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The last-all French F1 pairing that reunited a title-winning duo

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When Franck Lagorce was chosen to exchange Johnny Herbert at Ligier for the ultimate two rounds of the 1994 System 1 season, his debut couldn’t have come beneath tougher circumstances.

Suzuka is about as difficult a circuit as they come, and that’s when drivers can see the place they’re going. The Japanese Grand Prix that yr was held in completely appalling circumstances that will nearly definitely not have been began in the present day. To then observe that up with the tough Adelaide avenue monitor, one other circuit new to the 1992 French System 3 champion, meant Lagorce was on one thing of a hiding to nothing.

However one comfort, except for the truth that he may at the very least name himself a grand prix racer, was the identification of the driving force on the opposite aspect of the storage additionally tasked with hustling the dependable if none-too-quick Ligier-Renault JS39B. The motive force Lagorce in the present day picks out as his favorite team-mate was well-known to him from their time collectively within the junior classes.

Two years his senior, Olivier Panis had been a French F3 rival in 1991 with a La Filliere Ralt-Alfa Romeo whereas Lagorce campaigned a Promatecme Dallara-Opel. In a robust yr for the championship, gained by future Le Mans winner Christophe Bouchut’s Graff Ralt-VW, Panis completed second with Lagorce one of the best rookie in fourth earlier than the previous stepped as much as System 3000 for 1992. Lagorce in the meantime remained with Promatecme to win the crown, seeing off team-mate Emmanuel Clerico, Olivier Thevenin’s KTR Ralt and Jean-Christophe Boullion’s Graff-run Bowman-VW.

For 1993, when Lagorce arrived within the F1 feeder class with DAMS, he was teamed up with Panis and the pair shortly shaped a productive working relationship to assist the squad in its transition from Lola to Reynard chassis.

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Whereas Lagorce cites his Panoz sportscar team-mates David Brabham and Jan Magnussen as “implausible guys” and loved his transient stint with Mark Webber and Pedro Lamy on the ill-starred 1999 Mercedes CLR Le Mans programme, Panis is his clear selection relating to selecting a favorite team-mate and stays a very good buddy in the present day.

“Undoubtedly it was Olivier,” says Lagorce. “On a regular basis we go in the identical manner. By no means we do one thing incorrect about him or me. And it was very clear on a regular basis concerning the adjustment of the automobile, concerning the session [plan]. He push, I push; I push, he push. With Olivier it was implausible.”

DAMS proprietor Jean Paul Driot talks to Panis and Lagorce throughout their 1993 F3000 marketing campaign collectively

Picture by: Sutton Photographs

Lagorce says he and Panis “are very totally different, we drive totally different” and this made their collaboration at DAMS “very fascinating”.

“As a result of we drive totally different, it’s potential to attempt one thing for the opposite,” he says. “I can attempt one thing on my automobile and he can attempt one thing on his automobile, and after we are able to guess one thing for the opposite one.”

Apart from a robust drive to fourth at Silverstone, outcomes took some time to circulate for Lagorce in 1993 – the DAMS pair making contact on a fraught afternoon at Pau – however, by mid-season, Panis discovered himself on a successful run that thrust him into the thick of the title combat. Hockenheim, the place Lagorce broke his thumb after crashing into the pitwall, Nurburgring and Spa yielded a hat-trick for Panis earlier than Lagorce made it 5 wins on the bounce for DAMS by sweeping the ultimate two races at Magny-Cours and Nogaro.

“You by no means noticed a moist [race] like this. For me, it killed the [F1] profession of Franck as a result of I believe he’s a really, superb driver” Olivier Panis

The previous he gained by an unlimited 65 seconds over Apomatox driver Boullion after a perfectly-timed change to wets, as Panis spun off three laps from house, whereas Nogaro he dominated from pole over Boullion and Emmanuel Collard.

Prime 10: Ranking the best winless F3000 drivers

Though Panis retired in an early tangle with Vincenzo Sospiri, it was a day of double celebrations for DAMS as Panis’s fundamental title challenger Lamy was unable to capitalise after being eradicated in any individual else’s accident.

