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Bertrand Gachot

23rd December 1962 (Age 57)
Most recent race (in database):

A traffic incident with a London taxi interrupted Bertrand Gachot’s Formula 1 career at the very moment he could have become a star. He was jailed for two months after being found guilty of spraying CS gas in the cabbie’s face and the first race he missed was the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix.

Jordan team-mate Andrea de Cesaris was a contender for the win that day and Gachot’s replacement proved sensational. Michael Schumacher made an immediate impression by qualifying Gachot’s car in seventh position at the start of his stellar career.

Background and early racing career

Charismatic and cosmopolitan, Gachot was the son of a French diplomat and was born in Luxembourg. He raced with a Belgian licence during his early career and thus reports of his nationality varied at the time.

Already 15 years old when he raced karts, Gachot gave up University studies in 1984 to race in Formula Ford 1600. He was third in that year’s Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and won the 1985 RAC British FF1600 Championship with Pacific Racing’s Van Diemen RF85. That combination progressed to FF2000 series in 1986 and he beat Mark Blundell to the British title thanks to six victories.

With backing from Marlboro and a confident and marketable personality, Gachot graduated to the 1987 British Formula 3 Championship with three-time champions West Surrey Racing. The impressive Johnny Herbert won the title for Eddie Jordan Racing but Gachot scored three victories to finish as runner-up.

He drove a Spirit-TOM’s Reynard 88D-Cosworth in the 1988 FIA Formula 3000 Championship. Second at Vallelunga and Silverstone (having started the latter from pole position), Gachot was fifth in the final standings.

Formula 1 frustration

That led to his F1 debut with the new Onyx GP team in 1989. Initially unable to pre-qualify, Gachot eventually did make it onto the grid at the French GP. But he was later dropped after eccentric sponsor Jean-Pierre van Rossem took exception to comments reported in the press. The final two races of the year with Rial Racing and his 1990 season with Coloni were consistent in that Gachot failed to qualify time and again.

Jordan and success at Le Mans

But 1991 yielded the highest profile victory of his career and his most promising F1 campaign. The former was in the Le Mans 24 Hours when Gachot shared a rotary-powered Mazda 787B with Johnny Herbert and Volker Weidler to deliver the first victory in the race for a Japanese manufacturer.

He also raced for Eddie Jordan’s new F1 team and it was an impressive debut for the 7Up-sponsored concern. Jordan 191-Fords finished fourth (de Cesaris) and fifth (Gachot) in Canada and the Frenchman also scored sixth place finishes in Britain and Germany. However, his promising campaign came to an abrupt halt in a London courtroom.

Formula 1 return with Larrousse

Having served his sentence, Gachot returned with Larrousse for the final race of the year in Australia but did not qualify. He remained with the team in 1992 although sixth in Monaco was a rare finish in the Lamborghini-powered car. Without an F1 drive for 1993, Gachot finished 12th in the Toronto Champ Car race with Dick Simon’s Lola T93/00-Ford.

Gachot rejoined his former FF2000 boss Keith Wiggins as Pacific graduated to F1 in 1994. He stepped aside during 1995 to accommodate paying drivers as Wiggins tried to save his impoverished team although it proved a futile attempt. Pacific GP and Bertrand Gachot both left F1 after an eighth place finish in the 1995 Australian GP.

He has since proved his entrepreneurial instincts working in IT, websites and marketing the Hype energy drink.