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Country of origin:France
Produced in:1971
Numbers built:1
Designed by:Michel Tetu
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 22, 2014
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAfter 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 Montlhéry 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 was very similar to contemporary F1 cars in design.

Liveried 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 Montlhéry 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 team 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.

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  Article Image gallery (59) JS3-01 Specifications User Comments (1)