F3 GP in 1972, he is ahead of Michel Leclere (6th) here, both in Alpine A364 Renaults. (unattributed)

In 1972 Depailler contested the European F2 Championship finishing 3rd in a March 722 Ford, winning the Enna round. Mike Hailwood won that year in a Surtees TS10 Ford…but not completely done with F3 stepped back into an Alpine and won the Monaco F3 GP, the F3 race which matters beyond all others.

He also made his F1 debut with Tyrrell in the French Grand Prix at Clermont Ferrand in July.

He qualified the Tyrrell 004 16th of 24 starters and was non-classified with mechanical problems. It was a strong debut with Patrick invited to drive a third car for Tyrrell again at the season ending US GP at Watkins Glen, he finished 7th having qualified 11th with teammates Jackie Stewart and Francois Cevert 1st and 2nd in a great day for the team, the Tyrrell regulars in the later 005/006 chassis.

dep test

F1 Tyrrell oo4 Ford test for PD prior to French GP, circuit unknown, interested to know if anyone does (unattributed)

pau

Depailler contested the 1973 Euro F2 Championship in an Elf2/Alpine A367 Ford finishing 3rd in the title won by Jean-Pierre Jarier’s factory March 732 BMW. Here PD #9 on pole for the 5 May 1973 Pau GP, alongside is Tino Brambilla’s March 732 BMW, DNF. Winner Francois Cevert is behind PD in the other John Coombs entered Elf2/Alpine A367. Alongside Cevert is Roger Williamson’s white GRD 372 Ford 7th, the red car is Jarier’s 2nd placed STP March 732 BMW and the other orange Beta March 732 behind Jarier is Vittoria Brambilla, DNF (unattributed)

Patrick stepped up to F1 full time in 1974 together with Jody Scheckter joining Tyrrell taking the seats vacated by Jackie Stewart’s retirement and Francois Cevert’s sad death at Watkins Glen in late 1973. An article about his F1 career is for another time.

dep tyreell

Above and below photos, PD Tyrrell 004 Ford, French GP, Clermont Ferrand 2 July 1972. GP debut (Schlegelmilch)

dep sideways

As well as a full season of Grand Prix racing he scored one of the two prized works March F2 seats in 1974 having finished third in 1973 in an Elf 2/Alpine A367 Hart.

He and Hans Stuck in the other works March 742 BMW slugged it out all year with Hans taking the first two wins of the season and Patrick the better results from then on winning at Pau, Mugello, Karlskoga, Hockemheim, Vallelunga and with it the title.

dep rouen

PD March 742 BMW, Rouen Euro F2 round 30 June  1974, 7th in the race won by teammate Hans Stuck (unattributed)

Patrick Depailler was a personal favourite of the era; he was one of those guys who loved racing for its own sake, raced for the love of it, if championships came along then well and good but it was all about being a professional driver, racing and enjoying life with all of its elements.

Ken Tyrrell had this to say of the Frenchman;’ In a lot of ways Patrick was like a little boy all of his life. He was always wanting to go skiing or motorcycling or hang gliding. And he had this trusting belief in the end that everything would be alright; when he was driving for me full-time i had it written into his contract that he had to keep away from dangerous toys.’

A driver of another era perhaps, an incredibly talented and charismatic one at that…

dep in car

Depailler at Rouen in the cockpit of his March 742 BMW in June 1974. BMW engine guru, designer of the 2 litre, 4 valve 290 bhp M12 engine powering the March, Paul Rosche taking the notes (unattributed)

Etcetera: Tyrrell 007 Ford, Nurburgring 1976…

image

(Getty)

Credits…

Mike Fairholme, Rainer Schlegelmilch

Tailpiece: Renault Alpine Ad circa 1969

dep alpine ad

 

Comments
  1. graham64 says:

    That Alpine A364 is a nice looking car!

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