The 40th anniversary of the win for the Renault Alpine A442B driven by Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi was the theme of a lovely ceremony for the 24 Hours of Le Mans Drivers' Club at the Renault stand at Rétromobile, the stunning annual collection car gathering (February 7-11, 2018) in Paris.
On the occasion, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud was awarded the Drivers' Club trophy. The two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner (1978 and 1980), who celebrated his 80th birthday on June 3rd of last year: "This immediately makes me think of Didier Pironi (who passed away in an accident during an offshore boat race on August 23, 1987, Ed.), with whom I was lucky enough to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans."
The French driver also paid tribute in his own way to Gérard Larrousse, the President of the Drivers' Club, who at the time was the head of Renault Sport and who received rather determined and insistent telephone calls from Jean-Pierre Jaussaud seeking a spot with Renault-Alpine for the 1978 24 Hours of Le Mans!
For the 2018 Rétromobile, Renault's stand brought together the four Renault-Alpine's that took the start of that edition. "Seeing these cars today, I am very moved. They are even more beautiful than they were back then when we were driving them," said Gérard Larrousse. A two-time winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans - in 1973 and 1974 with Matra along with Henri Pescarolo - he took over as team manager in 1978.
"During the race, the other Renault-Alpine driven by Jean-Pierre Jabouille overtook me, then his car stopped and I found myself in the lead," describes Jean-Pierre Jaussaud. "At that time, it was very frustrating because all the Renault-Alpines broke down in 1977." In 1977 and 1978, one of the great duels in the history of the race pitted Renault against Porsche. The winner in 1977 with the German marque along with Jacky Ickx and Hurley Haywood, German driver Jürgen Barth sportingly applauded the French win of 1978: "Renault was very well-prepared. We fought it out like crazy but it was impossible to beat them that year." Even though, according to Gérard Larrousse: "Jürgen gave us a hard time the whole night!" And Jean-Pierre Jaussaud confirmed: "Every time I won Le Mans, there was a Porsche hot on my heels." He was given his Drivers' Club trophy by the former team manager of the American outfit, Harvey Cluxton, whose Mirages were equipped with the turbocharged Renault V6 engine in 1977 (second) and 1978 (10th).
"I won the 24 Hours with two constructors whose names ended with O, Renault and Rondeau. I would have loved to win a third time, with Peugeot, but it didn't happen," admitted Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, surrounded for the occasion by several drivers involved with Renault-Alpine at Le Mans, like Jean Ragnotti, Michel Leclère and Henri Pescarolo. "I had been made offers by Renault-Alpine and Porsche for the 1978 24 Hours. I went with Porsche but Jean-Pierre and Didier (Pironi, Ed.) did an extraordinary race, bravo to them and to Renault," commented Pescarolo.
PHOTO: Posed on the Renault-Alpine A442B winner at the 1978 24 Hours of Le Mans are the helmets of its drivers, Didier Pironi (at left) and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud (at right).