Panis, who picked Jacques Villeneuve as his favourite team-mate last year, acknowledges that he additionally loved racing with Lagorce and describes him as “a really robust employee”.

“I do know him for a protracted, very long time earlier than,” he says, “and likewise it helped loads to have a very good relationship with the team-mate to working collectively. He was a rookie, I used to be in my second yr, and every part was going nicely, completely.

“He had this picture of a clown, as a result of he joked all over the place on a regular basis, however he’s not like this – he labored very onerous. Lots of people don’t take him severely, however I believe it is a mistake. Within the staff, he’s a really critical individual. This, for me, is an enormous respect. I just like the individuals who work onerous to have a hit.”

Panis clinched the 1993 crown at Nogaro despite a crash with Sospiri as Lagorce claimed a second win on the bounce

Panis clinched the 1993 crown at Nogaro regardless of a crash with Sospiri as Lagorce claimed a second win on the bounce

Picture by: Sutton Photographs

Panis was signed by Ligier for 1994, initially on a race-by-race deal, as Lagorce continued in F3000 with Apomatox. He was the person to beat because the season started at Silverstone and appeared set for the crown after one other crushing win at Hockenheim, however a late surge from Boullion (who had taken his seat at DAMS) aided by a questionable tyre name at Spa and spongy brakes at Estoril arrange a winner-takes-all decider at Magny-Cours. After Lagorce had nabbed a fourth pole from eight makes an attempt, Boullion simply shaded him within the race.

Panis, who had been joined on the rostrum by team-mate Eric Bernard in a Ligier 2-3 in a German Grand Prix of heavy attrition at Hockenheim, was a reassuring presence when Lagorce arrived in Suzuka. Herbert had solely been introduced into the Ligier fold for one race at Jerez, forcing Bernard right into a transfer to his ailing {old} staff Lotus, earlier than the Briton’s dream transfer to Benetton.

Lagorce remembers that Panis “tried to assist all people” with the advantage of a season’s expertise beneath his belt. Though he certified just one spot behind Panis in twentieth, it’s with a touch of understatement that Lagorce describes his expertise at Suzuka as “very tough”.

“Olivier ran 14 grands prix earlier than I arrived, I used to be there to study and to push,” he says. “It was totally different positions.”

Within the nightmarish circumstances, which had brought about a powerless Herbert to aquaplane into the pitwall on his Benetton debut, Lagorce had made a smart begin however wasn’t to be rewarded as he was punted right into a spin by Pierluigi Martini’s Minardi, from which he couldn’t recuperate.

Then on the Adelaide streets he ended up eight locations behind Panis on the grid, as soon as once more in twentieth, and drove a gradual race to complete a twice-lapped eleventh – one lap behind Panis in fifth. Lagorce would by no means get one other alternative to race in F1, and Panis acknowledges that throwing him in for the ultimate two races of 1994 left him in a tough place.

“I believe it was a mistake,” the 1996 Monaco GP winner says. “He didn’t do a whole lot of checks earlier than going to Japan, the race was within the moist – you by no means noticed a moist [race] like this. For me, it killed the [F1] profession of Franck as a result of I believe he’s a really, superb driver and really onerous employee. It’s why I really feel a bit dangerous for him, as a result of I believe he had the expertise to be in System 1.”

Lagorce had the doubtful honour of being a Forti tester earlier than focusing attentions to sportscars, successful the 1996 Renault Spider Trophy and taking a greatest results of fifth at Le Mans with Nissan in 1998. He additionally grew to become an everyday winner within the Andros Trophy, however says no automobile ever introduced him the identical pleasure as his 1994 Reynard 94D.

“For me, the F3000 was precisely what I most popular,” he says, “as a result of the extra you push, the extra you could have grip and the sensation with the automobile. As a result of it’s an {old} automobile additionally with the V8, a whole lot of noise!”

Panis believes Lagorce was dealt a rough hand getting his only F1 outings on two unknown tracks where he couldn't test

Panis believes Lagorce was dealt a tough hand getting his solely F1 outings on two unknown tracks the place he could not take a look at

Picture by: Ercole Colombo

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