After a successful career as a rugby player for the French national team, Guy Ligier entered the world of motorsports. Convinced by his close friend and racing driver Jo Schlesser, Ligier started racing Formula 1 cars in 1966. He was never particularly successful and after a heavy crash in the 1967 Nürburgring Grand Prix' practice and the fatal accident at the French Grand Prix of Schlesser, Ligier withdrew from the sport. At the time of his withdrawal, he had already commissioned the construction of his own sports car, but the project was halted.
His departure from the sport proved only temporary and with the help of ex-Renault designer Michel Tetu, the sports car project was continued. Completed in 1969, the first 'Ligier' was dubbed 'JS1' in memory of Jo Schlesser. All following Ligiers would sport these initials. Powered by a 1.6 litre Cosworth 'four', the JS1 was a small mid-engined sports car. It was raced with some success in various French races in 1969 and 1970. Victories were scored at Albi and Monthelery with a 1.8 litre Cosworth engine. Two cars were entered in the Tour de France with a V6 Ford engine, but both retired with engine problems.
Disappointed by the failures at the Tour de France, Ligier commissioned a completely new racing car for 1971. In 1970 the Maserati powered JS2 was developed and introduced, but this was solely intended as a road car. For the all new JS3 racing car Tetu reverted to Cosworth power once again, but this time it was the Formula 1 DFV V8 engine that caught his eye. With this three litre unit, the new Ligier would be able to compete with the big boys in the prototype class; Ferrari and Matra. The V8 was attached as a fully stressed member onto the monocoque chassis, which very similar to contemporary F1 cars in design.
Livered in the yellow and green colours of main sponsor BP, the JS3 made its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans test days in April of 1971. Amazingly, Guy Ligier drove the second fastest time of the weekend. He went on to win the Monthelery race the following weekend. In the following two races, Ligier failed to finish. It was now time for Le Mans, where Ligier teamed up with Patrick Depailler. In qualifying, the competition proved a lot stronger than two months earlier and the JS3 qualified 17th. In the 18th hour of the race, the JS3 was in fifth position, but a gearbox failure cost the time dearly. After a complete gearbox rebuilt, the car did manage to finish, but not enough distance was covered to be classified.
Only four races into its racing career the JS3 was retired. Ligier set out to develop racing versions of the JS2, which with its coupe body was more versatile. A victory in the 1974 Tour de France and a second place finish at Le Mans in 1975 were the highlights of its career. In 1976 Ligier entered Formula 1 as a constructor and would continue to construct F1 cars for another 20 seasons. The JS3 was bought off the team by French collector Pierre Bardinon and remained in his 'Mas du Clos' collection for many years. In 1999 it changed hands once again and received a complete restoration by Simon Hadfield. In February 2003, it was offered in the Christie's auction at Retromobile. It was estimated to sell for $370,000 - 420,000 US, but offers failed to meet the reserve set. After the auction it did find a new owner.
After the no-expense spared restoration by Hadfield, it was raced a large number of times with great success. At the 2002 Le Mans Classic, Willy Green qualified it on pole, but due to a driver error it was not able to finish the race. Its most recent owner campaigned the car with a lot of success in the 2004 Historic Endurance series, run jointly with the Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES) for modern racing cars. At the 2004 Le Mans Classic, it won the first of three races, but was again forced to retire.
This unique racing car is pictured here at the 2004 Le Mans Classic and the Spa Francorchamps of the 2004 Historic Endurance Series, where it led until it ran out of fuel in the last lap.
I still remember this one coming out of retirement and being re-launched at one of the Coys Silverstone festivals (pity that these have been discontinued).
It was incredibly fast, (may be the Hadfield restauration made it even faster then it was in its days) and had it seen further developement it could have been a good weapon against the Ferraris, Matras and Alfas. Unfortunately only one was ever produced.
The second pic shown here gives a very good impression about the steepness of the Radaillon corner in Spa. It used to be open for the general public but has now been closed off. Doing it with your own car greatly increases ones respect for the F1 drivers who have the courage to go through without lifting (ask Jacques Villeneuve about this)
Country of origin
Ford Cosworth DFV 90º V8
Mid, longitudinally mounted
aluminium block and head
2.993 liter / 182.6 cu in
Bore / Stroke
86.7 mm (3.4 in) / 64.8 mm (2.6 in)
4 valves / cylinder, DOHC
Lucas Fuel Injection
420 bhp / 313 KW
@ 9000 rpm
140 bhp / liter
composite body on aluminium monocoque
double wishbones, coil springs over dampers, anti-roll bar
double wishbones, twin radius arms, coil springs over dampers, anti-roll bar