Ligier first entered Formula One racing in 1976, filling the slot left by Matra’s departure two years earlier. As France’s most prominent racing team, Ligier had significant financial backing and also benefited from exclusive use of Matra’s hugely successful V12 engines. They would run a one-car team in their first season in Formula One with Jacques Laffite as their sole driver, the Parisian scoring an impressive 20 points - enough to claim fifth place in the constructor’s championship. In 1977, only their second season, Ligier recorded their first Formula One win when Laffite triumphed at the Swedish Grand Prix.
1978 was a struggle, sponsorship troubles providing a major distraction, a cause not helped by Matra announcing its departure from motor racing at the end of that year. However this turned out to be a blessing in disguise: Ligier replaced their Matra powerplants with Ford Cosworth DFV units, which were better suited to ground effect cars due to the narrow nature of the engine. The JS11 was the first Ligier to be fitted with this new engine, and helped the team to secure 3rd overall in the 1979 season. This success was then built upon as the JS11/15 became a title contender in 1980, the new car boasting increased rear-end aerodynamics and competition-leading ground effect.
Campaigned throughout the 1980 season by Didier Pironi – his team mate and pilot of the sister car for the season was Jacques Laffite – chassis 004 saw its championship dreams scuppered with bad luck, as is often the case in motorsport, getting in the way of success. A victory at the Belgium Grand Prix was the highlight of the season, with four further podiums in South Africa, France, Canada and America. Ultimately Ligier finished as runner-up the constructor’s title.
Forming part of the famous“Musée Ligier” in La Nièvre, France, 004 has recently been restored by ARA Engineering to include a fresh Cosworth DFV engine. Seen exciting the crowds at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, this Ligier was a key player in the early days of ground effect and proudly carried the French motorsport flag.