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Jose Dolhem

Full Name:
Louis Jose Lucien Dolhem
26th April 1944
Paris, Ile-de-France
16th April 1988 (Aged 43)
St-Just-St-Rambert, Rhone-Alpes, light plane accident
Most recent race (in database):

José Dolhem and Didier Pironi were half-brothers who were very close despite an eight-year age difference. Tragically, both would lose their lives prematurely within eight months of each other.

Early racing career

Dolhem first raced a Lotus Seven in 1964 but University commitments meant he did not compete regularly for five years. With his engineering and economics course completed, Dolhem turned his attention to racing and his promise was rewarded with the 1969 Volant Shell scholarship.

Outings in Formula Renault, Formula 3 and then Formula 2 followed but his initial experiences in the latter were frustrating. Last on his F2 debut at Vallelunga in 1971, organisers refused to allow him to drive Frank Williams’ March 712M at Córdoba despite Dolhem having travelled to South America for the one-off.

He was a fulltime F2 driver in 1972 with a Shell-Arnold March 722 although eighth at Rouen was his best result. Third in his heat at the circuit a year later, any hope of a breakthrough result was thwarted when he crashed on the warm-up lap before the final. He only raced in the category once more that season but he did finish ninth on his Le Mans debut with a Ferrari 365 GTB/4.

Formula 1 with Surtees

It was in 1974 that Dolhem was most in demand as a racing driver. A retiree at Le Mans for defending champions Matra, he raced for Surtees in both F2 (finishing a career-best third at the Salzburgring) and Formula 1 when Dolhem entered three Grands Prix with the Bang & Olufsen-sponsored team. He failed to qualify in France and Italy but Dolhem made his F1 debut at Watkins Glen in a Surtees TS16/3-Ford. It proved to be a sad event, for team-mate Helmuth Koinigg was killed on the 10th lap and Dolhem was withdrawn in sympathy.

Formula 2 and Le Mans

Any career momentum was lost when Dolhem broke his neck in a skiing accident before the 1975 season. He returned to F2 in 1976 and competed in the category intermittently for another three seasons for Fred Opert, Kauhsen and then AGS.

He scored his best result at Le Mans in his fourth and final appearance at the Circuit de la Sarthe when fourth with an Alpine-Renault A442A in 1978. However, the Frenchman had grown disillusioned with motor racing and he moved into powerboat racing (as Pironi later would) and then air racing.

Pironi was killed off the shores of the Isle of Wight in 1987 and Dolhem assumed responsibility for his brother’s company. But the following spring his light plane crashed near St Etienne and Dolhem was killed on impact.