Prince Charming : Patrick Tambay…

Posted: December 13, 2022 in F1
Tags: , , , , , ,
PT aboard the Ligier JS17 Matra at Dijon in 1981. Q16 and DNF wheel bearing in his first race for the team. Alain Prost won in a Renault RE30

Patrick Tambay, grand prix winner and Can-Am champion died on December 4, 2022 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease, aged 73.

Every girl’s idea of a racing driver, the dashing Frenchman developed his need-for-speed in the European Alps where he was a schoolboy ski champion, but cars then grabbed his attention.

Total, Motul and Elf invested vast petro-francs to develop French drivers from the 1960s. The first wave who made it to F1 included Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Henri Pescarolo, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Francois Cevert. Tambay was one of the mid 1970s talent-wave along with Jacques Laffitte, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Rene Arnoux, Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jarier.

PT at Villars, Rossignol ski type and year unknown! (unattributed)
Aboard an Alpine A366 Formula Renault at Paul Ricard during1972 (Winfield School)
Pau GP 1976, Martini Mk19 Renault V6. DNF accident, Rene Arnoux won in the sister car. Jabouille won the title in a Jabouille 2J Renault (MotorSport)

Tambay won the Winfield Racing School’s Volant Elf competition in 1971. After two years in Formula Renault he graduated to F2, finishing second in the European Championship to Jacques Laffitte’s Martini Mk14 BMW aboard a works March 752 BMW in 1975. He was third in 1976 aboard a Martini Mk19 Renault, behind fellow Equipe Elf pilots, Jabouille and Arnoux.

Patrick was picked up by Carl Haas to replace the injured Brian Redman in his works central-seat Lola T333 CS Chev Can-Am team in 1977. Tambay shone in the 525bhp Chev V8 missiles, taking the championship with six wins, and befriending Gilles Villeneuve who raced an unwieldy Wolf WD1 Chev for much of that season.

Press call for the Alpine A442 Renault at Paul Ricard in April 1977. Obscured J-P Jabouille, PT, Marie-Claude Beaumont, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Derek Bell. None of the cars finished Le Mans that year, with much more to come!
Feel the earth move. Haas Lola T333CS Chev at Mosport in August ’77. PT won the Can-Am race from George Follmer and Peter Gethin, Lola T332C and T333CS respectively (unattributed)
Ahead of Alan Jones during the 1978 French GP at Paul Ricard. McLaren M26 Ford and Williams FW06 Ford. Ninth and fifth in the race won by Mario Andretti’s Lotus 79 Ford

Both impressed during the ’77 British GP weekend at Silverstone, Patrick aboard a Theodore Racing Ensign N177 Ford, and Gilles a works McLaren M23 Ford. That silly-season McLaren signed Tambay and Ferrari got Villeneuve, Patrick topped the Scuderia’s list but Teddy Mayer beat them to the punch.

Tambay then endured two shocking years with McLaren, who were on one of their downers, then bounced back into F1 in 1981 with Theodore Racing, after winning another Can-Am title for Haas, racing a Lola T530 Chev in 1980.

In mid-1981 fortune again favoured Tambay when he replaced the injured Jabouille at Ligier, but he had shocking reliability, mechanical failures in every race. His GP career seemed on the rocks until Villeneuve’s fatal 1982 Zolder accident, he replaced his friend at Ferrari.

Tambay relished the competitive car, taking a tough win at Hockenheim the day after Pironi’s career-ending Ferrari crash. Third at Brands Hatch and second at Monza helped the team win the Constructors Championship with the Ferrari 126C2.

In the best of company. Ronnie Peterson, PT, Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Scheckter, Paul Ricard 1978
PT, Ferrari 126C3, Italian GP 1983. Fourth, race won by Nelson Piquet’s Brabham BT52B BMW, Arnoux was second in the other Ferrari
It looked the goods at least. PT aboard the Lola THL2 Ford at Spa during the 1986 Belgian GP weekend. DNF after first lap prang, Jones was 11th and out of fuel. Mansell’s Williams FW11 Honda won

Patrick won again at San Marino in 1983, finishing a career best of fourth in the driver’s title. Ferrari won the ‘constructors again, but teammate Rene Arnoux’ three wins eclipsed him.

Two years with Renault followed in 1984-85, he was well placed occasionally, but a second and a couple of third placings was his best. Tambay was reunited with Teddy Mayer and Carl Haas at Beatrice Racing in 1986, his final F1 season. Good as the Lola chassis was, its Hart, and later Ford Cosworth GBA V6 lacked grunt and reliability, Patrick and Alan Jones had a grim season.

After a year aboard a Jaguar XJR-9 V12 in 1989 and two thirds in the Paris-Dakar, an event he loved, Patrick returned to F1 as a TV commentator and involvement in Cannes politics.

Two GP wins isn’t reflective of Patrick Tambay’s place in the pantheon of drivers, but his grit, valour and composure in the face of Parkinson’s reminded pit pundits just what an outstanding man he was.

PT’s Lada ‘Poch’ Samara T3 Porsche 3.6 during the 1991 Paris-Dakar, sharing the car with Lemoyne. The pair were seventh, the event won by the Ari Vatanen/Berglund Citroen ZX


MotorSport Images, Getty Images, Roger Hermsen, Winfield School Facebook page


Hans Stuck and Patrick during the GP Masters round at Silverstone in August 2006. Stuck was fourth and PT 11th in the race won by Eddie Cheever.

The cars, based on Reynard’s 2000 model 2KI Indycar, were built by Delta MotorSport. The engines were Ford XB derived 3.5-litre Nicholson-McLaren 80-degree, fuel injected V8s producing about 650bhp @ 10400rpm.


  1. BS says:

    ’77 Can-Am = Mosport pit entry ?

  2. George Emery says:

    1977 Can-Am season: Mont-Tremblant, Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Mosport, Trois-Rivieres, Sears Point, & Riverside. Pit is on wrong side of the track for Mont-Tremblant, Laguna Seca, & Mid-Ohio. Too green for Sears Point & Riverside. Not urban enough for Trois-Rivieres.

    Which leaves Watkins Glen, Road America, & Mosport. Guardrail is too close to be Road America and it’s not blue enough to be Watkins Glen. Which leaves Mosport.

  3. Roger Hermsen says:

    Hello from Belgium, in your third picture, Patrick Tambay drives an Alpine A366 formule Renault 1972, at Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet.
    Discovered Primotipo a few weeks ago, it’s a very entertaining read, thank you.

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