Ligier is a French automobile maker best known for its Formula One team which operated from 1976 to 1996. Ligier was founded by Guy Ligier, a former racing driver and rugby player.
The Ligier firm made their debut in the automobile business with a car named Ligier JS 2. The Ligier JS 2 was a sports car for the road fitted with the same Maserati V6 engine as the Citroën SM. The sleek JS 2was central-engined and received quite a lot of praise for its good power-to-weight ratio. (The final Citroën SMs were actually produced in the Ligier factory in Vichy.)
During the early 1970’s, the energy crisis caused a sharp decline for the market and the Ligier JS 2 production was stopped shortly after 1973. The Ligier firm did however survive, and started to develop microcars. The Ligier F1 team continued their operations until 1996. Today, the Ligier company is owned by Piaggio.
Ligier Formula One
As mentioned above, the Ligier is best known for its F1 team; a team which traditionally wore numbers 25 and 26. Ligier entered the F1 world in the 1976 with a car powered by a Matra V12 engine. In 1977, they won a Grand Prix with Jacques Laffite, and this is generally viewed as the very first all-French victory in the entire history of the Formula One World Championship. In 1979, the agreement between Ligier and Matra ran out and Ligier constructed their Ligier JS11; a wing-car powered by a Cosworth engine. The JS11 started of the season extremely well by winning the first two races. Just as before, the hands on the wheel belonged to Jacques Laffite. The Ligier JS11was however subjected to some serious competition soon afterwards when Williams and Ferrari began using aerodynamically modified cars. Throughout the rest of the F1 season, the results were much more disappointing for Ligier.
Throughout the early years of the 1980s the Ligier JS11 and its successors placed Ligier among the top F1 teams, before the competitiveness of the team started to decline around 1982. During this successful period, Ligier received generous sponsorship from Talbot and several French companies, including Française des Jeux and SEITA. In the mid 1980’s the Ligier team got a very favourable deal with Renault and was given a Renault turbo engine that made the team significantly more competitive, but it wasn’t enough to make the team a frontrunner. The team also received sponsor money from companies like Loto, Gitanes and Elf. In 1986 Renault decided to leave Formula One and Ligier had could no longer relay on them for a free engine. After fruitlessly collaborating with Alfa Romeo, Ligier negotiated a customer engine arrangement with BMW, and later on with Mugen-Honda.
Despite being less successful than in its glory days, the Ligier team did however continue until 1996. During the final years, the Ligier team had very little money and public support was also at an all time low. The team did however manage to perk up quite a bit despite this adversary, something that many give credit to aerodynamicist Frank Dernie for. Frank Dernie was a talented aerodynamics specialist who had previously worked on developing the Williams of Alan Jones (which beat the Ligier team over and over again during the late 1970s). The Ligier team also benefited from having a talented young engineer on their side: Loïc Bigois. In 1996, the Mugen Honda-powered JS43 car made it possible for the Ligier team to take the chequered flag Monaco Grand Prix. This time, Olivier Panis was driving.
After the Monaco victory, the Ligier team was purchased by Alain Prost and the name was changed to Prost Grand Prix. Prost Grand Prix received financial backing from private French companies, but still went bankrupt in 2002.